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How Does a Smart Home System Work?

The idea of a smart home might make you think of George Jetson and his futuristic abode or maybe Bill Gates, who spent more than $100 million building his smart home.

What was once a draw for only the tech-savvy or the wealthy, smart homes and home automation are becoming more common. This pioneering industry that churned out hard-to-use and frilly products is finally maturing into a full-blown consumer trend.

Instead of only start-up companies, more established tech organizations are launching new smart home products. As of 2020, the smart home industry is valued at over $80 billion USD. Experts have estimated that by 2027, this number will jump to over $200 billion USD. Much of this is due to the jaw-dropping success of smartphones and tablet computers. These ultra-portable computers are everywhere, and their constant Internet connections means they can be configured to control myriad other online devices. It's all about the Internet of Things.

“What is the Internet of Things?” When discussing the inner workings of any smart home system, you’re bound to hear about the “Internet of Things” (IoT), but what is it and how does it power a smart home?

The IoT wasn't officially a concept until 1999, but the first example of this phenomenon was in the 1980s where at Carnegie Mellon University, programmers connected to a Coca-Cola machine via the internet to check if there was a drink available and if it was chilled. Simply stated, the IoT consists of any device with an on/off switch connected to the Internet.

This includes almost anything you can think of, ranging from cellphones to building maintenance to the jet engine of an airplane. So at its core, the IoT is essentially a gigantic network of internet connected “things” and devices. With recent developments in technology, this network has expanded to more than just your laptop and smartphone.

When thinking of the IoT, consider the idea, “any device capable, can be interconnected with other devices.” The IoT is ripe for new and creative ideas to add to the tasks already in use. Imagine an alarm waking you at 7 in the morning, and then simultaneously signaling your coffee maker to turn on and start brewing coffee. All this could happen while your curtains automatically draw themselves to let the natural morning light in as your radio tunes itself to your favorite station or plays your favorite playlist to get your day started on the right foot.

“How does it power my smart home?”

The scenario described above is no longer just a utopian fantasy, as it is slowly becoming a reality for more and more of us. In truth, the IoT provides a nearly endless supply of opportunities to interconnect our devices and equipment. In terms of creativity, this field is wide open, with an infinite number of ways to connect one device to another. It can be an exciting time for innovative individuals, in part, because this industry is still developing to this day, with more and more household devices becoming “smart”.

This is all possible through means that have actually been around for quite long. Initial smart systems relied on a wired “grid” that would connect to any devices it could. The devices would then “communicate” with each other on that grid to send and receive information about your daily activities. From there, an algorithm determines your routines and automates certain functions for you, like the situations described above.

However, the limitations of a grid system is that it requires a lot of pre-planned infrastructure and does not allow for much expansion. It is also a lot more expensive to set up in terms of up-front cost, especially when considering that the grid might not be fully utilized.

Therefore, the more commonly accepted smart home communication medium is the tried-and-tested Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi devices communicate via radio waves and are commonly understood to be the more flexible option. While there is an increasing number of smart devices that have both wired and wireless connectivity, there is a greater focus on Wi-Fi connected devices. This is due to the fact that they are easier to set up, and your system can easily be expanded upon. After all, a smart home is supposed to make your home living easier.

“How do I make sure my Smart Home works well?”

To put it really simply, you don’t need to do much.

With years of development in the industry, companies have ensured that user experience and customer satisfaction is of top priority. Every stage of transitioning to a smart home has streamlined the initial set-up, everyday usage, and any aftercare necessary to minimize the chance of any errors.

This means that as far as possible, you do not need to conduct any maintenance to upkeep your smart home. That being said, there are a few precautions that you can take to ensure that your system is a well-oiled machine.

  1. Only purchase your smart home system from a reputable company.

Due to the sensitivity of allowing “third-party” technology into your home, it is absolutely important that you do research about the companies that you may consider. Certain factors you can consider are how long the company has been around for and some example projects the company has completed before.

  1. Get full-home coverage from a single company.

Part of what a smart home is used for is easy access to your whole home. When you contact different companies to set up your smart home, you may run into a few hiccups. At best, it may just be inconvenient to switch between systems. However, at worse, the systems may conflict with one another and make your home life even more of a hassle. This is why it is important to find a company with a one-stop-shop approach for total coverage.

  1. Keep your passwords a secret.

When it comes to anything IT related or personal data, one of the most important things to remember is to keep your passwords secure. This is even more important when it comes to your home security. Aside from that, there are some companies that go the extra mile and use stronger data encryption to ensure that your data is safe.

In a nutshell, there are a lot of cogs that turn together to make your smart home serve you as well as possible. The best part is that all this happens “behind the scenes” so that you can have a refined smart home experience.