The “internet of things” is starting to gather steam. Controlling lighting, alarms, temps and an array of other household tech will continue to grow in 2016. This new technology, known as home automation, is growing fast.
Don’t think boring and limited. This ain’t your grandma’s clapper. This is a revolution in the way we interact with our homes.
The technology is still young, emerging and immature, but just like a college student back home for the holidays, there are signs just under the surface of a mature adult hiding in there.
Before you dive into what’s available, think about what daily activities you do. What would help you do those better? What would you like to automate? What device in the house would you like to have more cloud-based control over? It’s a hard question. You don’t know what you don’t know. This little exercise, however, might make the following options even that much more amazing to consider.
Automation systems like Control4, HomeSeer, Savant and Crestron are some of the most popular options available. For about a thousand dollars, you can get a robust assortment of one-touch controls for your home. Turning on lights, opening the garage, deactivating your alarm and firing up your entertainment system at the touch of your phone is within your reach.
Some systems allow you to integrate your washer, dryer, oven and even a generator to keep everything chugging along, in the event the electricity goes out.
But before you plug into the future, note that there are lots of bugs to work out. If money isn’t an issue, you’re adventurous and you don’t mind some tech frustrations, go for it. Early adopters are always needed, and this is exciting territory.
If, however, you’re like most folks and want to keep things within budget, here are some other things to consider.
You can start small. For instance, you can go with just one item, like an automated front door lock from Schlage Connect or the Hue lighting system from Philips.
If you do start slow and plan to expand over time, consider compatibility. Automation is about convenience and efficiency. And, there’s nothing convenient or efficient about having a different app and a different user experience for every automated device in the house. Imagine if every light switch in your house was a different style. Not cool, right? Now imagine that every automated device in your house has a different app, different login and different connection to your Wi-Fi. Okay, now uncurl from your fetal position and promise me that you’ll not do that to yourself.
One final consideration: should you allow your cable company to be your one-stop-shop? They want to be. I don’t want to say that you should never do this, but at the end of the day, your cable company is probably going to lag behind in technology. It’s hard to do everything right. It’s a lot easier to be a jack of all trades and master of none.
Until this technology comes of age and is as convenient, integrated and trustworthy as, say, your electricity provider, I’d stick with companies that demonstrate expertise in this area. Maybe your cable company has that. More likely, you’ll find it with a company that focuses almost exclusively on home automation.
What an amazing world we live in. It’s not the Jetsons just yet. But, wow, it sure feels like it. If we could just add that robot to do the dishes, wash the clothes and take out the trash for us. Sign me up!
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.