"Smart home," "intelligent home" or "automated home" are interchangeable terms used to refer to a system that automates countless functions in your home. Once thought of as a futuristic concept … now, not so much. Although it is an evolving technology, the future arrived, long ago.
Home automation simplifies the management of many, many household functions and repetitive tasks. A system can execute individual commands or a group of commands, initiated by the touch of a single button. The processes can be repetitive or spontaneous.
Some of the more common functions include lighting, home security, audio-visual components and climate control. However, high-end systems might also include the ability to monitor / control irrigation, the temperature and water level of pools / spas, motorized window coverings, entry gates and appliances. Many of these processes can be integrated so that a number of functions can be enabled by a single touch.
The primary components utilized in home automation systems are CPUs (central processing units) and interfaces. A CPU is the centerpiece, or the brains of the process. Items like touchpads, remote controls and even keyboards on computers are examples of interface mechanisms. The communication between interfaces and the CPU allows the user to issue commands to the various devices being controlled.
Pricing of these systems can vary greatly. As with most technology, the bigger your wish list, the more it will cost you. The most basic systems are typically geared towards home security, alarm monitoring and basic lighting. Whereas, a pricier scheme will normally include more sophisticated communication equipment and extensive programming which would offer more expansive utilization options.
Due to pricing constraints for many households, there is a recent movement to automate single rooms versus entire homes. It seems that the most common rooms being automated are family rooms, kitchens and master bedrooms. A word of warning … if you have visions of eventually integrating a single room scheme into a whole house system at a later date, be sure to utilize equipment that will allow you to do so.
A definitive money saver would be to pre-wire a home or building, rather than trying to install wiring and equipment in an existing structure. It's often worth the nominal expense to pre-wire even if you're not certain when or what type of system you may eventually employ. It's always more expensive, post-construction.
With time, some form of home automation will make its way into the majority of households. It is an exciting, dynamic technology with ever-expanding capabilities.