No longer relegated to the domain of science fiction, the internet of things is here. The internet of things (or IoT) connects everyday objects with the internet and allows you to monitor, manage and maintain your home from your smartphone, PC or tablet. More and more appliances and gadgets have the capability to connect to the internet now, and that number is only growing. Coupled with the estimated 50 million homes worldwide that will have smart-home technology by 2020, you can firmly believe the smart-home automation revolution has arrived.
Building a Command Center
Every smart home needs a brain – a command center that consolidate and controls the collective IoT devices and connects them to the cloud. You have a few options with smart-home control systems, including:
- Standalone hubs
- Advanced universal remote controls
- IoT devices themselves.
Accessible through smartphone apps, standalone home-automation hubs, such as Samsung's SmartThings and Google Home, communicate with IoT devices through your home's wireless setup. Advanced universal remotes, such as the Logitech Harmony Elite, communicate with receivers using infrared, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and the receiver communicates with the smart-home components using a standard Wi-Fi connection.
Some IoT devices, such as Nest's Learning Thermostat, bridge other smart-home devices with the cloud directly. No hub or remote it needed. Emerging technologies even allow direct interconnectivity between the cloud, smart-home devices and mobile device. One example is Thread, a wireless networking protocol. Emerging control technology, such as the edge-analytics sensing solution PointGrab, combines human-machine interface software and smart sensors for a ubiquitous command center that allows you to control devices by simply gesturing.
Making your kitchen smarter
Smart-kitchen developers adopted smart-home technology early, so the market is full of proven devices that are compatible with new and emerging tech, including shopping assistants. Amazon, Hiku and Genican all offer assistants that update you on your refrigerator, pantry and freezer inventory, and then either automatically order for you or tell you what you need to restock.
Although the principles of cooking don't change with technology, smart sous-vide machines, slow cookers, ovens and all-in-one cookers will shift your perspective on cookware functionality.
The Mellow sous vide machine stores food at refrigerated temperatures until you activate the cooking process with your mobile device. Mellow then cooks the food sous vide according to the prescribed cooking time.
The June Intelligent Oven, a fully functional countertop convection cooker, combines the best of a slow cooker with a conventional oven. Select a preparation from the mobile app and June orders the ingredients. After assembling the dish and placing it in the oven, June cooks at the appropriate temperature and shuts off when the food reaches the desired internal temperature.
Managing energy use and utilities
Smart-home developers have designed energy- and utility-management devices since IoT's infancy. Nest Labs led the way in 2011 with the Nest Learning Thermostat,. According to the company, it can save around 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling costs.
In the wake of Nest's success, the industry has expanded to lighting and plumbing. HydroPoint 360, a water leak and flow monitoring system for home and business, tracks water use and alerts you to compromised pipes, leaks, clogs and suggests water-saving options based on usage. Phillips Hue personal wireless lighting gives you control over a light bulb's intensity, color and power consumption.
You find two approaches to security in the smart-home sector: connecting all smart-home devices in an integrated system, and stand-alone systems that perform several functions. Canary combines motion sensors, HD cameras with night vision, motion sensors and air-quality sensors in one stand-alone device with the option of adding additional hardware.
iSmart Alarm combines your existing IoT devices with motorized motion-activated pan-and-tile cameras, motion sensors and door and window sensors for an integrated approach to smart-home security. You also have the option to add emerging tech, such as entry-point fingerprint scanners, when available.
Smart home products and technology are growing by leaps and bounds, and the market shows that this field is no longer confined to science fiction.