Your house in the cloud: home automation in 2013
Ever wanted to make some fresh-roasted coffee from the comfort of your bed using your smartphone? You might soon be able to. Experts are predicting that this year, mobile computing will be able to adopt cloud infrastructure. The aptly named integrated systems (something of a keyword in the world of home technology), will allow you to use your mobile device to control different appliances around the home – say goodbye to all those confusing manuals, hard to read dials and remote controls!
Integration doesn’t just make life simpler and easier. Some of these devices help reduce utilities bills, achieve clean energy and increase safety at home. Aside from looking quite nifty (reading the news in the mirror while brushing your teeth has a certain ‘wow’ factor!), home automation has real-life applications that offer a range of financial and lifestyle benefits.
Tackling winter’s biggest concern: fuel costs
When the snow falls in everyone dreads their fuel bills, which are only going one way: up. Annual household energy bills are likely to rise an average of £100 per year by 2020 – doubling the current average annual bill of just under £1,000 for dual-fuel households.
Rising energy expenses have spearheaded interest in home automation, and for those who already integrate many of their personal devices via smartphone, the idea of a “smart home” is not such a big leap. Consumers can use home automation to remotely monitor temperature, for example, and shut off their heating when no one’s home.
Not confined to heating, though, these technologies can include occupancy sensors that automatically switch lighting on and off and remote hub switches that go on standby when not in use so that you can control the flow of energy to smaller appliances around the house.
Not just cheaper but greener
Reducing energy bills and saving the environment can go hand-in-hand, particularly when you consider transforming your home to produce clean energy i.e. installing rooftop wind or hydroelectric turbines. But not everybody’s neighbours will tolerate a 10-foot freestanding mast-mounted wind turbine overlooking their patio.
On a smaller scale, reviewing a building’s insulation and airtightness can help regulate temperatures to maximise heat in the winter. Motorised blinds, adapted awnings, light-reflective paint and improved ventilation are just a few suggestions, but for those living in sunnier areas, making use of Building Integrated Photovoltaic technologies is an up-and-coming trend. These materials can be installed into or replace building staples such as window glass or roof tiles.
But is this “set it, forget it automation” at the expense of behavioural change? Experts predict that because heating and cooling are the biggest source of energy consumption at home, and people seldom have time to set programmable thermals, it makes sense to automate climate levels to conserve energy.
In the past, hi-tech security has been aimed at the upper-income, tech-savvy consumer, but that technology has now expanded to include different niches in the population. Electronic monitoring and emergency response systems have been developed for seniors to remain living independently longer than they might have done otherwise. The systems include cellular medical alarms, monitored camera systems, medication management, door and window contacts, pressure-sensitive floor mats and wall-mounted help buttons.
For those seeking home security there is a host of technologies ranging from CCTV and IP video surveillance and access control to electronic fire detection and emergency call alarms. Many insurance companies offer discounts on homeowners’ policies if properties are well equipped, which is another appeal of investing in these devices.
One step closer to the automated home
Is the automated home no longer a figment of a sci-fi writer’s imagination? Spending money to save money seems a much more compelling reason to invest in these systems than the convenience of remotely fresh-brewed coffee and well-watered lawns. And as electricity bills and CO2 levels continually rise, it’s much less a question of if – more a question of when – we bring the world’s best technologies a bit closer to home.
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