A smart home is a home that is equipped with a system to automate and remotely control lighting, doors, thermostats, audio & video entertainment, security & surveillance, and any number of connected household appliances in ways that streamline the mundane tasks involved with operating a modern household. While it’s true that programmable and semi-smart devices like motion lights, home security systems, programmable climate controls, and automatic sprinkler systems have been available as stand-alone features for decades, strictly speaking, those features don’t constitute a smart home. The defining feature of a smart home rests on the distinction between programmability and intelligence. And the intelligence that makes a smart home truly smart comes from a centralized, interconnected control hub. A good smart home hub is one that bundles the full suite of smart devices into a rich communication ecosystem that enables users to control each component from a single control panel, or with voice commands, and in some cases enables components to respond to one another without direct interaction from the user.
Yes, in homes with basic programmable control systems you can set a smart thermostat to adjust to different temperatures depending on time of day, time of year, and so on. Or you can set sprinkler systems to water a certain number of days per week, for a certain duration, and at a certain time of day. In both of those examples the act of programming remains tethered to each respective control panel. In a smart home programming can be done from a mobile device, a desktop computer, or at a central control panel. Not only do smart homes make operating your home’s controls simpler and more convenient, they also provide you the ability to:
- See who’s at your door, and answer from wherever you are whether it’s the next room or the next state.
- Reduce home energy costs while optimizing comfort because your climate controls adapt to your daily routines.
- Operate any home controls, from security to entertainment systems, when your hands are full, using natural language voice commands.
- Monitor home surveillance cameras and security sensors from anywhere through your smartphone.
We can thank recent advancements in smart home platforms for the benefits listed above. Because of those advancements today’s smart home platform bundles all the formerly stove-piped home control systems into a single interface. Imagine that instead of opening one app to control your lights, then switching to another app to control your thermostat, then another one to arm your security system, you can all your smart home automation and controls from just one app. In today’s smart home industry, offering that level of interconnectedness is required to remain competitive in the market, and continuously valuable to consumers. It is the new standard by which the smart home category is measured.
The development of the smart home platform is one of the major causes for growth
Exponential growth is being observed across the entire Internet of Things (IoT) category. In fact, the market research firm, Gartner, expects 6.4 billion IoT devices will be put to use in 2016. That’s just a billion shy of GeoHive.com’s 2016 estimate for the global human population. That number is an increase of about 30 percent over 2015, but it’s not a shift in trends. If there is a shift in trends worth mentioning, it’s that after a few years of robust development and growth in the IoT device market, advancements in the IoT platform and IoT Operating System categories are bringing the accessibility of smart homes to the awareness of average consumers. Smart home technology is arguably the most consumer-facing subcategory of the greater IoT. And now that smart home platforms have made the technology so user-friendly and accessible, the number of smart homes is growing across the U.S.
The Vivint Smart Home platform, for example is installed in about 1.2 million homes so far, and that number increases every month. A recent Business Insider1 report estimates Amazon Echo, the connected speaker and voice command hub for smart homes, has been installed in around 1.6 million homes, but other polls estimate that number to be closer to 3 million. Whatever the exact numbers are, the report decisively concludes that “smart home devices are becoming more prevalent throughout the U.S.’ Meanwhile, Gartner also predicts that IoT OS and IoT Platforms will each rank among the top 10 selling IoT categories over the next few years.
Upgrading to a smart home is probably simpler and cheaper than you think
Maybe you have been assuming that kind of technology, and that degree of connectedness is too futuristic and probably far too expensive for the average homeowner to install and maintain. Even among those who say they’re interested in incorporating smart tech into their homes, there seems to be the underlying assumption that the only way to affordably acquire a complete smart home is to replace existing components one by one, over time, and tackle installation and maintenance on a DIY basis. None of those assumptions are actually true. The truth is, you can get a fully connected and integrated smart home package professionally installed and pay only a nominal activation fee. Vivint Smart Home, furnishes all the equipment you need for a state-of-the-art smart home—up to $1500 worth—completely free.
Professional installation by one of their Smart Home Pros is provided free. The only fees consumers pay up front is a basic activation fee, which averages around $100 but varies somewhat depending on the package and number of add-ons. Service subscriptions carry about the same monthly cost as the average smartphone contract. That’s it.
Soon almost every appliance in your house will be connected
In March 2016, Scripps Networks Interactive conducted a smart home survey that included questions regarding which devices consumers were most looking to purchase, and which ones they already own. Based on the opinions of 699 respondents, the survey concluded that the household devices consumers most want to upgrade to smart devices include:
- home energy monitoring systems
- lighting automation and controls
- smartphone controls
- doorbell camera
- computer controls for home systems
- surveillance equipment (IP cameras)
- automation and controls for home audio/entertainment
- HVAC automation and controls
- monitored security system
- motion lights
- smoke and/or carbon monoxide detection systems
That may seem like a pretty robust list. By today’s standards, those are just the basics. In fact, Gartner expects that much of the everyday, domestic equipment found in the average home will adapt smart functionalities—a combination of sensing, processing, and wireless communications—over the next few years. Meaning, that list is going to grow. Statista.com expects spending in the U.S. on smart home devices will generate $9.7 million in 2016 and jump up to $16.7 million by 2018. The primary driver behind the current upswing in smart device sales is the fact that there are now scalable, cross-compatible platforms, like Vivint Sky, that bundle the full spectrum of components together into a comprehensive smart home solution.
The cross-compatibility of the Vivint Smart Home CloudTM platform
For reasons of functionality, and in some cases FCC regulations, smart home components communicate through an array of long-range and short-range protocols, including internet wifi, cellular, Z-Wave, Ethernet, and the 345 MHz short-range radio band. The Vivint Sky Control panel centralizes smart home data, while also moderating communications between smart devices and the homeowner. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits the Vivint Sky smart home gives you explained by summarizing how the platform’s interconnectivity works:
- Total monitoring and management — Your wireless router connects broadcasts a Wifi signal connecting your Vivint Sky Control Panel, connecting your smart home to the web, making your home controls accessible from any web-enabled device via the Vivint Sky app.
- Access to your smart home controls from anywhere — Vivint Sky Control Panel is also cellular device. Users can control the Vivint Sky Control Panel from anywhere by installing the Vivint Sky App on their smartphone, eliminating the need to switch between individual apps to control individual components.
- All your smart home components bundled together — Wifi connectivity gives Vivint Sky the unifying factor that bridges the communication gaps between all the various components of a smart home system. Amazon Echo, all IP cameras including Vivint Doorbell Cameras, Vivint Ping Cameras, and indoor/outdoor surveillance cameras connect to Vivint Sky via Wifi.
- A cross-compatible platform — Smart locks, and garage door controls operate on Z-Wave. So do higher quality smart thermostats like Vivint Element and The Nest Learning Thermostat. The Vivint Sky control panel receives Z-Wave signals and sends alerts over cellular or Wifi networks to notify homeowners of activity.
- Mobile security notifications and controls — Home security devices like door & window sensors, motion sensors, and smoke detectors are not Wifi or cellular compatible. They operate on the 345 MHz radio band (except GE devices, which operate on 319 MHz). The Vivint Sky control panel receives and transmits in all three of those wireless protocols, plus Z-Wave. That means you can arm and disarm security devices through the control panel or mobile app. When an alarm is triggered, Vivint Sky control panel can send alerts over cellular or Wifi networks so users can make decisions and send response commands to the rest of your system.
- Save and archive your camera feed — Video recording and storage used to be the most expensive component of a security/surveillance system. Vivint Playback allows you to record up to 30 days of continuous video without the need for an expensive DVR.
- Accessibility options for the whole family — Create multiple users on your Vivint account, so your entire family can use the app to access your smart home controls. You can also create custom rules and notifications for each user and limit access, so the kids can’t adjust system settings, for example.
Despite the major breakthroughs we’ve seen in the smart home market, it’s really still in the early stages of development. The original intention underpinning smart homes was to help homeowners resolve security, energy, and household management problems. As the smart market matures, and as the technology becomes more and more refined, there are some industry experts who expect to see the smart home category expand to include benefits like home care for the elderly, monitoring of pet health and safety, maintaining connections with children and teenagers while away from home, and rental property management.
Learn more about complete smart home systems and find out how to get $1,500 of free equipment.