What is a Smart Home?

Home automation refers to all the things in your home that can be set up to turn on and off automatically. A further extension of this, with new technology, is the smart home. This is when all your devices work together automatically in a sensible way through a programmable network, gateway or hub. Imagine this scenario: you walk into a dark house with arms full of groceries. You can tell the house to help, eg. say "Welcome" and the lights come on in the hallway, your music or TV starts up, the door locks behind you, perhaps even the air conditioning starts or changes setting. Or the coffee machine comes on when the motion sensor records you getting out of bed. You can customise to fit your lifestyle, and streamline your life, save energy and costs. This networking and communication among devices and you is called the "Internet of Things" (IoT).

Your smart home system

Your smart home system consists of sensors which read conditions and report to a central controller. The controller or gateway then processes all the inputs and outputs and tells your devices what to do. You can monitor and control it all with wall mounted or tabletop touch screens or your phone or laptop. You'll be able to easily program combinations with software "If This, Then That" (IFTTT). Your devices (or actuators) that do things when commanded include:

Voice control

You can control your whole home hands-free with your voice. You can speak and turn on the whole house or any part, eg:

Remote control

With home automation and internet of things, you have a much better security option. This is because your control device can send messages to your smart phone no matter where in the world you are. You can then call the relevant people regarding fire, water leaks, intruders, etc.

Solar and energy saving

Do you have a solar energy system? If so and you go offsite to work each day, you've probably identified a logistic inefficiency. The best time to use loads of electricity is in the middle of the day when the solar power is at its peak. But you're at work and the kids are at school. Then most of the load ends up in the evening and early morning. With automation, you can set it up so that it turns on power-intensive appliances in the middle of the day while you're out at work. For example, your IoT network can turn on the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, heater, dehumidifier, air conditioner, etc. They can run their cycles while there's lots of power, and leave more free for you to use outside work and school hours.

Vehicle integration

Your car can become part of your smart home. Many things can happen automatically as you drive home, without you having to fumble around with a remote. As you near the gates, they open by themselves and close after you've gone through. Garage doors open and close likewise. Meanwhile the house is getting ready for your arrival. For example, the air conditioning reaches your desired temperature, the TV comes on with your favourite news channel, the lights switch on your preferred theme to come home to.

Elders and disability support

Home automation is proving to be a big boon to people who have trouble getting around and doing domestic tasks. The voice control enables them to do more, easily. Sensors can monitor vital signs and send an alarm notification to loved ones if a medical emergency arises. All these functions increase safety and quality of life for older persons and those with disabilities.

How to start?

Automation and Internet of Things experts suggest starting small and working up as you learn. This is because it's a rapidly growing market and can get very confusing very fast. For example you could start with your family's home entertainment setup. Get it right, then add another system. Or you can hand it over to the professionals like Automation ByFreddy, tell us what you want, and have the whole system ready to go all at once.

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