By Tim Steele, special to The Content Wrangler
As previously discussed, home automation is a big deal these days. There are more vendors, systems, and home automation devices than ever before. The concept of the internet of things allows products from different companies to communicate and control products from other vendors because of the standards that have been put in place in the last ten years.
In my last article, I discussed home automation different systems. Now, let’s talk about devices—because without these individual building blocks, there is no system. The types of smart devices available on the market grows exponentially, it seems, and there isn’t space in a single blog post to cover them all. So, we’ll discuss the most popular ones (and maybe just a few others).
Home Automation Devices
- Light bulbs—There are now light bulbs which have WiFi connectivity built into the bulbs. Connected light bulbs allow you to turn lights on/off remotely, without having to mess around with expensive old school approaches like rewiring your home. To get started, remove existing standard light bulbs and replace them with smart bulbs. With the help of a smartphone or smart watch app (each vendor produces their own), you can turn on a group of lights, all set at different brightness levels, and (with some bulbs) even program them to display different colors. These “lighting scenes” can be set to turn on or off at specific times or can be triggered by such things as sundown or sunrise or your proximity to your front door. You’ll need a hub—a small device attached to your internet connection so the phone can send messages through the internet to the bulbs. And, if integrated into a system like SmartThings, the bulbs can be controlled by other devices (motion sensors, presence sensors, etc.).
- Light switches–I have a chandelier with tiny bulbs above my staircase. No one makes smart light bulbs of that size yet (it’s just a matter of time). No problem though. I replaced the light switch with a smart light switch. Now, the chandelier comes on automatically at sunset each day. It turns off when I settle down to watch television. It comes on automatically when anyone approaches the staircase in the middle of the night. I’ve replaced traditional light switches with smart light switches throughout my entire house.
- Power outlets–Do you ever wonder if you’ve left the coffeemaker, iron, or curling iron on as you’re driving to work? My smart power outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms prevent me from worrying unnecessarily as they turn off automatically when I leave the house.
- Motion sensors–These are really key in my house (I suspect it’s the same in most smart houses). Those light bulbs, switches, and outlets mentioned above can all be turned off when no one is around to use them with the help of motion sensors. Pleasantly dim lights come on automatically as I walk through the house to let the dog outside in the middle of the night. I get notified if there’s movement where I’m not expecting it while I am away–and connected cameras turn on to capture video or photos of whatever is moving, so I can see what it happening. Motion sensors also help control the temperature in the house by triggering the adjustment of the thermostat in the room where I’m watching TV (instead of simply knowing what the temperature is at the thermostat in the hallway upstairs).
- Moisture sensors–If your washing machine breaks and water is pouring all over the place, you’ll be glad you have a smart motion sensors. I’ve set mine up to text me and to turn all the lights on in the house–and to change the color of the lights to blue (get it? Blue to represent water.). I have these at every bathtub, toilet, sink, water heater, washing machine, and dishwasher in my house. You can also get humidity sensors which will automatically turn on the fan while you’re showering (no more wet mirrors when you finish).
- Presence sensors–These little devices can go on your keychain or in your car. Some systems (like SmartThings) allow you to use your phone as your presence sensor. That way, when I leave, the doors lock themselves, the garage door closes, and I’m notified if I’ve left any windows open (I can’t close them automatically, but I can decide whether or not to return home to close them). You can even attach one to your pet’s collar to get notified if they wander away from the house.
There are so many more smart devices that you can put in your house–everything from smart watering systems that water your grass only when it’s not already raining to alarms which replace the need for that monthly bill from your home alarm company. And there’s always more coming down the smart home pipeline!