Who doesn’t love a comfortable, easier, secure and convenient lifestyle? The alarm goes off and your perfect cup of hazelnut coffee is ready in no time. Rich and nutty, just the way you like it. And the best part: you can make the coffee without having to leave your bed.
Smart homes give you the ultimate power to control and manage your home-sweet-home (office too) through advanced software and networks that are becoming increasingly easier to monitor, grasp and use. Even a few years ago, this would sound straight out of a fairy tale or a sci-fi movie. But today with smart homes, you can make a pot of coffee from anywhere using your smart device. That’s the power of technology and that’s how home automation is changing our lives.
From voice-activated smart speaker Amazon Echo, who will be at your beck and call, to smart lighting which would automatically turn on the moment you ring the doorbell, now even the shades of your window can be adjusted via mobile apps without getting up from bed in the morning. Smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) are completely redefining our way of life.
Home automation is a booming market with the US having the highest smart home penetration rate, followed by Japan and Germany. According to the global smart home market, the market size would reach a value of more than 40 billion US dollars by 2020. This is extremely encouraging news for both tech giants and venture capitalists who are pouring money for further innovations in the smart home sector.
The real estate scenario has also undergone a sea change because of this. Realtors and builders are increasingly adapting to these new innovations and helping to increase awareness about smart homes in the buyers’ market, informing them about how these “intelligent homes” communicate with the residents. It is not surprising that the largest consumer segment is constituted by millennial, a bunch of tech-savvy citizens who have a completely different approach when it comes to investing in properties. Their preferences are now being taken into account to make the homes more modern. According to a report by Coldwell Banker LLC, more prospective home-buyers are looking for their homes to be automated, or at least for those that have the potential to be automated.
In India, the concept of smart cities has been gaining ground more than ever. It shouldn’t be long before India starts adapting smart homes in a larger way. Startups in India are already jumping onto the bandwagon on home automation and technology students are also trying to make breakthrough innovations in this domain. According to a report published by RedSeer Consulting in 2015, home automation market in India is expeditiously growing and is expected to reach Rs 8800 crores by 2017!
Santanu Mukherjee, head of digital marketing, Indus Net Technologies, admits that India too is welcoming home automation with open arms with several players already ruling the market. However, he also agrees that it will take some time before home automation finally finds its stronghold in India.
According to Mukherjee, the primary reason is the lack of awareness in this sector. “Till now, the majority of the buyers in India consider a property with smart IoT devices as too luxurious an investment. The high product cost of home automation is also inhibiting consumers from exploring this space. As of now, smart homes are a super luxury component in a developing nation like India,” he says.
Here are 5 ways to turn your home into a smart home:
1. Let’s get connected
The entirety of your home must first and foremost be connected by WiFi “so powerful and fast” that all the smart home IoT devices in the house are connected. Here are five WiFi systems you might use when implementing smart home technology:
2. Safety matters
No one wants to compromise when it comes to the security of your most-prized possession, your house. IoT has made it easier to set up smart security systems. Today you can control the security and comfort of your home remotely, via a smart device which monitors feed from the security cameras (indoor and outdoor), window sensors, door locks, motion detector, smoke detectors, water sensors to garage door openers, thus connecting your home to the above-mentioned Wi-Fi network. You can keep a watch on all the activities 24X7 using your smartphone and apps. Alerts in the form of emails and text messages are sent to you on the go.
“Security is a big issue, especially for working couples who depend on external help to manage their kids. However, reliability on external help is questionable. To address this issue, a smart home can be a great help. You can monitor what’s happening at home from afar”, says Mukherjee.
Here’s a list of five smart home devices, which will keep your home safe:
3. Look who’s talking
“Alexa, switch on the light. Alexa, adjust the thermostat.”- Smart homes today enable you to prepare a hearty meal, book a cab or play your favourite song by just talking to voice-activated smart-home systems such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. Thanks to advancements in AI (artificial intelligence) and Machine Learning (ML), speech recognition technology has revolutionized home automation.
Through Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa (you can talk to her through Dot, Fire TV, Echo, Fire Tablet and the Tap) you can remotely control many functions of your house. Google Home is also integrated with a number of smart home systems such as thermostats and water leak sensors. Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana already works at your command, but now the tech giant is planning to launch Cortana soon in the home automation market. According to reports, it won’t be long before Apple’s Siri smart speaker participates in home automation market.
4. Let there be light
How many times have you wished for the light to switch off without you having to get off the bed? With smart lighting, you can dim or switch off your light through your mobile device without moving an inch. Smart lighting solutions in home automation turn on lights as you arrive home or dim them as and when you leave rooms. This reduces energy usage at homes and helps bring down the electricity bill. Some of the popular ones include:
5. Cooking made easy
A refrigerator which tells you what to eat, an electronic fork that helps you keep a track of your eating habits for weight loss—IoT has made culinary life simpler with smart kitchen devices. Thanks to the IoT revolution, you don’t need to worry about burning your dinner anymore while away from the kitchen. We draw a list of five smart kitchen appliances and devices, which will make cooking easy and the food yummy:
What the future homes hold
Technological advancement in the field of smart home automation has happened at breakneck speed in the last few years. The result is a global market full of products and services that would have been deemed futuristic even a decade ago. This has given rise to a new sort of consumer, a more tech-savvy prospective buyer, who wants to communicate with their smart home, languish in the comfort, luxury and security that it affords. With great power, you can now afford to be less responsible, as there is a whole new world of tailor-made products that can be customised according to your lifestyle and preferences. Rich and nutty coffee, check. Dim lights in the hallway, check. You can perhaps even get Jibo to make your bed and feed your pet in a few years. More robust security systems, faster processing power and the ability of home security cameras to capture images in the dark are in the pipeline. In the coming year or two, people will be expected to integrate fitness bracelets and smartwatches with smart thermostats, lighting systems, and automatic blinds to adjust the comfort and temperature level of the home based on the body temperature and heart rate.
Here are a few crucial trends that are likely to make inroads into the home automation market in the coming financial year.
Making your home smarter is easier than you think today. And the best part is home automation is not only adopted by the tech-savvy, but also by those who aren’t quite comfortable with technology. According to a survey by real estate firm Coldwell Banker in 2016, 36% of those who planned to adopt such devices said they don’t consider themselves to be early adopters of technology.
Every good thing comes at a cost. Smart home comes at a hefty price, but it promises long-term rewards, like conservation of energy. Adam Justice, the founder of ConnectSense (a wireless cloud-based home automation device), spoke to HuffPost about how modern technology helps us to automate energy use— “Little changes can make a big difference in a home’s energy consumption. And with modern technology, it’s so easy to automate energy use, so you don’t even have to think about it.”
With most technologies still in development stage, the future looks bright and steady for home automation. With more players joining the race, smart home solutions will become more mainstream and affordable in the coming days.
Mukherjee says that with time smart homes will become an integral part of the lifestyle and that’s when more consumers will adopt home automation. Once upon a time, mobile phones were a luxury component. Today, it has become a necessity. Today, an average person will not think of switching off the light with a mobile app. But years back, we never thought that one day we will all become dependent on remotes to switch on/off our television set. Same will happen in home automation. The products and services will also become affordable for an average household. That day is not far away.
When it comes to the power of technology, never say never.