"Smart" is a buzzword that has become synonymous with the latest technology. Smart phones. Smart car. Smart boards. And now there's the smart home. What exactly is a smart home? As an example, think about The Jetsons, a cartoon many of us grew up watching. We marveled at the family's everyday conveniences like automated appliances, robot maids, and flying cars. Well, while we can't help you with the flying car, we can certainly introduce you to home automation.
You've probably seen the term "home of the future" somewhere. It's one that's been used widely for the last century or so. The prime feature at the General Electric pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair explored the home of the future through Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. In this attraction, which now lives at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, viewers sit in a moving, circular theater and experience the advent of electricity and technological advances during the 20th century via the typical American family. The attraction shows how people have been amazed by new technology for the home throughout the centuries. From the poupularization of electricity in the private home to the invention of high-definition television and voice-automated appliances, technology for the home has come a long way.
Home automation is a big deal in smart homes. Single integrated systems allow users to connect appliances, thermostats, security systems, and more from one device, such as a smartphone. Appliances can be monitored and controlled remotely through these systems. Say you turned the air conditioning off while you were out of town for a summer vacation. Instead of coming home to a stiflingly hot house, you can use your phone to turn on the a/c when you board your plane or start your car trip home. Lighting can also be controlled remotely or set to automatically turn on or off at any given time. Energy-efficient smart lightbulbs can be controlled with a phone for different lighting for tasks and mood. With systems like LG's HomeChat, users can text their appliances. For example, text "What are you doing?" to your washing machine and receive a response telling your which cycle the washer is currently in.
Most importantly, security systems have never been more, well, secure than they are now with smart technology. Homeowners who take advantage of smart security systems can use their phones for remote surveillance of their homes and check to see if doors have been locked and appliances have been turned off. Smart security systems can also be programmed to simulate the appearance of an occupied home by automatically adjusting lighting or moving window coverings when unauthorized movement is detected. These systems can also notify homeowners in the event of a fire or gas, carbon monoxide, and water leaks.
Another benefit of the smart home is home automation for elderly and disabled. Those who prefer to live in their own homes as opposed to an assisted living facility can do so safely through features like reminder systems and domotics (domestic robots) that assist with medication dispensing and spoon-feeding.
Smart technology isn't without its problems, however. Many protestors complain that it's making us lazy. And of course, there's always the chance of malfunction. Even the Carousel of Progress shows its audience how technology can go wrong, from blowing fuses to smart appliances that misunderstand directions. While there are caveats to relying completely on smart devices, the fact is that they're here to stay and are constantly being tweaked and improved. Smartphones weren't the norm even less than a decade ago. Now you'll be hard-pressed to find an individual without one in your general vicinity. Who knows? Perhaps in the next ten years, we'll all be enjoying the benefits of a smart home!