Smart homes are on the brink of becoming mainstream. Ever more affordable and convenient, smart home technology will revolutionize the way we live. Read on to discover how smart homes work, and what they cost to build. Learn about the applications and future uses of this technology, as well as some of the disadvantages.
What Are Smart Homes?
In a nutshell, smart homes connect the devices and appliances in your home so that they may be controlled remotely, and even work together. Generally, smart home technology is used to connect lighting elements, security systems, thermostats, home computers and entertainment systems.
An obvious benefit of smart home technology is convenience. Smart homes allow you to turn up the thermostat, unlock the door, and turn on the lights as you turn into your neighborhood. Smart homes also enhance your security. When you are on vacation, you could turn the lights on and off as if you were home. Some smart homes notify their owners via email or text message when events occur, such as the kids coming home from school. You can even stream live video of the kids' activities to your phone.
How It Works
Today's smart homes communicate with a combination of wired and wireless technology. Devices can communicate with one another through the electrical wiring in your home, or through radio waves similar to Wi-Fi and cell phone communication. Some systems use one or the other method (wired or wireless), but these systems tend to be less reliable as interference of other devices in the home clogs the communication lines. The newest systems offer a dual-mesh home network, meaning that the signals have more than one way to get to their destination.
Since it's birth in 1975, smart home technology has progressively become more affordable, and therefore more common, as time goes by. The cost of a home networking system varies depending on the level of functionality you wish to obtain. According to a story by MSNBC, a basic smart home network could cost in 2009 as little as $8,000. This system would control things like lighting, door locks and your thermostat. The smart home technology in Bill Gates' home cost $113 million, but is vastly more extensive.
The convenience of smart homes sending information over the Internet to cellular air waves allows smart home owners to access information about their home from anywhere. This leaves the home vulnerable to hackers, who may turn off alarm systems or obtain private information collected by the home.
Smart homes may also raise privacy concerns. Video surveillance can be a useful resource, but constant surveillance often makes residents uneasy. Again, there is the possibility that hackers can access your private video streams. Once that happens, there is little controlling what is done with the videos.
Future of Smart Home Technology
Scientists and developers are excited at the possibilities that smart technology may bring. Imagine being able to get fashion advice from your mirror, receive a text message with a photo of the visitor at the front door before you answer, or wallpaper that doubles as a cinema screen. These ideas, and many more, are the concepts that are in beta testing for smart homes of the future. Are we keeping up with the Jones or the Jetsons?
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