Smart Home Automation. 6 Ways IoT Can Make Your Life Simpler, Protect Your Home & Save You Money!
With our lives becoming ever more technologically driven and inter-connected, there is a good chance you already have some Internet of Things (IoT) devices in your life and perhaps didn't already know it? The Internet of Things, simply put, is a world of devices and appliances all connected to the internet. From 'Smart Speakers' such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa to wearable devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches and our beloved smart TV's, we have become used to having access to an incredible amount of data on demand.
But what if that isn't all you can achieve? Imagine this, you leave work on a dreary winters day, its already dark outside and freezing cold. You get in your car and ask Alexa to play your favourite album while you make the long journey home through stop start traffic. When you finally get home, the house has already warmed itself up as the GPS on your phone has told your smart thermostat you have left work and the porch light has lit up to light your way to the door.
Your mere presence at the door is enough for your house to know who you are and the door has unlocked for you, no fumbling for keys. When you enter the house the music you were playing in the car has automatically continued inside, your kettle has boiled and is ready for you to pour a nice cuppa, the lighting is set perfectly in the living room and your smart TV has already lined up the next episode of your latest binge watch series ready for you to sit down and relax.
Sounds like heaven right? it also sounds a little bit like science fiction maybe? Well all of this is already possible, right now. Granted, that is a fairly extreme level of home automation and not to everyone's taste or budget, but it is entirely possible.
Now, it wouldn't be possible to write an article that covered all the different options available to the home owner for their home automation project, there are simply too many to choose from. In this article we look at 6 simple ways you can make the leap into the world of IoT and Home Automation systems in your own home, highlighting the benefits of these and the need to keep it and your home cyber secure.
Home IoT Uses
IoT Smart Metering is perhaps the least used in home automation, but for us here at the IoT Org, it is one of the most useful. Now here in the UK many homes already have a 'Smart' utility meter. This is a meter that automatically tells the utility provider how much you have consumed so your bill is always accurate. They may even provide basic usage statistics to the consumer on a little screen. However, using the right IoT sensors, you can go much much further, getting an hour by hour, room by room, breakdown of exactly how much energy has been used, or how much water consumed, allowing you to make informed choices about how best to reduce consumption and save money.
Water Leak Detection
Water leaks are hideously destructive and even the smallest leak can lead to an expensive repair bill. Early detection of a water leak is your best option when it comes to keeping costs down. That is why, for us, Water Leak Detectors are at the top of the list for the most important advance in home automation we can think of. Place one of these little, unassuming sensors anywhere near where water is used regularly (under your sink, behind your washing machine, near the shower etc) and, when that day comes and it springs a leak, your sensor will send you an urgent notification so you can get it fixed. Better yet, coupled with a smart water valve, it will automatically shut off the water supply to your house to minimise the damage caused if your not around.
Smart lighting is rapidly becoming common place in peoples homes and is a staple of any home automation system. The luxury and satisfaction of being able to ask your smart speaker to turn a light on or off from the luxury of your bed or the sofa is difficult to put into words. However, did you know that smart lights can save you money? When coupled with the GPS on your families phones, the system knows if there is nobody home and automatically turns all the lights off. Never worry about going on holiday and realising you left the lights on again. Likewise, while you are away, you can program the lights to turn on and off periodically to give the impression someone is home. Pretty nifty deterrent.
Smart Heating / Cooling
In most homes, the single biggest annual expense is the cost of heating or cooling the house. It is also the single biggest waste of energy with houses on traditional timers often heating homes when nobody is there to enjoy it. With a smart thermostat, your house will only heat up when it knows either someone is home, or on their way home. This stops your house being heated unnecessarily when your plans change on a Friday night and you go for some drinks after work instead of heading home or when everyone in the house has left for the day. Taking it a step further, when coupled with smart radiator valves and air conditioners, you can now have intelligent control over what rooms get heated and to exactly what temperature. No more heating the whole house when you spend your entire evening in either the living room or your bedroom, automatically save money and just heat or cool the rooms you use.
Now perhaps one of the more elaborate uses for IoT in the home is connected appliances. These are devices such as kettles, fridges, ovens, washing machines and vacuums etc. that are all connected to the internet, allowing you to control them from wherever you are. Sounds a little overkill right? Well, lets look at an example. You leave work, you have to pick up the kids from school and then get dinner ready and eaten before the kids are due at sports practice. You can check your smart fridge to see what food you have in, remotely set the time you want your oven to be hot by and set the kettle to boil for the time you will be home, cutting down the wasted time spent waiting for these appliances when you get home. Then, once you are back out of the door, the vacuum automatically cleans up for you while you are gone. Amazing right?!
Smart Home Security
Last on this list is Smart Home Security. This is perhaps the most controversial area IoT has branched into, predominantly because of peoples understandable security concerns, but there are a number of well designed systems out there now that offer incredible levels of security for your home, whilst still taking steps to make your life simpler. From video doorbells and smart CCTV systems that detect people at your property and warn you about it, to Smart alarms that automatically arm and disarm when it detects you are or are not at home and smart smoke detectors that automatically call you in the event of an activation, these systems can offer levels of connected security not possible before IoT came along.
Now as you would expect with anything that connects to the internet, there is an inherent security risk that comes with it and, just like you have to exercise caution and take steps to protect your laptop or phone from breach, there are steps you need to take to secure your home automation infrastructure. We got into a little more detail about the Cyber Security challenges with IoT equipment here, but to summarise; We would always recommend that your smart home equipment is connected to a separate network to your home computer and phones etc. with its own router. Further to that, if it isn't already, you need to ensure both your routers have their firewalls enabled and you have changed the default pass codes. These simple steps will minimise the risk of your system being breached and, if it is, prevents attackers obtaining any personal data from your computers or phones.
We think the benefits of Smart Home Automation are fairly self evident, but just in case you didn't pick them out here's the two big reasons why we think you should take the jump:
Save money - The amount of money you can save when you couple multiple systems together speaks for itself. Whether you are saving money on energy or water, either by being able to make informed choices about your consumption through better access to the data, to saving by proxy with smart systems that automatically turn devices or heating on and off if you aren't home to use them, you can save a small fortune very quickly.
Live Better - We all work hard enough already. Taking the effort out of simple and mundane tasks such as remembering to vacuum, remembering to turn the heating on and off, or even not having to get up out of your seat to turn a light off makes all the difference to how you enjoy your time at home. You put a lot of money into your house, why not make it do the heavy lifting?!