If you harken back to the 1960s (or its 1980s resurrection), you might remember the Jetson family. George’s wife, Jane, had a wonderful device from which she’d emerge, fully dressed and coiffed with makeup applied and everything—every woman’s dream!
And while today’s kitchens lack the Star Trek feature of food replicators (which would make a wonderful time-saver in today’s busy lives) smart technology is starting to make food prep just a little easier—even though you can’t press a button and request a steak dinner or hot fudge sundae… yet.
The smart home concept is nothing new. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair featured Alpha the Robot and the Homes of Tomorrow. Elekctro! The Smoking Robot appeared just six years later at the New York World’s Fair. Disneyland’s 1957 house, built with over 95% of plastic materials, welcomed over 20 million visitors in its 10 years. Microsoft featured a smart home in 1999.
A drive to create homes and the technology to make homes greener, more secure, sustainable, and more connected isn’t slowing down. In fact, it’s speeding up to embrace current trends that include remote mobile control, automated lights and temperature adjustment, scheduling appliances, remote video security surveillance, mobile/text/email notifications, and more.
But with the wide range of options available—and knowing that current trends suggest that over 60% of homes will feature home technology by 2021 just as smart technology that’s incorporated into homes has increased by about 33% each year, according to a Coldwell Banker survey—if you’re just testing the market, should you join the party? And if so, where do you start?
Advantages to smart homes
That same Coldwell Banker survey of over 4,000 people found that half of the respondents already owned smart home technology or planned to add it in 2016. Homeowners over age 65 also saw the value of incorporating smart home tech—they tended to choose products like locks and alarms, thermostats, lighting, and smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. Younger generations also added smart entertainment systems including smart televisions and speakers.
Smart technology offers some definite advantages. The home tech facilitates your ability to:
- Protect your home and its contents with wi-fi-equipped smoke detectors and plugs connected to auto turn-offs that are remotely accessible with an app on your smartphone or tablet.
- Keep an eye on loved ones with video monitoring, motion detection, smart locks, and speakers. Check-in on your kiddo who’s home alone from school, yell at the cat to get off the kitchen counter, or make sure your older relative’s doing well.
- Shrink your energy bills with smart thermostats and smart lighting. These handy devices can even track and help you analyze trends over time so that you can maximize your home’s efficiency. Those programmable thermostats and motorized shades increase energy savings by giving you even more precise control over your home’s temperatures.
- Earn discounts from insurance companies with qualifying equipment that usually includes motion detectors, smoke/carbon dioxide detectors, moisture and humidity sensors, and security systems that use connected technology.
Venturing into the smart world doesn’t have to break the bank. You can get a hub for less than $100 and install smart lighting for even less.
Smart hubs. To start, you’ll want a smart hub to manage all your home’s technology. Smart hubs act as brains, connect wireless to a wide range of smart devices, and ensure that they work together. Pair your hub with your smartphone to control everything remotely.
Smart voice control. Channel your inner Scotty by using voice recognition or voice-activated products, like Amazon Echo and Google Home. They’re wonderful when you arrive home, arms laden with packages, and need a “hand” opening the door or turning on the lights. These are some of the best devices on the market today.
Smart lighting. Automate your lighting experience with LED light bulbs that can save up to 75 percent more energy. Most pair with Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, and Google Assistant. The market includes many options, some which require the assistance of an electrician—but others just need to be screwed into the location, with the app downloaded and paired to the hub. Here’s a great resource to learn more.
Smart thermostats. Thermostats make homes smarter and increase their energy efficiency. Thermostats like Nest learn your schedule and habits and automatically adjust temperatures according to your preferences. Utility companies have also begun to offer rebates to customers who’ve installed smart thermostats in their homes and businesses. Here’s a list of 2018’s best smart thermostats.
Smart home security. These systems have evolved considerably in the past 10 years. More systems make it possible for homeowners to install them themselves. They’re easy to use, and the cost is dropping because of the hands-on security setup. Check out these five smart security solutions.
If you’re still in research mode, Business Insider spent months testing automation improvements to find and recommend the latest and greatest in smart home products.
It’s possible to spend thousands of dollars on smart home technology. If you want to see what your home’s missing—and you’ve got a good-sized inheritance or company bonus burning a hole in your pocket, here are some amazing additions.
Smart refrigerators. Think of one as an iPad that keeps your food cold. You’ll get apps that help you track groceries, make shopping lists, search recipes, upload photos, control the temperature in each of the refrigerator’s zones, listen to Pandora, check Twitter, check the weather, get news updates, and more. Some models can self-adjust during peak energy times, too.
Smart ovens. Imagine checking in with your oven to see if the roast is finished cooking yet? Or downloading preprogrammed recipes—just add food? Or check to make sure it’s turned off, with an app? Check out these new models.
Faucets. How about a faucet you can program to remember water temperature, flow, and speed! Imagine making minor adjustments with just a touch of a button instead of fiddling with the showerhead or hot/cold knobs. Pretty amazing.
Smart washers & dryers. They haven’t—yet—invented a pair that will transfer clothes to the dryer, iron, and fold them when the cycle is complete. But a smart grid tells one brand when to clean clothes at the most cost-effective time of day. Use that Wi-fi connection and a smartphone app to track what’s happening with your clothes.
A smart home ecosystem
In a modern, 21st century world where life travels at lightspeed and everyone’s on hyperdrive, we value the ability to remotely control their homes’ functions. Seems like a pretty smart move to increase your home’s intelligence by adding the technology that will make it safer, more secure, and convenient.