By Alfred Dilluvio, Aqua Turf Irrigation Systems, LLC
When I make the decision to eat out, the most important consideration is always the quality of the food. However, that is certainly not the only element to an enjoyable dining experience. A night out at your favorite restaurant is made infinitely more pleasurable when the people working there greet you warmly, seat you in a place you are comfortable, know exactly what you want, and bring it to you in a timely fashion. People often take others to their favorite restaurants citing “the whole experience” as the reason they love it so much. For some people, experiences like these don’t stop when they return home. Those who are fortunate enough to do so often employ cooks, cleaners, gardeners, or caretakers to handle almost all aspects of domestic life. However, new technology has begun to see to it that VIP treatment not just be reserved for the elite. Let’s introduce the concept of home automation; or as I like to refer to it, your digital concierge of special comforts and pleasures. And the best part; these systems are extremely reliable and often require zero recurring costs.
What is Home Automation?
Home automation refers to the systems (either integrated or solitary) that allow for mechanization of the house itself, the surrounding area, or activities that take place inside the household. This may include actuation of security locks, centralized control of lighting or sound systems, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), or irrigation/landscaping systems. It could also include the electrical appliances in the home that work according to timers or electronic inputs. In recent years, with “smart” technology becoming more affordable and increasingly reliable, home automation is becoming more attractive by the nanosecond.
A Brief History of Home Automation
The concept of home automation has been explored in Science Fiction writing for over one hundred years. However, it was not practical until electricity became available in the home and massive improvements were made in electrical engineering. Home appliances introduced in the early 1900s were technologies being developed to replace domestic servants and laborious tasks. Because the electrical delivery network was still relatively new, these luxuries were often reserved for the extremely wealthy. The world’s fairs of the 1930s showcased new developments and presented an attractive view of the future, one where technology could provide convenience, efficiency, and robust health. In the 1960s, ideas for fully automated homes were conceptualized, but certainly limited by the technology available. With the introduction of microcontrollers and advancements in information technology, remote controllers were adopted to actuate and control both household systems and appliances. Still, due to high costs and problems in functionality, these early smart homes were “gimmicky” and unpopular. Although the phrase “smart home” was coined in 1984, it wasn’t until much later that a truly “smart” home was introduced. In 1998, the Integer Millennium House was showcased, and it included actuated heating, security systems, optimized video surveillance, web tv, and irrigation based on climatic conditions and soil sensors. With Wireless technology being improved daily, and preoccupation with smart phones at an all-time high, the current trajectory of building technology is clear.
Security systems in the home have come a long way. Although passive security can now be provided by other home automation systems (light activation, shades moving, music playing) giving a passersby the perception that people are home, there are some really fantastic systems out there to monitor the home. Dropdown cameras can continually broadcast live footage of your home directly to your iphone. Security cameras and sensors can deliver information to your phone in the event of a security breach or accidentally tripped sensor. There are customizable schedules and flexible features that allow you to make changes or overrides remotely. Although we already touched on it, the ability to remotely manage systems at the property can always give criminals the perception that someone is home.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems are now using an internet based thermostat which allows a user to control temperature remotely. This system allows the user to make modifications to temperature inside the home by turning on the heat or air conditioning. Additionally, windows can be opened or closed to provide climate control.
With wireless speakers finally available at a reasonable price, sound systems are now being installed that truly deliver satisfaction. Once again, because they are wifi enabled, these speakers can be managed remotely. They can also pull music from a variety of sources, one of which is internet radio. Because of this, the opportunities for easy listening are endless.
Modern landscape lighting can be defined by customizable lighting schemes, the ability to remotely actuate different light zones, developments in LEDs, and advances in low voltage lighting. It is for these reasons that lighting systems have never been more convenient, affordable, safe, and energy efficient. As with all systems, the remote actuation and singular app management allow for convenience and added security in the home.
We are especially excited about the Smart Irrigation controllers that have finally come out. Internet based Irrigation control is something we have been thinking about for a while. It saves a ton of water, adds convenience, and can alert the homeowner or contractor in the event of a system error (possibly saving thousands of dollars). Also, from a contractor standpoint, it allows us to manage irrigation systems better without having to charge a customer for a costly service visit (in the event that it is just a controller adjustment). Companies like Rachio, Hydrawise, and Et Water have excellent products that we are very excited about!
Integration (The big picture)
Combining these “smart” systems to work in concert with one another using IFTTT (if this than that) technology seems to be the direction of things. Companies that are engineering the best product in each industry seem to recognize the need to provide some sort of centralized control platform that allows the homeowner to see what is happening in each system from one spot. This application would also be measuring the savings and providing the homeowner with a seamless home automation experience. We are very excited to see things moving in this direction. Onward!