I’ve been a responsible homeowner for years, but I recently became a “smart” homeowner. Of course, this has nothing to do with my intellect, or does it? Am I smarter for making the decision to invest in smart home automation and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, or does owning a smart home mean my home has outsmarted me? Rhetorically speaking, it’s probably a combination of both.
In the “smart home” market, Statistica predicts the number of active U.S. households will reach over 80 million in 2017, with revenues exceeding $14 million. Considering the potential market reach of smart homes, it seems we are all getting smarter together, at least theoretically. Society is unarguably becoming more digitally connected and connectivity is changing the world, one house at a time.
Owning a smart home comes with its share of challenges and rewards. My smart home is equipped with a remote monitoring and temperature control system using Z-wave technology, which allows me to turn the heater on or off and up or down as desired, from anywhere at any time via my mobile device. That’s convenient and saves energy. On a cold winter night, when I’m out and about, I can remotely adjust the thermostat to my preferred temperature and arrive home to a warm and cozy house. Perk number one. During warmer months, I enjoy the tranquil serenity of my sensor-enabled smart waterfall while sitting on my back patio drinking a cup of smart coffee and checking my smart phone. Perk number two.
My home also has motion sensors installed on all exterior doors. These sensors trigger automatic alerts via SMS text based on pre-established criteria, such as when a designated door opens. This is primarily a safety feature which provides peace of mind. Assuming the unfortunate event where a potential intruder entered my home, I would be informed instantly in real-time, allowing me to take immediate action or contact local authorities for help. This is particularly beneficial when on vacation or traveling. Perk number three. Did I mention the lights also turn on automatically when I enter my home? I’m not fumbling for the light switch to see where I’m going or bumping into walls. Perk number four.
With all of these perks and benefits, what’s not to like about smart homes? Frankly, it’s not all “sunshine and rainbows” as Rocky Balboa once said. When something goes wrong or doesn’t work as expected, a feeling of helplessness takes over and hits you like a ton of bricks. Let’s say the internet goes down (heaven forbid). It’s as if I am incapable of walking over to the light switch and turning it on myself manually, when I’ve become so accustomed to a smart light switch activating on queue. The dependency continues to grow, as I add more automated technology and IoT devices to my smart home.
I recently set-up a home security and surveillance system with cameras installed in strategic locations along the exterior of my home. The installation process was laborious and time-consuming. Simply trying to figure out the optimal location and viewing angle of each camera was challenging, to say the least. Not an easy task, but the end result was quite gratifying. I can “spy” on my home and remotely monitor activity from anywhere, anytime with my smart phone using machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. M2M enables communication between connected devices via the internet, namely the camera sensors and my mobile device. With a data recorder I can capture retroactive events and historical data or pictures, trigger automatic alerts when camera sensors detect a pre-defined threshold of movement (this gets tricky, especially on a windy day), and continuously monitor my home status. Who knew this could be so much fun?
It can be quite entertaining owning a smart home, until the fun dramatically ends. It’s like watching your favorite pre-recorded television series, and your DVR recording abruptly stops about 30 seconds before the season finale ends. Ugh! Well, one day I lost my network connection. Case in point. The video footage from the security cameras was no longer accessible and my daily fixation became unattainable and unimaginable as I stared at an empty black mobile screen. How could this be? Just yesterday I could see every angle of my exterior home 24/7 and the next day nothing, absolutely nada. The horror. The disappointment. The frustration. The angst. I was speechless. That’s when reality set in, and I realized my “smart home” was becoming a smart addiction.
My smart home finally redeemed itself (what a relief), once my network connection was restored. My experience as a smart homeowner has, however, evoked a number of provocative questions. Does owning a smart home actually minimize stress and give us peace of mind? Or, does smart home ownership increase obsessive-compulsive behavioral tendencies and proliferate the so-called technology obsession we all have with our smart phones and smart devices? Such philosophical questions beg one to ask yet another relevant question. Are we really controlling our connected things or are they controlling us? Decidedly or not, the love-hate relationship begins. Humor aside, connected things are on the rise, and the smart home epidemic is gaining traction. Our smart homes, smart cars and smart cities will outsmart us one day, like it or not.
I now have a new edition to my smart home family. Her name is Alexa. Alexa is smart, polite, witty, entertaining and even sarcastic at times. All good qualities for an artificially intelligent companion and smart home device. Unfortunately, she doesn’t always follow directions or have the answers I need. Of course, there are trade-offs with technological innovation, so I’m willing to compromise. Time will tell, but Alexa is quickly becoming another asset (or habitual compulsion) in my smart home repository.
All connected things considered, I have come to love my smart home and to realize that a smart home is a happy home (most of the time). If my smart home saves time, money and energy, while also providing comfort, security and entertainment, that makes me happy. Finding balance is the key and with the right key you will open many doors, smart or otherwise.