Some devices and appliances have the ability to ‘talk’ to each other to create a network within the home. Find out more about smart, connected homes here.
It’s now easier than ever to automate daily tasks and household chores. By using exciting technology and devices, linked together, we can create the kind of smart, connected and even automated homes that were once only dreamed of in sci-fi movies.
With so many different terms floating around, these new technologies can be tough to understand – what is a smart home? How is the Internet of Things involved and what is it? What are the benefits of a connected home? To help you understand more clearly, we’ve answered these questions and more in our guide to smart homes. If you already know what you’re looking for, you can jump straight to that section using the links below:
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (or IoT) is the idea that devices can be ‘connected’ to each other through the internet.
Devices, apps and appliances have the ability to ‘talk’ to each other, to create a growing network of connected objects. For example, your wearable fitness tracker could tell your phone how many steps you’ve walked and your phone could communicate that information to a health app to work out how many calories you’ve burned. You could then be alerted when you’ve hit your target calorie burn for the day.
As a result, the IoT creates a giant network of linked devices, making the management of our belongings, homes and lives easier.
Connected homes, smart homes and smart devices
So, the IoT is integral to achieving a smart home. But what exactly is a smart home? And how does it differ from a connected home?
These two terms are very similar and often used interchangeably, but there are a few small differences between them that are worth noting.
A smart home takes the idea of a connected home one step further, creating a home that has the ability to run seamlessly all by itself, without human direction.
For example, location tracking on your phone can link to your smart home hub, so as you get close to your house, your thermostat will turn your heating up, your lights will switch on and your coffee maker will start bubbling away to ensure you have a hot drink waiting for you on arrival.
A smart device is an electronic device that has the ability to connect to other devices wirelessly, using the internet or Bluetooth.
Some of the most well-known smart products include smart phones, tablets, fitness trackers and smart watches. But there’s also an increasing number of other devices that now have the ability to be ‘smart’ - for example, smart hairbrushes, washing machines, and even toasters.
A connected home involves the control of devices or appliances with some kind of ‘remote control’ – usually a smart phone, tablet or computer. For example, smart lightbulbs that can connect to an app, mean you can switch your home lights on using your phone.
What are the benefits of a smart home?
The main benefit of investing time and money into creating your own smart home is often, primarily convenience. Controlling everything from your phone or tablet means you can keep tabs on all of your smart devices easily and in one place, helping to streamline everyday tasks. You can spend more time focusing on your daily life if you don’t need to worry about things like adjusting your thermometer, whether you’ve forgotten to turn the lights off when you go on holiday, or even wondering if you need to buy milk.
Many of the appliances and devices that make up a smart, connected home could help reduce gas or electricity bills by using only the energy you really need. For example, if you regularly find yourself forgetting to switch off lights, you can set up automatic detection so lights turn off when you’re not in a room. Similarly, the thermostat can let the indoor temperature drop while you’re out of the house and return it to a comfortable level for your return home. All of these can add up over the course of a year to save a considerable amount of unnecessary spending.
By saving on the amount of electricity and gas you use in your home, you will also be helping to improve the energy efficiency of your home. All of the automated tasks performed by your smart device can combine to reduce the strain on natural resources and help you do your bit for the environment, without lifting a finger.
Find out more ways you can be greener around the home with our energy saving tips.
A smart home system can have particular benefits for limited mobility, elderly or disabled residents. By using a phone or tablet to control devices, or by connecting to a voice-activated system, you can control heating, lights, locks, security and so much more without needing to move around unnecessarily.
Are smart products safe?
Understandably, many people express concerns about the safety of the technology behind smart homes. The truth is, a connected home can be extremely safe, but you need to take a few precautions to ensure your devices and home are as secure as possible from hackers and other intrusions:
- Security and safety features can vary widely by product and brand manufacturer. Evaluate each smart device for potential safety and security issues and research carefully before buying.
- Devices that are hard-wired to the internet rather than those that rely on a Wii connection tend to be more secure. If you’re particularly concerned about safety, consider switching to Ethernet cables to plug into your internet using wires instead.
- Passwords are essential in keeping your smart home secure. Make sure to create a strong password for each device, and consider using a password management system for extra security. This will generate unique passwords for each app, site or device, but you’ll only need to remember one.
Creating a smart home
Getting started with setting up a smart home is simple – all you need is a WiFi connection, a smart phone, tablet, computer or laptop and one or as many exciting smart products as you would like.
However, to ensure your connected home works as efficiently as possible, it’s worth checking you’re set up in the right way.
The main priority is ensuring you’re able to get online in your home. Here are our top tips for setting up your connected home:
- You’ll need decent Wi-Fi coverage around your home, so make sure your router is easily accessible and the signal can be read from all corners of your house.
- If you’re unable to access your Wi-Fi in certain parts of your home, consider getting a booster to increase the signal strength.
- Still struggling to go fully wireless? Installing Ethernet cables is a reliable alternative which won’t leave you depending on weak Wi-Fi signals.
Shopping for smart devices
The key to finding the right smart product for you is careful research. The market is extremely competitive, so you’ll have multiple options for each type of device. By planning and choosing carefully, you’ll be sure to find a brand or product that suits your needs and budget perfectly. Dig around online and check out reviews to make an informed decision, there’s a wealth of helpful review sites across the web.
Setting up your smart products
Most smart products are designed to be user friendly, so should be fairly easy to set up yourself. Often, you will simply need to plug in the device, connect it to your Wi-Fi, download the relevant app to your phone, laptop, tablet or computer and link the two together.
Each smart home system is slightly different however, so refer to the individual manufacturer’s instructions for information on installation.