The smart home is a simple term that encompasses a wide umbrella of ideas and concepts about intelligent living. The phrase is used to describe all kinds of technology – some smarter than others – that are integrated into residential spaces of all shapes and sizes. While there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ smart home, there are several commonalities that can help homeowners and prospective buyers when they are planning their ideal homes. In our Complete Guide to the Smart Home, we set out to explore what makes a smart home intelligent, what to look for in a home technology installer and how to plan and budget for a smart home project.
What is smart home technology?
Simply put, a smart home is a property that includes one or more connected systems, such as entertainment, lighting, heating, shades or security. This is underpinned by a robust IT network and an easy means of control, allowing the user to securely manage their home from wherever they are.
Advanced automation is a key feature of most modern smart homes. This makes it easier for occupants by, for example, turning on the lights when someone walks into a room or turning down the thermostat when there’s nobody home.
New smart homes are becoming even smarter, with intelligent learning being built in so that your home can discover your preferences and adapt its behaviour accordingly.
As well as home technology that integrates neatly into kitchens, living areas, bedrooms and bathrooms, many smart homes now feature dedicated entertainment spaces that make spending time at home even more pleasurable. These include home cinemas and brand new spaces such as virtual reality rooms.
What smart home technology can I put in my home?
The technology found in a typical smart home can be divided into three main areas: security, comfort and entertainment. These can exist either as stand-alone systems, or as a unified set-up managed by a smart control platform.
A property with a home security system is five times less likely to be burgled than one without. While a conventional burglar alarm will help to deter intruders, a smart home security system goes one step further by warning you about environmental threats such as fire, flooding or high carbon monoxide levels.
A smart home security system can also make it easier to keep an eye on your property, with live security camera feeds, instant notifications and the ability to see and grant remote access to guests when you’re not at home.
Your lights, shades and heating all play a crucial part in the enjoyment of your home. By adding a layer of intelligence, much of this can be automated, saving you time and effort when it comes to creating the perfect environment to relax in.
Multi-room functionality allows you to quickly turn lights across the house on and off remotely, so you don’t need to worry about leaving the hall light on when you go to work. Additionally, personalised pre-set scenes can be configured, letting you change a room’s ambience at the push of a button.
Making your home entertainment systems smarter allows you to watch or listen to any type of content, when and where you want it.
Adding multi-room capabilities to your music and TV set-ups means that certain sources are no longer limited to a single room. This also makes it easy to stream content from a number of different sources through a single screen.
From 4K screens to surround-sound and premium hi-fi systems, integrating the latest AV technology into your home will take your home entertainment to the next level.
Dedicated entertainment rooms
As well as home technology that integrates neatly into kitchens, living areas, bedrooms and bathrooms, many smart homes now feature dedicated areas that make spending time at home even more pleasurable. These include home cinemas and brand new spaces such as virtual reality rooms.
Controlling the smart home
There are a number of ways in which a smart home can be controlled, each with their own unique benefits and abilities to make managing an intelligent system more intuitive.
For several years the touch panel has been a ubiquitous mainstay of the smart home. Either as a dedicated screen affixed to a wall or as part of an iPad interface, this is one of the easiest ways to see and manage all of your home’s systems in one place.
A premium system will have all of your home technology accessible from this single point, letting you manage entire rooms or turn off lights from the other side of the property.
A keypad might look little more than a fancy switch, but these simple button-based panels can mask a whole load of functionality if configured properly. As well as controlling lighting and shades from a single keypad, scenes such as ‘TV mode’ can be set with a single button press, in this case dimming the lights, drawing the blinds and turning on the television so you can watch in complete comfort.
A universal remote does far more than simply change the channel. It allows you to quickly switch between different video sources – from Sky Q to Apple TV to a movie server – but also control the lighting, shades and other systems directly from your sofa.
By embedding a voice control platform such as Amazon’s Alexa into your home, you can control your devices seamlessly using nothing more that your voice, meaning you can manage your music, dim the lights or even order a pizza via voice commands.
The most common way of controlling smart technology – whether for a single device or for a whole-home system – is using a dedicated phone or iPad app. Having a smart home app in your pocket means you can control your home both inside and out, ensuring you’re always up to date with what’s going on inside your property.