What is a Smart Home?

These days, there’s a lot of talk about smart homes and the ‘Internet of Things’ – but it might not be obvious what the terms mean. But beyond the jargon, these new technologies could improve your life in ways big and small. 

In recent years, the internet has touched every part of our lives. 

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have changed the way we communicate with our friends and family. Our smartphones have replaced our cameras, notebooks and even encyclopaedias. And next on the list? Your home. 

Internet-connected gadgets, sometimes known as the ‘Internet of Things’, let you simplify, automate and otherwise improve your home life in all kinds of ways – and today, we’ll show you what you can expect from the smart home of the future. 

 

The hub: the heart of the Smart Home

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At the heart of the smart home is the ‘hub’ – a digital assistant that responds to your voice or text commands, and controls the rest of your connected-home kit.

Amazon’s Echo, with its personal assistant Alexa, is a popular choice. This smart speaker can play music, tell you the news or weather and take notes and shopping lists – as well as control a whole range of other devices.

Google Home has similar features, and also gives you hands-free access to all of the search giant’s most useful information.  And for Apple users, things are even simpler: the Siri app built into your iPhone or iPad can control your smart home kit through an interface you’re already familiar with.

But whatever kind of hub you choose, there’s a huge range of connected appliances for every room in your house.

 

In the living room

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The internet has already changed the way we watch TV and movies. Not so long ago, if you wanted to catch your favourite shows, you had to be in front of the telly at the right time – but with streaming services Netflix and iPlayer, that’s no longer the case. 

Smart home gadgets like the Google Chromecast and Apple TV take this idea and run with it. Plug one of these into your TV, and you’ve got access to a huge archive of entertainment – which you can browse, queue and rate all from the comfort of your smartphone, tablet or laptop. 

With the latest generation of smart TVs, you don’t even need the gadgets: these have all the essential streaming apps built into them as standard. 

But it’s not just about TV and movies. With smart speakers like the Sonos system, you have access to your entire music library – not to mention streaming services like Spotify – at a tap. By chaining smart speakers together, you could build an awesome surround sound system piece by piece. Alternatively, you could have different playlists going in different rooms of your house – a great feature for parties. 

And then there’s your home decor. Sure, smart lighting systems like Philips Hue let you turn your lights on and off with your phone, or even your voice – but they can do much more. 

By setting up different ‘profiles’, you could effortlessly switch between romantic low-level lighting for date night and an ultra-bright setting for getting some work done – and depending on the bulbs you choose, you could even set up some pulsating colours for the full ‘home disco’ effect! 

And here’s the best part: these incredible smart home features don’t exist in isolation. You can tie them all together into one simple command. 

That means you could come home after a long day at work, walk through the door and say “Hey Siri, it’s movie night” – and before you know it the lights are dimmed, the heating’s on and Netflix is ready to go. 

 

In the kitchen

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The kitchen has long been the most gadget-friendly room in the house – and the Internet of Things brings even more possibilities. 

We love the idea of ‘smart scales’, which make it even easier for budding Mary Berrys to whip up delightful cakes and treats. The Drop scales link with a special app that can do measurement conversions on the fly, suggest alternative ingredients if you’re running short, and even help you scale a recipe up (or down) in case you needed to make more. 

But that’s just the start. Smart fridges are even more useful: Samsung’s Family Hub fridge can send notifications to your phone when your food’s about to go off, allows you to check what’s in your fridge with a live camera feed straight to your smartphone – and even lets you order groceries from its built-in touchscreen. 

Finally, for the caffeine fiends out there, a smart coffee maker is an essential part of any connected kitchen. The Krups Prodigio lets you dial up a cup  directly from your smartphone – so whether you’re lazing in bed or on your way home from a hard day at work, you’ll have a hot coffee waiting for you as soon as you cross the kitchen door. 

Oh, and tea-lovers haven’t been forgotten – you can get a smart kettle, too

 

Around the house

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Wherever you are in your home, from the front door to the back garden, there’s a connected home gadget designed to make things easier. 

Smart thermostats like the Nest let you control over your environment from wherever you are. At the front door, a smart doorbell like the Ring Video Doorbell can send HD footage of any visitors straight to your smartphone, whether you’re in the kitchen or on the other side of the world, so you always know who’s calling. 

In the bedroom, a smart mattress cover like the Luna can track your sleep – and integrate with the rest of your smart home kit to set the perfect lights and temperature when you get into (or out of) bed, and even make you a cup of coffee as soon as you wake up! 

 

Getting started

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Hopefully, this article has given you some idea of the smart home’s potential, and how the technology could improve your life in ways large and small. 

Whatever big ideas you have for your own connected home, you’ll find the kit to make it happen – and of course, Team Knowhow’s Smart Home Set-up service is the perfect way to get it all up and running. 

 

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04 Sep 2017

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