With the family packed and ready to go, you hit the Vacation button on the touch screen next to the door, which arms the security system, puts the HVAC system in "energy saver" mode, runs a systems check to make sure lights, small appliances and electronics equipment are off and engages an automated routine that turns random lights on in the evening so it looks like someone is home.
The core of today's smart home is a technology-driven infrastructure that enables heating and cooling, entertainment, lighting, security and other systems to communicate with each other as well as the homeowner (and even the utility company in the case of connected appliances).
Electronics integrators with experience in automation can greatly simplify home living with automated systems that bring convenience to just about any scenario you can imagine. One-touch presets like that Vacation mode are a hallmark of smart-home living, which offers a variety of possibilities for different budgets, including:
- A Home Theater preset that closes the blinds, dims the lights, turns on your A/V system and starts the movie, all while you're munching on popcorn.
- Lighting and music scenes that create specific moods, such as a Background preset that streams light jazz to designated areas or an Away setting that gives the house a "lived-in" look with lights automatically turning on and off at certain times.
- A doorbell trigger/intercom so you can see and hear who's at the front door on TVs and touch screens throughout the house and unlock the door.
More exotic examples of home automation might include a Wake-Up mode that plays light jazz, ramps up the lights and raises the window shades when its time to get up or driveway sensors that work in tandem with security cameras to notify you of arriving guests. Safety is also an important component of smart-home living, with systems that automatically shut down the HVAC system in the event of a fire and turn on pathway lighting to help guide family members out of the house.
Another hallmark of smart-home living is being able to monitor and "control" your home from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or PC. Possibilities include:
- Locking and unlocking doors for surprise visitors (Uncle Joe never calls before dropping by).
- Turning lights on and off.
- Monitoring household temperature and making adjustments.
- Checking security cameras.
Entertainment systems tend to get all the glory, but a new generation of connected appliances-such as washers that text you when the laundry is done and communicate with smart meters to determine the most cost-effective time to do the wash-will eventually play a key role in the smart home as well.