Controlling your home with your phone
It’s 6:30am. You tap your cell phone, now your alarm clock, to snooze for another ten. But before you lay your head on the pillow, you open an app and push a button. Downstairs your coffee maker begins to brew you morning beverage. Meanwhile, your refrigerator has automatically added items to your grocery list. Leaving for work in a hurry, you suddenly can’t remember turning a burner on the stove off. Thankfully there’s an app you can check to turn it off burner off remotely. Not there, when the kids get home from school? Your home security system sends an alert to your phone when they’ve arrived safely… No need to worry.
By now you’ve most likely heard the expression “internet of things”. Billed as the next great innovation, the internet of things will connect our appliances to the internet. Thus enabling us to control our homes remotely from our phones.
When Apple introduced the first iPhone more consumers have been looking to smartphones as their computer of choice. According to research by Nielsen published in the 2013 Digital Consumer Report, 65 percent of Americans were carrying a smartphone. This is up from 44 percent in 2011. As these devices become more powerful, and the apps (short for applications) created for them become more sophisticated, smartphones will be the way we manage, monitor and interact with our homes. They will be, what the PC once was – the hub of our digital lives. If that sounds like the future, the reality is already here.
Home automation is the result of a convergence of technologies that will continue, to mature over the next 10 years. The development of sophisticated sensors and the availability of cheaper and smaller computer chips enables the creation of complex networks. These “always on” networks will not only allow us to control when lights go on or off, they will anticipate our needs based on information they collect. The Nest thermostat developed by a former Apple engineer adjusts heating and cooling based on the homeowner’s habits. Smartphone apps are available to monitor your Nest while you’re away from home. Searching on the Android app store using the key words “home automation” you’ll find more than 250 apps available.
Mobile phone and cable companies are getting in on home automation as well. Major cable companies offer services and corresponding phone apps to program your DVR remotely as well as manage and monitor home surveillance systems. As appliance makers add sensors to their products, home automation apps will capture more information and add more features and functionality. These will be intelligent networks that provide useful information when needed but also act autonomously, as in the case of the Nest thermostat, based on the your preferences and habits.
While we are only in the beta stage of this next technological revolution, the phase where various companies compete to set the standards – great progress is being made very quickly. There is a range of products already available on the market, from complete home automations systems such as SmartThings to individual apps with a single purpose like WEMO which enables you to control lighting while away from home using your phone. While the coming years will see the incorporation of sensors in more household products and existing networks will continue to expand, the central component of future home automation is already in your hands.