Use internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting, security, and heating or cooling.
Smart building technology provides owners and occupants security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices, often by a smart home app on their smartphone or other networked device. Connected systems and devices often operate together, sharing usage data among themselves and automating actions based on acquired data.
One of the most touted benefits of building automation is providing peace of mind to owners, allowing them to monitor their homes remotely, countering dangers such as a forgotten coffee maker left on or a front door left unlocked.
Smart building technologies may also be beneficial for the elderly, providing monitoring that can help seniors to remain at home comfortably and safely, rather than moving to a nursing home or requiring 24/7 home care.
Smart homes can accommodate user preferences for convenience. For example, user's can program their garage door to open, the lights to go on, the fireplace to turn on and their favorite tunes to play upon their arrival.
Home automation also helps consumers improve efficiency. Instead of leaving the air conditioning on all day, a smart home system can learn behaviors and make sure the house is cooled down by the time homeowners arrive home from work. The same goes for appliances. With a smart irrigation system, the lawn will only be watered when needed and with the exact amount of water necessary. With home automation, energy, water and other resources are used more efficiently, which helps save both natural resources and money for the consumer.
However, home automation systems have struggled to become mainstream, in part due to their technical nature. A drawback of smart homes is their perceived complexity; some people have difficulty with technology or will give up on it with the first inconvenience. Smart home manufacturers and alliances are working on reducing complexity and improving the user experience to make it enjoyable and beneficial for users of all types and technical levels.
For home automation systems to be truly effective, devices must be interoperable regardless of manufacturer, and use the same protocol or, at least, complementary ones. As it is a relatively new market, there is no gold standard for home automation yet. However, standard alliances are partnering with manufacturers and protocols to ensure interoperability and a seamless user experience.
Another major issue is smart home security. A 2016 NTT Data Corp. report found that 80% of U.S. consumers are concerned about the security of their smart home data. If hackers are able to infiltrate a smart device, they could potentially turn off the lights and alarms and unlock the doors, leaving a home defenseless to a break-in. Further, hackers could potentially access the homeowner's network, leading to worse attacks or data exfiltration.
In addition to home security, many smart home opponents worry about data privacy. The NTT Data report found 73% of consumers are concerned about the privacy of the data shared by their smart home devices. While smart home device and platform manufacturers may collect consumer data to better tailor their products or offer new and improved services to customers, trust and transparency are critical to manufacturers looking to gain new customers.
Newly built homes are often constructed with smart home infrastructure in place. Older homes, on the other hand, can be retrofitted with smart technologies. A smart home is not a collection of disparate smart devices and appliances, but ones that work together to create a remotely controllable network. All devices are controlled by a master home automation controller, often called a smart home hub. The smart home hub is a hardware device that acts as the central point of the smart home system and is able to sense, process data and communicate wirelessly. It combines all of the disparate apps into a single smart home app that can be controlled remotely by homeowners. Examples of smart home hubs include Amazon Echo, Google Home, Insteon Hub Pro, Samsung SmartThings and Wink Hub.
In simple smart home scenarios, events can be timed or triggered. Timed events are based on a clock, for example, lowering the blinds at 6:00 p.m., while triggered events depend on actions in the automated system; for example, when the owner's smartphone approaches the door, the smart lock unlocks and the smart lights go on.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming increasingly popular in smart home systems, allowing home automation applications to adapt to their environments. For example, voice-activated systems, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, contain virtual assistants that learn and personalize the smart home to the residents' preferences and patterns.