When it comes to the Smart Home World, it can come with a lot of questions, especially if you’re unfamiliar with, or new to, the technology. But while new things can be scary and intimidating, the Smart Home is really not as foreign and far-off as some would like to believe. Here to answer some of those burning questions about Smart Homes & Smart Home Technology is Senior Content Strategist at SmartThings, Eliot Stein.
Q: What are some of the advantages of owning a Smart Home and using Smart devices?
A: That question always makes me smile because it’s sort of like asking, ‘What can you do on the Internet or with a smartphone?’
The core smart home uses tend to center on things like home security, lighting automation, energy management, and entertainment, but the true beauty of smart home technology is just how customizable it is. Just as you might have different bookmarks on your browser or apps on your phone than a friend, we’ve found that the smart devices people place in their home and how they choose to use them vary tremendously from home to home. It’s not unlike home décor in that respect.
Q: Are Smart Homes purely programmable or do they actually learn from you?
A: It really depends on the product. Some home automation brands create products that let people simply control them remotely. Nest, on the other hand, has an elegantly designed thermostat that learns your schedule and will then automatically adjust based on when you’re home or away.
As an open platform that’s compatible with hundreds of connected devices, SmartThings has essentially combined these two ideas: You can control and monitor your connected devices remotely, but you can also teach your home to react to your unique preferences and daily schedule. You do this by setting rules that will trigger your home to perform different actions when you wake up, leave, come home, go to bed, and so forth. After setting each rule, your home will memorize them and can perform them automatically at different times of the day or when different events occur.
Q: I’ve recently seen some new remotes coming out that are designed to work with people’s Smart Homes. Do you think these universal remotes are feasible, or that Smart Phones are the true #1 accessory to a Smart Home?
A: There are certainly remotes out there that are wildly popular–like Logitech Harmony–but it’s all a matter of personal preference. That’s really the key: Offering consumers options and letting them choose. Some people may prefer to control their smart home from a remote, others may feel more comfortable using their smartphone, and others may prefer to run their home from their wrist with a connected watch.
But while it’s great to offer consumers as much choice as possible when it comes to managing their smart home, the ultimate goal of a smart home is to require as little user interaction as possible. Ideally, you’ll set a series of actions that take place when you wake up, leave, come home, and so on, and your home will automatically perform the actions without you having to press a button, find your phone, or turn your wrist.
Q: Some people are concerned that Smart Home technologies, “just aren’t there yet.” What do you have to say in response to those who believe this?
A: Ha, I’d ask what does “there” mean. All technology is iterative, evolving, and unfinished. I guess that’s why Steve Jobs kept at it after the Macintosh Plus.
Sure, it’s funny to look back a few decades and think about how people once lived with dial-up Internet connection or phones that were stuck to the wall with a cord… just as it’s going to be funny to one day look back at the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6. The same is true with smart home technology. Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and improved standards for low-power, inexpensive, and highly reliable wireless communications, we’re currently a world away from from the original home automation systems that began popping up in the ’70s.
No engineer or product manager is going to tell you that their work is done or that improvements can’t be made. But just as that Mac Classic made it easy for anyone to bring a computer into their home, what we’re witnessing now is a handful of companies that are making it easy for anyone to turn their home into a smart home at an affordable price and with little to no tech know-how.
Q: Where do you see the future direction of Smart Home Technology heading?
A: I see three main things happening.
First, as technology becomes even cheaper to produce and the barriers to invention continue to shrink due to increased automation of manufacturing technologies, I think you’re going to see smart home technology become even more affordable than it already is. This, coupled with even more intuitive product iterations, are likely to spur much greater mainstream adoption.
Next, as smart home technology spills out of homes and in to neighborhoods and cities, I think you’re going to see how the greater programmable world (or “Internet of Things,” if you’re in to awkward names) affects communities. When every home develops a sixth sense and communities become smart, it can affect things like crime rates, transportation, health care, energy emissions, and disrupt the entire service industry.
And last, just as we’ve seen the Internet become a playground for thousands of unexpected, creative, and valuable inventions, I think we’ll see the same thing happen with smart home technology and the larger programmable world. I’m not saying you’ll see nonstop cat gifs and Chuck Norris memes, but the beauty of an open smart home platform that plays well with other brands and also developers to create new ways to use SmartThings is that it allows anyone to invent new applications.
Beyond the typical out-of-the-box use cases, we’ve already seen customers use SmartThings and other brands to help elderly loved ones live more independently, trick out their Scotch cabinet, catch a burglar in the act, and keep an eye on their free-range chickens.
As more and more people begin turning their homes into smart homes, it’s going to have a massive effect on how we live, work, and play. The world is waking up, and it’s connecting us all.