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by George McKechnie

Imagine being able to monitor and control all of the major systems in your home from the smart phone in your pocket, a computer at work, or even a touch-panel remote in your family room:

  • Adjust the watering schedule for your new garden plantings.
  • Make sure the housecleaners locked up this time—and do it remotely if they forgot.
  • Check up on your teenager at home, while waiting on line at the market.
  • Fire up your Jacuzzi from your car, as you return from a long weekend trip.
  • Make sure your cabin at the lake didn’t get flooded from the storm.

These are just a few of the many things that smart home automation can accomplish today.  It can protect your family and home effortlessly and cost-effectively, and give you something that is increasingly rare in today’s world–peace of mind.  These technological advances are being harnessed by astute home integration specialists to monitor and control almost anything in the home, from almost anywhere in the world, by combining the following elements:

  •  Advanced home security systems, which include remotely-controlled door locks, internet-compatible smart security cameras, custom communications functions, as well as the usual door and window sensors and motion detectors.
  • Cloud (off-site) computing and data storage of camera images, heating and cooling data, water usage, home lighting schedules and scenes, intrusion and access control data…you name it.
  • Home entertainment systems that can bring immersive theater and concert experiences right into the comfort of your home, plus stream audio and video content from the internet to whatever music playback system or video display you choose.
  • Smart appliances that can be controlled remotely. Text the microwave: “Defrost the stew…we’ll be home in 30 minutes.”
  • Cost-effective home integration processors that can coordinate all of the systems and send via text messages, email, or even voice mail to… whoever you choose.
  • Automated lighting, heating and cooling, and window covering control that will keep your home comfortable, energy efficient, and safe.
  • A laptop, smart phone, tablet, watch—or whatever communications device you prefer—to keep track of it all.

True, some of these technologies—like lighting control—have been around for decades.  The big news is how easily, completely, and cost-effectively all of these elements can now be integrated into a convenient, easy-to-use system, and then controlled from wherever you want—from inside the home, at work, or around the world.

1_joys_of_smart_home_automation_r2-02Electronic Service Providers

The smart home concept has become so appealing that some of the largest electronic service providers in the country have entered the fray—in a basic way, of course.  Comcast, ATT, and Verizon, for example, now offer entry-level home control widgets, such as automated door locks, surveillance cameras, and intrusion sensors.  These services are installed by way of their existing phone or cable TV connections to the home—and include those ever-present monthly charges that we’ve come to love.  Unfortunately, these companies are better known for their marketing prowess than for their customer service.  A this point, it’s unclear how well they will be able to manage the additional complexity that these home automation technologies and services involve.

Consumer-Oriented Products

New automation technologies and apps are now entering the market at a dizzying rate, from start-ups and established companies alike. They cover an impressive range of applications: learning thermostats, nanny-cams, remotely controlled rice cookers, you name it.  Even Apple has taken steps to become a player in what is becoming known as the internet of things.   And Samsung recently announced that, within a few years, everything they produce will be internet-accessible.

A prestigious consulting firm recently released a report predicted that the internet of things would rapidly grow to the point that the average household will contain upwards of 500 widgets and apps for monitoring and controlling their home and the electronics within it—truly an astounding forecast!   But how will the average householder keep track of and coordinate all of these internet-enabled “things”—to say nothing about how to remember what each one is for and how to use it?

The report didn’t answer these questions.  But a collection of apps—chosen over time by the typical consumer who’s not sure exactly what each one can do (and how), and accessed and controlled one app at a time on a smart phone—doesn’t equal a smart home.  It’s more like a recipe for confusion—and possibly disaster.  See Integrating Smart Home Devices

Home Integration Specialists

Over the last decade or so, the audio/video retail business model has morphed into the service industry now known as electronic home integration—or, more commonly, as smart home automation.  This specialty involves the process of integrating entertainment, energy management, security, and wireless communications technologies across multiple platforms, then custom tailoring them to meet the specific lifestyle needs of the client.  The more technologies and apps that a household requires, the more essential the professional integration of these features becomes.  It’s simply a matter recognizing and respecting how the human brain works, and how much data it can handle.  See The Analog Brain in a Digital World

Professional home integration involves the process of:

  • Understanding the needs and desires of a client, the technologies that match the physical parameters of the home, and the practical and lifestyle needs of the household members;
  • Using engineering principles to select, install, configure, and program the technologies and apps to address these goals; and then
  • Organizing and displaying them in ways that are easy for the users to understand and operate. See Experts

The home integration process is focused on high-quality, fully integrated systems, designed and installed by people who know how to fine tune these systems to your home, your family, and your lifestyle—and who will respect your time and your intelligence.  Here are some of the advantages that well-designed and intelligently installed and programmed smart home technologies can offer:

  • High quality streaming of audio and video content—uncompressed and without buffering delays—from whatever source you choose, using superior electronics to deliver flawless music and immersive video experience. See Video Streaming (coming soon); Audio Streaming (coming soon)
  • Flexible control systems that can be programmed to whatever tasks you require—energy management, thermostat control, automated window shade or drape activation, home theater control, multi-room audio, and much more—then custom-tailoring these systems to specific needs and preferences.   See Very Smart Remote Control Systems
  • Comprehensive wireless network coverage for your home (regardless of size or construction details), to support your computer and tablet needs, wireless streaming of audio or video, lighting and shade control, and all other network-based systems you may need. See Building Reliable Home Networks (coming soon)
  • Custom programming any of the above applications to the particular needs of each household member—including health monitoring devices and alerts, medication dispensing, appliance monitoring, water metering and remote shut-off, special security and surveillance accommodations, and adaptive computer, phone, and related devices—to help those with impaired vision, hearing, or movement. See Advanced Remote Control Features

When needed, Smart home experts can coordinate their efforts with specialists in related areas, including solar energy, lighting design, residential energy analysis, water management, aging-in-place consultants, and many other technology and service sectors.

Skillfully integrated by knowledgeable specialists, smart home automation offers a new world of safety, security, comfort, and control.  It expands the notion of luxury beyond the limits of goods and services into the realm of technology systems crafted to the individual lifestyle needs of homeowners, by providing focused and timely information and ultimate control.  It allows owners to tailor their home to their family’s needs, their lifestyle patterns, the layout of their home …even their own personality.