What is a smart home?
How many times have you left the house, panicked that your oven is still on and returned home to find that you had actually turned it off? With a smart home, this could be a thing of the past, as you can control every electronic device or appliance from your mobile phone, no matter where you are. You could video call your dogs remotely, control the temperature of your fridge and even answer the doorbell when you’re not there.
What does a smart home do?
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, a smart home is “a dwelling incorporating a communications network that connects the key electrical appliances and services, and allows them to be remotely controlled, monitored or accessed.” In simpler terms, a smart home is one that allows you to control multiple appliances from anywhere in the world.
This definition goes on to state the three things a property needs in order for it to become a smart home. These are an internal network, an intelligent control and home automation. In the case of your home, this might be WiFi, an app to control an appliance and a smart appliance that can be controlled, such as a doorbell.
This means that any dwelling can become smart if you have the right gadgets.
What are some smart home devices?
Smart home devices can be found everywhere these days. Some examples are:
- Doorbells, like Ring
Smart doorbells allow you to see who’s at your door, even when you’re not at home. You can answer the door on your smartphone, with video showing an image so you can easily identify who they are. The speaker allows you to talk to the person, telling them that you’re not in or advising that they leave a parcel around the back of the house. This means you never have to miss a visitor or parcel again.
- Lighting, such as Philips Hue
Smart lighting systems let you control your lights from your phone. You can brighten and dim the bulbs, select which colour you want and even turn lights on when you’re not at home, giving the impression that someone is in.
- Door locks, like the one by Yale
Forever losing your house keys? With a smart door lock, this is no longer a problem. You can use your mobile phone to gain entry to your home by scanning it, or set up access via key cards. Key cards can be handed to various family members and you can easily track who’s coming and going.
Most homes have some sort of security system, whether this is CCTV or a house alarm. But smart home systems take this one step further and notify you when motion or audio is detected and allow you to set up 15 cameras and view all angles on your phone. They work with other smart devices, such as Alexa and Google Assistant.
How to create a smart home
As previously established, the three things you need to set up a smart home are an internal network such as WiFi, an app to control the appliance via your smartphone and the smart appliance itself. This means that, as long as you have these things, you can create your smart home.
If home security is something you want to increase, you could introduce some smart devices to help you do this. You might want to consider a video doorbell that you can answer from your phone. The camera shows you who is at the door and allows you to speak to the visitor, even when you’re out. You can view the camera at any time to monitor the outside of your home. You could also fit some smart LED light bulbs that give the impression someone is at home. Set your lights to come on and off on a timer, or control them from your phone whenever you want.
Although some smart home devices may cost money to purchase and install, they could save you money long-term, making them a worthwhile investment. For example, by installing an intelligent heating control such as tado°, you could reduce your heating bills. With this smart thermostat, you can control your heating no matter where you are and turn it off if it’s been left on when no one is at home.
How to set up a smart home on a budget
You may think that a smart home will cost a lot of money to set up, however there are ways to do this on a budget.
Instead of replacing all of your appliances for new ones, you could simply add smart plugs to your current plug sockets. Connect the extenders and they can make all of your devices smart. Using a mobile phone or tablet, you can see which devices are using the most electricity and you will be able to turn the electricity supply off when it’s no longer needed. You can even set schedules and timers using the app. For example, it’s likely that you won’t be using your microwave at night, so you can use the app to set a timer so that the appliance isn’t using electricity when it’s not needed.
How to secure your smart home devices
The most important thing to consider is the strength of your passwords. They should be longer than eight characters and contain at least one number and one special character such as an exclamation mark or a full stop. Avoid using your name, family birthdays or other obvious pieces of information that are frequently used for passwords. Be creative and think of something different. This password should be changed regularly.
You could look into authorising a two-step verification. Most apps and devices will allow you to turn on a verification setting. This will text you when someone tries to access your account. If this is you, you will be able to enter a code that has been sent to you. But it could also alert you of someone else trying to access your account.
Finally, you should keep all of your devices updated with the latest software. On some devices, updates might be made remotely by the manufacturer, but in other cases, you may have to do this manually.
Are smart homes worth it?
Smart homes certainly come in handy when you’re unsure if you left an appliance running. This could make your home safer and the technology may even save energy too.
Though it’s something that’s not thought of often, smart homes are essential for people that struggle to complete everyday tasks. For those with disabilities or illnesses, being able to turn on your heating or switch on a light without getting up could make life that little bit easier. Some smart devices can even monitor people’s health, including heart rate and blood pressure. For individuals with health problems, this information could be invaluable.
The additional security of a smart home could be desirable, particularly for those with children or loved ones in the house. Smart locks on the doors and windows and CCTV that you can view from an electronic device could be useful.