With a rapidly evolving series of technological innovations making it easier than ever for people to communicate, shop, and find information, the demand for using digital connectivity to remotely control and automate routine tasks around the house is growing. Homebuyers of all ages are increasingly interested in “smart home” devices that allow them to, for example, fine-tune the temperature in their home to maximize comfort and energy efficiency, monitor the outside and the inside of the home at all times, open doors without a key, and adjust lighting and entertainment to create the atmosphere they want—all at a touch of a button or even via a voice command.
And with smart home technologies advancing quickly, installing home automation systems is relatively easy and increasingly affordable. There are a wide range of vendors offering smart home devices and platforms. In addition, manufacturers of home appliances, entertainment electronics, and home security and fire protection systems are integrating microprocessors and wireless communication chips into their products. While several different protocols are currently in use, manufacturers and technology companies are in the process of establishing standards and practices to ensure compatibility.
Currently, for example, a homeowner can use apps on her mobile phone while at the supermarket to check the contents of the refrigerator, and to find out whether there are any pets or people in the kitchen. As she approaches the front door with her grocery bags, the door clicks open without the use of a key as the lock recognizes a Bluetooth signal on her phone. After she has started cooking and has moved to another room, she can use an app on her phone to check on the roast in the oven or the temperature in the kitchen.
The cost of installing smart home technologies can pay off quickly in energy savings alone. It is easy to program most smart home systems to use less heating or cooling during times of peak energy demand or when the occupants are away, and to ensure that lights, TVs, and other devices are switched off automatically when people leave a room. Simply having lights on automatic dimmers can offer substantial energy savings.
Smart home systems are especially attractive for homeowners who are away for longer periods of time, as they can protect the house not only against obvious dangers like intruders or fire, but also less obvious ones, like dampness or carbon monoxide leaks. HVAC and other systems can send out alerts when there is a malfunction or maintenance is needed. Smart home systems can also perform tasks such as turning on sprinklers, watering plants, and even feeding pets. All of these systems can be either programmed to perform certain functions automatically, or can be controlled by the user via a smartphone app. Many of these devices are capable of “learning” the patterns of the user, and optimizing their settings for efficiency and comfort.
While some homeowners are adding smart home systems to their existing residences, many people who are currently in the market for a new home will be open to buying a house in which these technologies are pre-installed. As demand grows, homebuilders are offering buyers the option of including smart home technology in their new homes. For example, prospective homebuyers may be offered the choice of several pre-configured automation packages with features such as intelligent lighting and thermostats, smart locks, smart appliances, and multi-room audio and video solutions. Customers who are unfamiliar with these technologies can be introduced to the benefits of home automation through on-site or video demonstrations.