Next-Gen Tech: Are You Ready for a Smart Home?

Your house is listening and waiting for your direction. Feel a chill? Crank up the heat from the comfort of your bed. Or better yet, don’t do anything at all. Let your connected clothing tell the house you need to warm up.

Want to hear music pumped into a specific room at a certain volume? With Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, quite literally ask and ye shall receive.

Adjust the lights in your home simply by moving through it—change the color or dim the lights to suit your mood. Lock doors, windows, place a phone call—your smart home is here to help.                                                               

These advancements might seem futuristic, but science fiction has become fact. Wearable technology, high-tech sensors in our clothing and smart phones allow smart home services to accumulate data based on your preferences and daily routines. This optimizes everything from unlocking doors as we approach or giving us the power to remotely control all the lights, taps, outlets and thermostats in our home from anywhere with a data connection.

Blake Kozak, principal analyst with insight and analytics firm IHS Markit, describes smart technology not as a fad or novelty, but as a “problem solver.” More home owners are looking toward this technology to solve everyday issues—and while the upfront costs are more than the typical lightbulb change, these technologies are developed to save money in the long term.

Smart homes are a new frontier that’s rapidly on the rise. eMarketer reports a surge in voice-controlled speaker usage (such as Alexa or Google Home) by nearly 130 percent in 2017. More than 35 million Americans were expected to use a voice-operated speaker in 2017, with Alexa’s user base expected to grow to 128 million by 2020 according to RBC Capital Markets, CNBC cited. And these devices keep getting smarter, with a massive increase in third-party app developers creating new ways to integrate these products into your home.

A recent Accenture Interactive project describes this technology as “Living Services.” The culmination of improving sensor technology, real-time analytics, cloud computing and our always-on connected smart devices gives Living Services, such as smart and connected homes, the potential to change our lives in never before seen ways.


Not just smart—safe, too

Beyond daily conveniences, connected homes represent opportunities for more than creature comforts and novel mood lighting. Remote home monitoring becomes a major selling point for safety-minded home owners. Leaks, breeches, smart locks and the ability to shut down connected plugs, switches and even water pipes remotely make your home more secure than ever.

For parents of teenagers left to their own devices after school and children of aging parents who live alone, smart homes provide a sense of comfort. “Elderly folks can be monitored without cameras to have an understanding or window into their routines to ensure they’re doing okay,” Kozak explains. Smart home tech can send parents a simple text notification to make sure their teen returns home by curfew, or monitors which doors are locked and unlocked at what time. 


Tomorrow’s home, today

The sheer volume of new devices—from smart refrigerators that keep track of what’s stored inside or smart dishwashers and washing machines— represent significant upfront costs for the homeowners. While the Alexas of the world aren’t prohibitively expensive, a full suite of new appliances is not something most home owners can afford in one fell swoop.

Add in the cost of monthly professional services, on-demand support, video-capable always-on internet and the bills start piling up. Even smart light bulbs can cost as much $50 each. Outfitting an entire house with these devices, not to mention smart locks on doors and windows, gets costly quickly. 

This is due in part to the fact that as the number of smart devices in our home increases, so do the data processing requirements. “We need an incredible number of inputs to feed machine learning. Wearable, auto, every interaction in the home is going to feed into one system,” Kozak says.

Getting your home fully online with smart devices requires planning. Forecasting which major appliances in your home are due for upgrade, as well as anticipating which investments in smart technology are most applicable to your life, takes some foresight. But keep in mind that technology wants to not only save us time but money, too. While the initial investment on smart home gadgets may seem daunting, they are designed with long-term savings in mind—you’ll soon thank those programmable thermostats, low-flow shower heads and motion sensor lighting.


Did you know...

Australia is one of the countries in the midst of a smart home revolution—40 percent of households have at least one internet connected device.* 

*Source: Telsyte research firm

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