What is a smart home?

What is a smart home?  
Tablet controls are a popular option for smart homes.

What is a smart house?

You’ve probably heard the term ‘smart house’ being thrown around a lot recently. You’ve probably also heard terms like ‘smart home’, ‘connected home’, ‘connected house’, ‘intelligent house’ and even ‘domotics’ (short for domestic robotics). All of these names describe exactly the same thing, but like most people who’ve heard those terms, you’d probably start to mumble a bit and change the topic if you were asked to explain exactly what they mean…

A smart house is a house that uses the latest electronic technologies and computerisation to control or automate any number of different aspects of the house. To build a smart house requires some basic thoughts on design and technology.

Why would I want a smart house?

There are four very practical reasons that people invest in smart house technologies. In no particular order, these are:

  • Convenience – smart homes can help to simplify complex tasks, or to automate them completely.
  • Security – using sensors and communications technologies, homes can be carefully and constantly monitored from anywhere.
  • Comfort – climate and lighting systems can be automatically adjusted according to the time of day, the outside temperature or your individual mood.
  • Efficiency – Smart homes can control when things turn on and off, and keep track of exactly where and how much energy is used in your home.

What makes a ‘good’ smart home?

Every smart home is different in terms of what it does and how it goes about it, but generally speaking the measure of a ‘good’ smart home is the extent to which it improves your home, and how unobtrusively it achieves this.

There’s no point in having technology for technology’s sake – if managing your smart home’s systems requires more time, cost and effort than would be required to do things manually, you may as well have hired a butler.

If your climate control systems are automated, for example, they should constantly adapt to keep the house feeling comfortable exactly where you need it. Ideally, this should be done unobtrusively, and in a way that ensures the maximum efficiency. You should also be able to easily and quickly override automated settings without having to wrestle with complicated controls, or trek to the other end of the house to do so.

Smart homes – how do they work?

Most smart homes use smart wiring or a purpose-built home network to allow different parts of the house to communicate with a central control system. Timers, switches and sensors are used to determine when and how different automated systems should work, and different ‘scenes’, macros and events can be established to cascade different controls for different scenarios.

For example, when you come home from work, a sensor may detect that you’ve arrived home and switch on certain lights, deactivate various security measures, and warm up the living room. When you’re going to bed, it may activate security sensors, draw all the curtains and turn off lights and appliances.

Installation and cost

No matter what sort of system you're planning on installing, it's always good to talk to a custom installer first. Not only will they be able to advise you on what kind of system will best suit your needs, but they can also help to ensure that it's installed in the most efficient and cost effective way.

Like most things that make life easier, turning your house into a connected home comes at a price. Simple systems can be installed reasonably cheaply, but of course the more you’re able to afford, the more elaborate, secure and functional your system will be. Your budget is the only real limit to what you can do to make your house a smart home.