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Home Automation: Mystery, Mayhem, or Magical?

Home Automation: Mystery, Mayhem, or Magical?

“Help!  Help!  Jane!  Stop this crazy thing!”  -  George Jetson, The Jetsons, Theme Song.

The Jetsons was an American animated TV sitcom produced by Hanna-Barbera originally airing in the 1960s.  The Jetsons were a futuristic family living an innovative utopia of elaborate robotic contraptions and whimsical inventions.  Their home has numerous push-button, Space Age-envisioned amenities which some helped and some did not. George Jetson's workweek is typical of his era:  an hour a day, two days a week.  Daily life is leisurely, assisted by numerous laborsaving devices, which occasionally break down with humorous results.  Despite these conveniences, everyone complains of exhausting hard labor and difficulties living with the remaining inconveniences.  Sound familiar?

This was a cartoon making fun of the changes in our technology by providing imagines of what we expect to come true but still today many find home automation to be a mystery. With technology growing at such a fast pace, it provides even more unknown equipment, complicated devices and software, and saturation of products and applications. You may find yourself asking “What is a Smart Home?” What makes it so smart? My technical definition of home automation is: “A system topology which integrates other individual systems consisting of multiple electronic and networked devices within your residence to provide easy operation and collaboration of your technology.” What?   It consists of a main processor that provides communication with all the electronic equipment so they can work together from your computer, smart phone, or smart tablet. This interface will combine control of TVs, audio receivers, DVD players, thermostats, lights, security, fireplaces, garage doors, and more. Therefore making it less complicated and useful as a whole.

Today with 90 percent of American adults owning a smart phone and 42 percent owning a smart tablet, home automation has never been more accessible. If you already have a smart phone or tablet, I congratulate you. You have now opened the door to a new generation. Maybe you even have an application on your phone or tablet that controls your thermostats, lights, door locks, front door camera, TV, pool, hot tub, and/or security. If so, you are in the home automation zone. Today hundreds, if not thousands, of applications are dedicated to one device or more in your home. With these applications you can turn your lights on or off, lock or unlock your doors, view who is at the front door, set your security, heat up your hot tub, and change the temperature in your house. These are just a few examples of the current possibilities right at your fingertips from your watch, smart phone or tablet.  

Options, options, and more options…which device or application is best for your needs? And second, how do you combine these features to make them more efficient, easier-to-use, and reliable? This is where the mayhem really kicks in. With every company now having applications available for their individual product, you need to know how each one works and connects to the device. You load one then another. It works on this model but not this model. You buy the specific product based on its application then another company comes out with something better. This application works different from your last. Does the appliance connect wired, wireless, Z-wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, RS232, IR, relay, or some other obscure connection? It really can get confusing. This is where home automation experts come in to play. Presently all of these control features work independently and sometimes with different communication perimeters. And in a perfect design, home automation brings them all together into a very manageable system. It provides customization, efficiency, easy-to-access, and easy-to-use not just for you but also for everyone who enters the home. And moreover, it can provide intelligence. I mean it can react instantly to motion, touch, voice or other feedback provided to the device. It can use information like time of day, temperature outside, occupancy, and many other factors. The combination of these things makes it a necessity.  

There are some really great integrators out there. I recommend you do ample research. Make sure you request references from integrators. You should meet with the companies, share your ideas, and listen to their ideas. Are they open to new ideas? Do they have information about new technology? Do they understand your needs? From these meetings you will be able to tell who is passionate and knowledgeable in reference to all the possibilities available as well as the best options for your lifestyle.

Green homebuilders and architects are building and designing self-sufficient, energy and water efficient homes built with environmentally friendly resources. Home automation will play a big part in these changes. In order for a home to be self-sufficient, its components will need to generate and monitor their own resources: energy, water, gas, etc. The systems required to provide these needs will have to be managed and incorporated to maintain and monitor their production. As for energy and water efficiency, a homeowner will need to install the latest technology either through smart thermostats, automated lighting systems, motorized shades, water sensors, water flow gauges and more. Along with technology comes knowledge and information that is not so easy to understand. Therefore, the home automation platform will simplify this and provide an easier and custom solution to provide maximum benefits for this investment across all these individual systems in place.

Today, with the advancements of technology, home automation has become affordable for all. In the past, these systems were designed at prices that only big business and high-end homes could afford. But with the changes of networked equipment and communication between devices, system processors have dropped below $1000. Some of them even down to under $500. With smart phones and tablets these systems can be controlled and interfaced by the same devices we already own. In the past you had to spend thousands of dollars (sometimes tens of thousands of dollars) to buy interfaces like touch panels and keypads to place all over the home. Now we can buy tablets between $100 and $500 each. Or we can just control our systems with our phones that are usually already in our pockets or purses.

The pace of technology is staggering, and it is only getting faster. True automation is vibrant, dynamic and unstoppable. With the Apple Watch on our wrists, smart phones in our pockets, and tablets loaded with multiple applications, we can monitor security, heating and cooling, energy efficiency, lock and unlock doors, open and close shades, play music, set lighting scenes and so much more. The right smart home will provide that umbrella to cover your house and all its needs. It will be the nucleus of all your easy and complicated systems. It will provide peace without being visible. It will provide structure and stability to your day-to-day activities. Home automation is not just popular, but needed. Therefore, with the right system and qualified system designer, home automation is neither myth nor mystery: it’s magical! Look out Jetsons, here we come!

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