Most homeowners have heard of smart homes, and many have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). What’s not immediately clear, however, is that these terms largely refer to the same thing. Smart homes began with simple things like networked alarms and connected televisions, but the growth of the IoT has resulted in a lot more automation of previously independent appliances. So what does the IoT really mean, and how does it apply to modern home design? We unpack it for you.
The Internet of Things Explained
The IoT is a digital network of devices with built-in connectivity that enables them to exchange data. Just as a home alarm can connect wirelessly to the alarm company’s control center, household appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, security cameras, baby monitors and even electronic toys can now be fitted with the ability to connect to other devices on a compatible system. This is increasingly opening up new opportunities for use in home décor and functionality, but, of course, it has its pros and cons.
A Realm of Exciting Possibilities
The benefit of incorporating aspects of the IoT into modern home design lies in the endless possibilities it opens up. Want your coffee ready when you get to the kitchen in the morning? That’s easy. Want your refrigerator to automatically order milk from the store when you’re getting low, and pay for it with pre-authorized credit? No problem. Want to dispense with keys for your doors and put everything on a voice-activated access system? That’s entirely possible. Some of the other interesting features the IoT offers homeowners includes:
- Time preset operation of sporadic appliances such as pool cleaners and solar generators
- Round-the-clock oversight of appliances important for health care, such as heart monitors and HVAC systems.
- Full-time home access control, with recording of arrivals and departures.
- Automation of cleaning processes, such as in-home vacuumation and garden irrigation.
- Monitoring and wireless auto-charging of items such as electric cars, cameras, phones and computers.
While convenience is the obvious primary benefit, safety, security and health are strong additional contenders.
Applying IoT to Modern Home Design
For all this to work, homeowners need to embrace the concept at the outset, because retro-fitting is never going to be as streamlined as having technology built into the home design. Until recently, most houses were being erected with the necessary fixtures for cable television. Now, they will need to include the hardware and channels for fiber optic connections. In luxury modern homes, there’s no point in having the option to network your devices if you don’t have suitable appliances, so developers will shift to offering top of the line equipment and finishes in each home sold.
Not All Coming Up Roses
Nothing comes without some disadvantages, and IoT-enabled homes naturally have some of those as well. Anything networked is at risk of being hacked, so security is high on the list of priorities. Perhaps nobody is particularly interested in the level of your milk inventory, but if the refrigerator is networked with a home computer on which you do online banking, that might be something that whets the appetite of cybercriminals. There have even been frightening scenarios where strangers have been able to hack into children’s toys and issue commands the child believes comes from the parent.
Still, there was a time when electricity was considered risky at best, and few homeowners were enjoying the benefits of having electrified houses. If the IoT goes the same way as electrical power did, in a few short years we’ll be living happily in our smart homes.