We live in a hyperconnected world where the word ‘smart’ is commonplace in everyday vernacular.
Smartphones, smart TVs, smart appliances, smart cars — these are more than just mere buzzwords. They all make up the Internet of Things: an ecosystem of devices that can communicate and interact with each other to make life easier for consumers.
Your phone, for example, is the archetypal smart device. Multiple connectivity options with other smart devices, mean it’s also capable of delivering custom functionality and experiences.
Smart devices have also made their way into commercial establishments, offices, and even entire cities. In recent years manufacturers have been making significant strides in how ‘smart’ can be put next to the word ‘home.’
Without further ado, here’s a quick introduction to how the future of smart homes and medical alarms work:
Introduction to Smart Homes
In simple terms, a smart home is any residential property equipped with a network of connected smart devices. Typically via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, that can execute various workflows.
Smart home technology has paved the way for “home automation”. This is because most activities can be managed, run, and automated from a single interface. This refers to a smartphone, a virtual personal assistant, a tablet, or any other network-enabled “hub”. Each has the software capabilities to interact with all the other devices in the smart home ecosystem.
It’s worth noting that most smart home devices also collect and share non-sensitive consumer usage data with one another. Doing so allows these devices to customise and fine-tune their performance based on the owner’s unique usage patterns.
To help you understand how smart homes work, here are some of the most common use cases of smart home devices:
Even homeowners who aren’t interested in technology, in general, have a compelling reason to invest in a smarter home.
With the help of smart home security devices, features such as video surveillance feeds and sensors that cover entry points can easily be integrated into any house.
Comprehensive smart security platforms also enable homeowners to access these devices remotely through a smartphone app. They can lock doors, review security alerts, manage the heating system — all without having to be physically there to operate the devices.
While you can purchase individual pieces of smart locks and cameras, there are vendors that offer comprehensive smart home security packages that bundle these devices along with a central control hub. In addition to a more streamlined setup, these packages also offer quality customer support.
The only downside is that these solutions often require a monthly subscription rather than a one-time payment. But with the cost of burglary averaging at $2,400 per incident, they’re definitely a worthwhile investment.
A smart home entertainment system may consist of a smart TV, a wireless speaker system, a game console, and a mobile “remote” app.
With smart home technology, users can perform activities like streaming music, playing YouTube videos, and adjusting individual settings across different devices while only interacting with one of them.
A simple example is streaming, which you can perform from your Windows 10 PC to your Xbox One console and to your TV.
You don’t have to buy any additional smart accessory for this workflow. Simply use the built-in streaming feature in the official Xbox app or the media streaming options if you want to stream videos, music, or even pictures.
The same kind of workflow exists in other software ecosystems. Mac OS users, for example, can use built-in features to stream from their computer to their Apple TV via the AirPlay feature.
With the right smart home devices, users can also automate certain activities in conjunction with other smart home systems.
For example, if you use a smart TV, you can design a workflow that automatically engages your front-door smart lock system whenever a movie is played. With smart lighting, you can trigger lights to turn off, dim, or change to a certain colour — maximising the immersion of your movie-viewing experience.
Other smart entertainment devices you can incorporate into your network include home theatre systems, smart projectors, smart window blinds, and wireless speakers.
3. Smart Home Services and Elderly Care
It goes without saying that the role of smart devices in our daily lives only gets bigger from here.
Remember, there are certain activities that devices alone — no matter how “smart” they are — can’t accomplish. Fortunately, there are smart solutions that let you engage the help of humans.
Apart from automating tasks that involve actual electronics, some smartphone applications can be used to hire home services like gardening, repairs, cleaning, and so on.
The HomeStay app is an excellent example of this. It allows you to book a range of professional services to your home with a single tap, including but not limited to food preparation, pet services, elderly care, laundry, hairdressing, and transportation.
It’s worth noting that HomeStay also offers smart home devices designed for elderly care.
With the Intelligent Home package, customers receive motion and door sensors that help them ensure the safety of their loved ones. A hub is then installed to perform tasks, such as making an emergency phone call to the HomeStay 24/7 assistance centre.
Lastly, HomeStay also features a wearable device that can monitor sleep patterns and varying physical activity levels. It automatically syncs information to the HomeStay Connect app, which grants family members direct access to the patient’s status — from sleep disturbances to falls.
To verify incidents, the HomeStay Assist team will call the patient via their home phone or the Intelligent Home hub. They will be ready to dispatch emergency help if a life-threatening accident does occur or if the patient fails to respond.
You may think that smart lighting only pertains to bulbs that can be toggled using a mobile app.
At the base level, that’s exactly how smart bulbs work. However, these devices also allow homeowners to adjust the brightness, set a schedule, create groups, and sync your entire lighting system with other smart home systems you may have.
An example would be a group of smart bulbs that automatically dim or change colour whenever you turn your smart TV on. You may also get creative by planning a lighting scheme that highlights the decorative elements in your home with a single tap.
Certain smart light products also utilise a built-in clock, which you can use to effortlessly configure lighting schedules. You can set a set of bulbs to switch on during sunset, upon walking into a room, and so on.
Of course, you can also create workflows that connect your lights with other smart device systems.
An interesting use case is to set certain lights to turn on once movement is detected by your smart motion sensors. You can also design workflows that automatically trigger lights upon switching on appliances from a different room.
5. Personal Assistants
The smart home market gained momentum with the introduction of personal assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
Virtual assistants can also recognise voice commands that control the rest of your smart home systems. This is in addition to fulfilling the role of your smart home hub. Amazon Alexa and Google Home are also capable of matching voices with individual family members as long as the voice is registered via a quick setup process.
With voice matching, virtual assistants can deliver personalised updates, music playlists, and other content based on who’s talking. Of course, this feature can also be turned off in case certain family members have similar-sounding voices.
Below is a list of things you can do with a smart home digital assistant:
Find Your Phone
This is one of the essential automation you should use once you acquire a digital assistant, especially since a good chunk of your smart home apps can be accessed and controlled from your smartphone.
Whenever you misplace or forgot where you put your phone, you can simply use a “find my phone” voice command to have your virtual assistant ring it.
You can also make legitimate calls to other people while displaying your own phone number to the recipient.
For this, the first order of business is to install the digital assistant’s official app on your phone and give it the necessary permissions, like access your phone book or make calls on your behalf.
The setup process for configuring phone calls depends on your digital assistant. Fortunately, most of them come with pre-built voice commands that are ready to use — be it for dialing, answering an incoming call, or hanging up.
Just like smartphone assistants like Siri and Bixby, virtual assistants can also add events to your calendar using only voice commands.
Digital assistants can also be used to schedule activities that activate your other smart home devices. Amazon Alexa Routines, for example, allow you to use pre-set voice commands that can perform a custom set of tasks.
Voice commands, such as “start my day”, have default actions like regionally reading the weather and traffic status. You can tweak these routines to initiate other workflows. Such as switching on your bedroom lights, opening your blinds, or turning on your coffee maker.
Finally, digital assistants can serve as your personal search engines whenever you need answers fast.
For most questions, your digital assistant will have to pull the right information from the web. You can ask about nearby restaurants, local establishments, word definitions, currency exchange rates, and so on.
Most digital assistants are also programmed with responses for very specific questions. Google Home, for example, will respond with “Uh-oh, I get nervous with tests”. This is if you use the voice command “Okay Google, testing.”
Smart home technology can make cooking easier with devices that human error from recipes.
Smart coffee makers, for instance, can prepare coffee cups with a specific strength level. Automation platforms like IFTTT also let you create workflows. For example, preparing coffee first thing in the morning whenever your alarm goes off.
IFTTT is a free automation tool that lets you utilise workflows between two or more services without writing a single line of code. It features an ever-growing library of automations or “Applets”. These are designed to create interactions between your smart devices and appliances.
Manufacturers such as General Electric, LG, and Samsung enable their customers to use their services in IFTTT workflows.
GE, for example, has incredibly useful Applets that automatically turn off your smart oven after 11 PM or whenever you leave home. It also has an Applet that lets you receive a phone call when your oven is preheated.
Can’t find an Applet that does exactly what you need? You can easily suggest or create your own within the IFTTT interface. The process is straightforward and quick. You just need to link two services by choosing from a collection of pre-made triggers and actions.
Additional smart home devices for kitchens include an automated slow cooker and smart plates that track your caloric intake. And even a fork that can monitor your eating habits. There are also smart kitchen products designed for specific features. The Egg Minder, for instance, can alert you of the number of eggs in stock.
Higher-end appliances, such as smart fridges, can also be packed with more elaborate features. They can include text messaging to internal cameras that let you view its contents from anywhere.
Although smart devices can be handy when used autonomously, you can only appreciate the beauty of the technology once you weave them together seamlessly into a smart home.
Creating automated smart home workflows is like programming your own house to cater to your every need. With the right combination of devices, there’s always a way to create something new and amazing in your smart home.