The House Connected: The Smart Home Revolution
This fall, my wife and I purchased our first house. And like many young couples, we went the ambitious route and snagged ourselves a fixer-upper. And boy was this house ever in need of fixing … so much so that we utilized the 203k renovation loan program so we could tackle projects immediately and get the home back to livable condition.
The great thing about rehabbing or building a home in today’s day and age of “smart technology” is the sheer amount of affordable options for those looking to go green, automate basic home processes or program appliances. We installed a new television that utilizes built-in Wi-Fi to give us the ability to surf the internet and stream movies directly from our TV. We purchased a sound bar for our television that doubles as a wireless speaker for our iPhone by utilizing Bluetooth connectivity. We have even looked into a home security system where we can visually monitor our house via our phone and a sprinkler system that can be managed by a slick mobile application. But our favorite new automation toy for the house is the Nest Learning Thermostat.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is a brilliant product from a couple former Apple employees who created the first iterations of the iPod and iPhone. As their website states, “Nest learns your schedule, programs itself and can be controlled from your phone. Teach it well and Nest can lower your heating and cooling bills up to 20%.” As you would expect from any product with ties to Apple, the Nest has a beautiful interface, boasts simple navigation and revolutionizes an entire industry. As Wired Magazine recently quipped, “The Nest is the iPhone of thermostats.”
Since Nikola Tesla first patented an idea for a remote control in 1898, home automation has mainly been something we’ve read about in science fiction books. But since the invention of smart technology, consumer electronics has advanced leaps and bounds. Even when the first iPhone was released in 2007, I don’t think many consumers would have imagined a thermostat that could program itself coming to market less than five years later.
And perhaps even more impressive, the Nest is available to the general public at a very reasonable cost of $249.99. In fact, most home automation devices are finally becoming cheap enough for middle-class families to explore. No longer does it take a massive electrical overhaul and new equipment totaling thousands of dollars to automate simple house processes. By investing in a reasonably-priced, new smart product, the ability to connect via your smartphone and control the device is intrinsically built-in. Never before has a homeowner been more in control of the basic operations of their house. And we’ve barely even scratched the surface.
This “internet of things” so to speak is quickly building a future of immense connectivity. As CNET recently wrote, “the trend toward ubiquitously connected devices and people is inescapable and poised to change everything about the consumer electronics world.” According to Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, there were 500 million connected devices in 2007, or about one for every 20 persons on the planet. In 2013, that number will jump to one trillion devices, or 140 devices per person!
But while the ability to control your air conditioner, open and close blinds and dim lights is helpful, a world where almost every device is programmed and can be managed by a remotely-located device is a bit dangerous. While I don’t think a thief or hacker will care too much about fiddling around with sprinklers, I’m sure they would love to get a hold of the ability to manage a security system. Not to mention, we’ll soon enough have the ability to open house or garage doors via our smartphones and that could pose a major threat if a phone is stolen or lost.
While concerns over security and privacy are very real, the benefits of a house with connected devices and automated processes is extremely beneficial to consumers. Not only does it provide you with the control necessary to streamline and improve the way your house runs, it will also save you time and money. And as much fun as I’m having renovating a house with 21st century conveniences, I can’t even imagine what new gadgets and technology will be available to me in 30 or so years when my renovation is finally complete!