Smart Home Beginnings

For those of us that grew up with The Jetsons, there was always the dream of living in a house where you could control lights, temperature, and appliances with the sounds of your voice or the press of a button. The smart home is no longer the future as we imagined it in the 60s and 70s, it is the present. Not just for the rich or hyper tech savvy, but for most of us. I am going to outline the steps I took to begin automating some of the simple functions in my home.

The first requirement is a wifi network in your home. For most of us that has become a standard utility like electricity and water. For nearly 40 years we have come to view cable television a utility as well, but with the deployment of high speed internet cable television has become less significant. We are learning that the internet has become a ubiquitous part of our daily experiences and allows us to do more than cable television ever did. Internet enabled televisions allow us to consume much of our content without the need for cable and also provides the means for us to shop, bank, and communicate. Wifi allowed us to do this on our PCs, televisions, phones, and tablets. Now we can use this technology to start connecting other devices to a network so we might communicate with them.

Next we need an interface. An interface is something that allows us to communicate through the wifi network with our devices. Apps on your phones or your PCs are a good example. A home voice assistant will make that communication even more efficient. In my home we use the Amazon Echo Dot. We have them scattered throughout the house where they perform services like playing music, forecasting the weather, and looking up phone numbers and business hours. They also provide a way for me to communicate with “smart” devices in my home. We are starting out with a “smart” plug and an LED “smart” bulb.

A smart plug plugs into your wall outlet and then a device plugs into the plug. The plug then connects to your wifi network and you can “talk” to the plug using an app or your voice. The most basic plugs simply turn the power on or off to whatever appliance (such as a lamp or fan) is plugged in. It is common to hear one of us enter a room and announce “Alexa, lamp on” or “Alexa, turn the fan on”. It is especially nice if I am upstairs and remember I left the light on in the family room. I can now say to any Echo Dot in my house, “Alexa, turn the family room lamp off”.

The “smart” bulb is an LED light bulb that has a wifi connector built into the base of the bulb. It connects to your network allowing you to once again use an app or voice assistant to turn the bulb on or off. For some bulbs you can also dim the light or even change colors.

So if you are still imagining the home that will make you feel like the Jetsons you can go a long way with a wifi network, an voice assistant, a few “smart” plugs, and a few “smart” bulbs. As you are ready to invest more money into your home’s education you might add wifi enabled refrigerators, toaster ovens, vacuum cleaners, and even thermostats.

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