Take a Tour of Today's Affordable Automated Home

Home automation takes the mundane, day-to-day activities involved in managing your home and leaves them to a computer, freeing you up to kick back and relax. Once a staple of science fiction fantasies and luxury homes, over the past decade home automation has become a realistic option for the average American homeowner. With this in mind, the home-automation experts at SafeWise have put together an interactive home tour, brief history, explanation of common features, and projection of future trends unique to today’s home automation systems. Hover on the image to learn more about home automation.

1930s

Debut at the World's Fairs Chicago and NYC

1970s

Invention of the microcontroller

2019

Estimated overall market value of $16.4 billion

A Brief History of Home Automation

The idea of managing all the functions of a home with a centralized control system dates back to at least the beginning of the 20th century. The earliest working prototypes of automated houses debuted in the 1930s at World’s Fairs in Chicago and New York City, but those homes were never intended to be commercially available. [1] It wasn’t until the invention of the microcontroller during the 1970s that marketing a fully-wired, “smart” home automation system became economically feasible. With the growth of computer technology over the last fifteen years or so, the home automation industry has taken off.

  • In 2012, the estimated value of the home-automation market was around $3.6 billion. [2]
  • Smart-home device sales doubled the following year, [3] with 1.8 million new system installations nationwide. [4]
  • Some analysts expect 12 million new residential system installations in 2016 [4] and an estimated overall market value of as much as $16.4 billion by 2019. [2]

Indulge your inner control freak.

Control just about everything in your home... except your kids.

Lights

Today’s home automation systems make it easy for you to use your smartphone or tablet to control the lights in your home. You can switch on your lights and set them to an appropriate brightness, all while you’re away or lounging on your couch.

Locks and security systems

A home automation system will allow you to check—and change, if necessary—the status of your locks and security system remotely. Also, many systems allow remote monitoring of your home security cameras.

Appliances

With home automation, you can easily change the oven temperature, for example, while you’re relaxing in the back yard or watching a movie in the den thanks to wireless technology, smart outlets, and a smartphone app.

Entertainment systems

Some home automation systems also integrate entertainment. Set your TV’s recording schedule, manage your stored programs, and decide where to watch them, all from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Temperature and indoor climate

Use your home automation app to raise the temperature in the house a few degrees so you can stay comfy. Not only will you feel more comfortable, but you’ll also enjoy the pleasure of a lower energy bill.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

Your home automation system can detect increased levels of carbon monoxide in the air and set off an alarm if you’re in danger. It’s a far more reliable method than the old, standalone detectors from the hardware store.

How to Get Started with Home Automation

But hold on a minute—automating your home isn't as simple as just downloading an app. It'll take a little more than that to get started.

1. For one thing, you'll need a controller. Today's home automation systems can usually be managed straight from your tablet or smartphone, but some do still require the installation of a centralized control panel somewhere in your home.

2. You'll also need access to a network in order to send messages from your controller to your home's devices. Most home automation systems either use Wi-Fi or a simple Bluetooth connection. This, of course, depends on how you plan to use your system. For example, if you think you'll want to interact with your devices while at work, a Bluetooth connection won't cut it.

3. Finally, your devices will need some way to receive your instructions. For some, this isn't an issue: today's home entertainment systems often have Wi-Fi connectivity built right in before the components leave the factory. But for others—like, say, lights—you'll need either smart outlets or smart lightbulbs to integrate them into your home's automation system.

That may seem like a lot of work, but honestly, it isn't. The bottom line is that if you've got Wi-Fi in your home and a smartphone in your pocket, you're already most of the way there.

So, What Does the Future of Home Automation Look Like?

You can’t talk about the future of home automation without mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). That’s the catch-all phrase for the trend toward embedding sensors and microchips in everyday objects in a way that allows them to be connected to a network—like, say, the Internet. With the Internet of Things, your washing machine, for example, can send an alert to your phone when it’s time to move your clothes over to the dryer.

Analysts expect the number of devices connected to the Internet of Things to reach between 26 billion5 and 30 billion6 by 2020. And the more IoT-ready devices you have access to in your home, the more you’ll be able to accomplish with even the most basic home automation system.

In just 40 years, complete home automation systems have gone from high-tech curiosities to affordable and accessible modern home conveniences. They're so simple now that just about anyone can take advantage of home automation to simplify their lives and enjoy what was once a luxury of the wealthy and tech-savvy. In another 40 years, we'll wonder how we ever lived without them.

Note: Home automation features will vary depending on the system chosen.

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