The world is in the middle of another technological revolution that will very soon affect nearly every household in the U.S. Despite being at the fore of the most significant technological disruption since the cell phone, most Americans are oblivious to the radical changes coming. The Smart Home Revolution is here…and it all begins with a $30 electrical plug.
Smart Home and the Internet of Things
If you watch the technology segments on the news or read the tech section of the newspaper you are likely familiar with the terms Smart Home and Internet of Things (“IoT”). These two terms refer to two technological concepts that are rapidly changing how we interact with our homes.
A Smart Home represents the brick and mortar home that has been outfitted with devices, appliances and software applications that allow its inhabitants to interact with the home in ways not previously possible. IoT refers to the manner in which the devices are connected to each other and to the outside world. As the name implies, IoT uses the Internet to connect the devices within the home and convert the space into a Smart Home.
Availability of Smart Home Products
With the widespread availability of wireless Internet in homes, technology companies and consumer product manufacturers have jumped in with both feet to develop new products or enhance existing products to leverage Wi-Fi and the ubiquity of smart phones and tablets. The services offered by these products range from the trivial to the very useful. In the end, technology companies and manufacturers are partnering to improve how we live our lives at home – or at least, make life at home more fun.
In the early days of the Smart Home and IoT we saw companies develop home security solutions to protect us and our families. For example, outdoor cameras connected through the Internet allowed us to view our property in real time. If someone came to the door in the middle of the night we could view that person on our computer and decide whether it was safe to answer the door.
A short time later, with the widespread use of smart phones and affordable unlimited data plans, homeowners could view their property from anywhere in the world using their cell phones. Using similar technology, parents could go out on a date night and monitor the kids and sitter remotely via indoor cameras.
Sometime thereafter, the outdoor camera was combined with a doorbell function. Today, homeowners can answer the door from their cell phone while sitting on the couch, across town or across the country. And with camera and two-way speaker functionality, homeowners can see exactly who is at the door and interact with the visitor – even if the house is empty.
New Smart Home products are being released on a regular basis. Already, as we start 2018, nearly every aspect of the home can be tied together through IoT. By the end of the year the availability of products will ensure that IoT and the Smart Home concept touches every room in the house.
Smart Home Tricks
An example of a convenient Smart Home feature is the ability to ask a device about the weather – or perhaps to turn on some Barry White music and dim the lights while an appliance pours a glass of wine.
Then there’s the person that may have forgotten to preheat the oven before jumping into the shower. With a simple verbal command or a swipe on the cell phone, an IoT-enabled oven can be instructed to preheat to 375 degrees. At the same time the heating system can be told to turn on in five minutes so that the temperature is comfortable when getting out of the shower.
Consider the child that arrives home from school after having forgotten to take his house key in the morning. In a Smart Home there is no need to dangerously crawl into the house through a second-story window, leave the key to the kingdom under the door mat or hide a key behind the planter. Now, with an IoT-enabled door lock, a cell phone installed with a security app can unlock the door and send you an alert that Jimmy is home. The same app can make sure the door is locked after Jimmy walks in. If Jimmy doesn’t have a cell phone he can ring the Smart Home door bell and ask you to unlock the door from your office. At that point you can turn on the indoor cameras to make sure Jimmy is safe and not getting into the chocolate chip cookies before dinner.
A device or appliance plugged into the wall sucks up some electricity, even when not being used. A way to reduce unnecessary consumption of electricity and save money is by using smart plugs. The plug can be used to recharge devices like phones and tablets. The plug, which measures the amount of electricity traveling through the socket, can then turn off the flow of electricity to the device when it is fully charged.
Cool Smart Home Appliances
- Etekcity 2 Voltson WiFi Smart Plug Mini Outlet with Energy Monitoring: This device is perfect for those wanting to dip their toes in the Smart Home scene without making a massive investment. The plugs provide enough Smart Home features to initiate the Smart Home newbie. Track power usage for connected devices and figure out which devices use the most energy. Cut your usage so that you can save money on your next electric bill. Manage the plugs and the devices and appliances connected to them through a smart phone or tablet. Create a customized schedule that automatically turns on and off any home electronics or appliances such as lamps, coffee maker, etc.
Hubs and Controllers:
- Amazon Echo: Echo connects to Alexa to play music, make calls, set music alarms and timers, ask questions, control Smart Home devices and more. Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new features and skills. Many Smart Home device makers use Alexa-based products such as Echo as their controller of choice.
- Wink Hub 2: Wink Hub 2 allows your diverse collection of smart products to speak the same wireless language so you can easily control them from the Wink app. The Wink app keeps you connected to your home — no matter where you are. Choose connected products from your favorite brands and control them all from one simple app.
- Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control, Hub and App: The Harmony remote works with Alexa for voice control. Remote control of up to 15 home entertainment and connected home devices. With the Harmony app turns iOS or Android smartphones or tablets into personal universal remote controls for the whole house.
- Nest Learning Thermostat: The Nest Learning Thermostat provides excellent temperature control. With just a few manual adjustments, the Nest Thermostat can learn your habits and start to save you money by automatically adjusting the temperature. The thermostat works with Amazon Alexa for voice control.
- Ecobee4 Alexa-Enabled Thermostat with Sensor: Comes with built-in Alexa Voice Service, so you can ask your Ecobee to set a timer, read you the news, adjust the temperature and more. Room sensors help manage hot or cold spots in your home, delivering comfort to the rooms that matter most. Easily adjust temperature and comfort settings from anywhere using your Android and iOS devices. Also works with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings and other hubs.
- Philips Hue White Ambiance GU10 Dimmable LED Smart Spot Light: Philips Hue is a personal wireless lighting system that lets you easily control your light from your smart device and create the right ambiance for every moment. Philips Hue combines brilliant and energy-efficient LED light with intuitive technology. Together, the light, the bridge and the smart controls will forever change the way you control and experience light. Philips Hue works with Amazon Alexa, letting you control your lights with just your voice. It also works with other smart devices such as Google Assistant, Nest and Apple HomeKit.
- Wireless Perfect Bake Pro Smart Kitchen Scale and Recipe App: The Perfect Bake Pro Smart Kitchen Scale makes baking foolproof! The baking scale is connected to an app that helps newbie bakers get the recipe perfect. Follow the app as the scale measures everything that is added. No need to hunt down tasty recipes. With an app full of tons of great recipes all that is needed is a smart phone or tablet to make perfect baked goods.
- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker WIFI, Immersion Circulator: With this cooking device you will be a Master Chef! Sous vide means precision cooking. With this device your food will come out the same every time you cook the same meal. The device is easy to use – just attach the cooker to any pot, add water, drop in your ingredients in a sealed bag or glass jar, then press start. The device connects to your smart phone or tablet via the Anova Culinary app. Can’t think of a recipe? Page through the database of recipes in the Anova Culinary app to find the perfect meal. With the app there’s no need to stand around watching the meal cook wondering if it’s done. The device will send an alert letting you know it’s time to eat!
- iRobot Roomba 690 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity: Schedule the robot vacuum anytime, from anywhere with the iRobot HOME App or Amazon Alexa device. Receive real-time updates from the robot regarding cleaning jobs. The robot’s sensors find dirt and find ways to get to it – even in challenging rooms;
- Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology: With this smart smoker you can monitor internal meat temperature, cook time and chamber temperature in the smoker from anywhere at anytime via the SmartChef app. The SmartChef app sends notifications to a smart phone or tablet regarding cooking events such as preheat or cooking completion.
- Robomow RS622 Lawn Mower: This battery operated lawn mower is AWESOME! Imagine having the ability to program your lawn mower to go out on its own, and mow the lawn and return to its base. All you have to do is toss out the cuttings. With the Robomow RS622 you can cut the grass as often needed and keep the lawn looking fresh all the time. Save your time for other things. This mower can be fully controlled and programmed through you smart phone or tablet. It’s so cool!;
- Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller: Having a smart sprinkler system really comes in handy – especially in the winter. This Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller does not turn on if its raining or if it is going to rain soon, saving water, the environment an money. This sprinkler system is smart enough to know the best time to water based on environmental factors. The system can be controlled from your smart phone or from a hub like an Amazon Alexa device. Don’t worry about getting home while the sprinklers are going off? Just suspend them on your phone while you walk by, saving yourself a drenching. A MUST-HAVE for lawn-proud households;
- Polaris 9650iQ Pool Cleaner: This smart pool cleaner gives you total control through your smart phone. Why sit outside controlling the cleaner when you can be indoors or away from home. The mobile app lets you manage the cleaning as if you were poolside. Save the pool time for being in the pool and let the mobile app give you the flexibility to do others things. Once it’s done it pool time!;
- August Smart Lock Pro + Connect: Open the door by just having your phone in your pocket. Heading out? August Smart Lock Pro will also automatically lock the door behind you after you leave. Lock and unlock your door, control keyless access and keep track of who comes and goes, all from your phone. The 24/7 activity log means you’re always in the know. August Smart Lock Pro + Connect works with all three major voice platforms: Alexa, Siri or Google Home.
- Arlo Pro by NETGEAR Security System with Siren: The Arlo Pro is the real deal when it comes to IoT home security. This system is completely free of cords and wiring hassles. The HD security cameras have all the bells and whistles you need to feel safe at home. View live and record videos anytime of the day from anywhere. Listen in and talk back through the built-in speaker and mic straight from your smartphone.
- Lynx Indoor 1080P Wi-Fi Home Security Camera with Night Vision and Facial Recognition: The Lynx indoor camera is the perfect video monitor. It works with any existing Wi-Fi network. Use the secure app to preload images of familiar faces. Once configured the app issues a mobile check-in notification with familiar faces, or if unfamiliar faces are detected. Users can get an alert notification and immediately see a live stream of the activity. Users can also use the two-way audio system to communicate with occupants via the mobile app.
Mind and Body:
- QardioBase 2 Wireless Smart Scale and Body Analyzer: With this smart scale you can tie your fitness goals directly to your QardioBase 2 Smart Scale. The QardioBase 2 Smart Scale tracks key body metrics. With the scale determine if muscle is increasing or fat is decreasing, whether weight is coming off or whether it’s just just the elimination of water weight. This smart scale measures body mass index (BMI) and body composition, including body fat percentage, muscle, water and bone mass, for a complete overview beyond body weight. All the results are automatically sent from the scale to the mobile app where results can be monitored and goals can be tracked;
Nearly every device and appliance in the home can be controlled through IoT and incorporated into the Smart Home. The doors, windows, bath tubs, oven, refrigerator, toaster, coffee maker and blender, to name a few, are all available in IoT-enabled versions or can be IoT-enabled through devices like IoT plugs.
IoT and Smart Home technology has changed how we interact with our homes. In the past, unless you paid tens of thousands of dollars for home automation systems, our homes were silent and just sat there. There was no interaction with the four walls. We could not ask the home for help unlocking the door or getting the oven ready.
Today it is possible to create a home where every device, from the window blinds to the coffee maker to the vacuum, are connected in such a way that we can communicate with them near and far. Through devices such as Amazon’s Alexa Echo or Google’s Assistant we can turn our homes into tools that make living easier and more fun.
Admittedly, any single task performed by Smart Home devices and appliances will not light the world on fire. Dimming the lights or pouring a glass of wine or any other task, while novel, convenient and fun, is not revolutionary in of itself. However, when an entire house is connected, the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole. The ability to convert the home into an interactive member of the family brings great value in terms of security, convenience, efficiency and savings.
Just as the cell phone was transformed from “just a device” to an integral part of daily life, the Smart Home will have a similar revolutionary effect on our lives. And the revolution will start with a simple $30 electrical plug.
Entrepreneur @Home is an Entrepreneur Hideout series for entrepreneurs while at home. Even the most dedicated and successful entrepreneur needs a home life. This series is comprised of articles that step away from the business to provide useful advice to entrepreneurs at home.