A Smart Home?
In case technology isn’t your cup of tea, let’s first define what is a ‘Smart Home’ and, if you don’t have one, why you might want one, or not.
A ‘Smart Home’ can come in many forms. It can simply be an older home that is improved with added technological services and devices or a new home built from the foundation up with the latest technology advances. What all smart homes have in common however is their need for an internet connection and access to communication and information networks. This allows you, or your automated services, to connect to and through electronic devices and/or IOTs, to control things like your lighting, heating, appliances, home robots, security and more. Your smart phone, tablet or sensors are often the control points and make the use of this technology very convenient whether you are at home, the office or on the other side of the globe. You may already be using SmartHome technology and not know it, for example if you use your smartphone to control your TV, you are already using a type of Smart Home technology.
Pretty exciting stuff and the possibilities seem endless as homeware manufacturers take on this new cycle of home innovation to improve their product offerings. So, if you have chores at home you don’t enjoy, there may be an app or robot for that, if not today, soon…
Now that you know what a ‘Smart Home’ is it might not be hard to understand why you want one. For primary residences Smart Home technology can save you a lot of time and money once setup. Tasks like vacuuming, turning on/off the coffee maker and appliances, switching on lights, music, heat/AC, or managing your pool’s temperature. Monitoring baby, pets, home security and much more can all be done through Smart Home systems and devices. If you have a seasonal, secondary home or rental investment, Smart Home technology can help you manage and know the condition of your investment, and give you peace of mind whether you’re nearby or at a distance.
Smart Home Pos & Cons
All things shiny and new are exciting but can also have drawbacks. Before embarking on visions of never having to do a most loathsome chore again, or designing your own at home command station, a few things you might want to consider.
Connectivity: If you go to the trouble and expense of setting up your Smart Home you want it to do its magic when it’s supposed to. Connectivity issues between devices and networks are one of the top complaints of Smart Home owners. Unfortunately the internet isn’t yet a perfect science so the best way around this is to plan in advance with both a high speed connection and devices that are complementary and compatible. If you’re not technically minded and want to learn this could be an exciting home improvement challenge. If not, or you don’t have time, you may want to consult a tech to help you design your smart, Smart Home plan.
Devices Don’t Always Play Nice: Every homeowner wants domain over their castle and everything in it so the ultimate goal would be one device and one app that does it all, because we’re talking about Smart Home systems not dumb homes – right? Well not so fast, full integration (interoperability between devices) isn’t always possible, yet. Appliances, sensors, thermostats, security systems and others that make up the growing list of services and devices, are made by different manufacturers and due to different technology approaches and sometimes market competition, may not work seamlessly together. This is known as a ‘lack of interoperability’ something brands don’t like to discuss but can be an issue when choosing and running your devices. Until these technologies mature workarounds may be needed and hubs could be an option, but this depends on the devices and complexity of the ‘Smart Home’ system you choose.
Practicality: Imagine you’ve installed your Smart Home system, gone are the unsightly commands, buttons, and unnecessary gadgets. And you lose your mobile, run out of battery, something breaks…suddenly you have no access to any of your Smart Home functionality. Having a complicated system that’s impractical will make your Smart Home, not so smart, so having Smart Switches or sensors in key locations will help in unforeseeable situations and provide you, family and guests easy access to practical tasks while enjoying the advantages of Smart Home Living.
Security: The internet and the real world are very different but socially work in similar ways, in that both have good and badly intentioned people running about. Unlike the real world, when using the internet, IOT, and Cloud type services however you may never see or know you’re at risk or possibly even under an attack by a bad actor.
As you consider Smart Home services and devices it’s important you are informed about the security behind what is going into your home and that it will keep you, your loved ones and things safe. Your home and privacy can be hacked so purchasing your devices directly from reputable manufacturers, using encrypted access, limiting access to who can access your devices and never granting permission or agreeing to terms without understanding the fine print of products and services are a few suggestions. Staying up to date with Smart Home security will also help, or if too complicated or time consuming, you may want to consider hiring a managed security service who will design a security protocol specifically for your needs.
Battery Life: Being Smart means always being on and this can be draining to the battery life of your devices. When everything should be ‘smart’ this can seem like an inconvenience, but reality is that Smart Homes still depend on their humans as a safety backup. And critical devices like fire/smoke detectors, security lights and cameras can be dangerous if not checked regularly, so help your Smart Home with extra batteries, rechargeables and regular maintenance.
How Do You Increase Your Home's IQ?
You know what a Smart Home is and you’re ready and excited to bring new technologies into your home, but where do you start?
Start by ensuring your home has, or can upgrade to, a solid internet connection, preferably using fiber optics, or comparable technology. In Portugal Meo and Vodafone are the most popular carriers, however independents may be available in areas they don’t provide coverage. As of January 2021 Portugal reportedly has an internet penetration rate of 84.2% and talks are ongoing for 5G deployment which is expected to further expand services to more remote areas.
Your first step is to talk to your Internet Service Provider about your opinions. They will be the best resource to inform you on what is technically possible and available within your geographical area. Once you know your connection capabilities you are limited only by your imagination and maybe budget. That’s the wonderful thing about technology it gives you options to improve your life in ways you could never imagine before. Just remember to make sure your devices and/or system keep security in mind.