What is a Smart Home?

Written by | Updated June 19, 2013

A smart home is something straight out of the future, bringing to mind depictions from popular TV shows, such as The Jetsons. Technology features on such shows once seem far-fetched but now seem inevitable. Current smart home technology incorporates advanced automation and remote access, giving you control over the electrical, mechanical, and security systems that run their home, no matter if you’re at work or halfway around the world.

Smart homes are controlled via computer, smartphone, or other web-enabled device, and you can control entire household from a single point. You can do things like change your home’s temperature, see a live video feed, activate sprinkler units, and check security features while you’re away. If a smart home system is properly integrated, the control of various aspects of the home will be so seamless that the house will appear to run itself.

Current Smart Home Features

Anything in your home that uses power can be automated. A smart home integrates various sub-systems (lighting, security, heating/cooling) together so they can be controlled from a single device. Although some of these features may sound futuristic, they are readily available:

Triggered Events
These are tasks the system executes based on a trigger of some sort. For example, you can set your lights to go off in a room after 5 minutes when no motion is detected. If you’re away from home, you can have a recorded dog bark play if motion is detected around the outside of your home. Or a security camera can start recording if motion is detected on your front porch.

Timed Events
Most home automation systems have a clock built in to allow specific tasks to be performed at specific times each day, such as opening the living room shades at 7:00 a.m. or turning your air conditioning on 30 minutes before you get home from work. That way, your home is always customized for your comfort.

Lighting and Small Appliance Controls

Never worry whether you turned off the coffee pot or unplugged the curling iron. With small appliance controls, you can remotely turn appliances on or off. You can also access your lights—turn them on before you get home or make it look like you’re home while you’re away.

Smart Refrigerator

A smart fridge will detect the items you have in the fridge and give you recipe suggestions. If you can’t remember what ingredients you have while you’re at the store, you can just check in with your fridge via smartphone to see what it currently holds.

Thermostat Controls

You may not want to come home to a sweltering house, but you don’t want to run up your bill by having your air conditioning on all day, either. With a smart thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature from any web-enabled device. Plus, you can be notified if someone else changes the temperature.

optimizing temp meme

Camera Feeds

You can view live video feeds from a smartphone or other web-enabled device. Plus, you can set up motion-activation, so the camera will only record when motion is detected. You can see who’s at your door without getting up, check up on pets or kids when you’re not home, or see anyone coming or going to your home.

Smart Home Benefits

Control and Efficiency
Smart home automation technologies simplify common tasks carried out on a daily basis. For example, owners could pre-heat their spa, turn on interior or exterior lighting and have their favorite music playing when they arrive home. Or program the lights to sense when no one is in a room and turn them off so energy bills are lower.

Peace of Mind
Security features such as motion sensors, cameras, and a link to a monitoring company can be integrated as part of the smart home automation system. Some companies have begun offering additional features such as key cards, biometric locks, remote locking or unlocking of doors, video clips of activity tripped by motion sensors and using live-stream wireless cameras to watch what’s going on inside the house while you are away.


A smart home can feature accessibility technologies for the disabled and elderly. These technologies include voice-command systems to control lighting, door locks, heating or cooling, use of a computer or to operate a telephone. Using your voice to access the system, a person could easily contact loved ones or medical help if they were unable to get to a phone. This can provide peace of mind when caring for an elderly relative or children.


Currently, most vendors offer automation in for small appliances, lighting, heating and cooling, security, and door locks. Security companies such as LifeShield, FrontPoint, and Vivint all offer home automation capabilities with their security features. Each company has its own unique feature list and pricing structure. For more information about security companies that offer smart home features, read SafeWise’s Top 5 Security Systems.

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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