What exactly makes a home a Smart Home?

You’ve probably heard of Home Automation, Custom Integration, Custom A/V (Audio/Video), or maybe the Internet of Things (#IoT).  What’s what?  Are they all Smart Homes?  To be totally frank, if you think your home is a Smart Home, then it’s a Smart Home.  Seriously.  At this point, Smart Home is sort of a catch-all term, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  We have one definition, a simple version, and an expanded version.

Simple Definition

At the most basic level, a Smart Home is simply a home with a device that can be controlled by your mobile device(s).  That’s it.  So if you have a Nest Thermostat in the home, you have a Smart Home.  If you have a Security System in your home that can be controlled from your mobile device, than you have a Smart Home.  Pretty simple right?

Manual Control Vs Home Automation

It’s important to understand that what we really just described is simply the newest form of ‘Manual Control.’  It’s not automated, it really isn’t ‘Smart tech.’  It’s just moving Manual Control from the actual device, like the light switch or thermostat, to your smart phone.  And that’s ok. Nothing wrong with calling this a Smart Home, we just want to be clear about what this is.  It’s the newest form of Manual Control.

Home Automation is what happens when the home thinks and acts for itself.  Lights come on automatically when you walk into the room, and turn off when you leave the room.  Surveillance Cameras trigger the garage to open when the truck pulls into the driveway.  In the morning, music wakes you up in your room, and a pathway of lights comes on leading you to the kitchen for your morning coffee.  Whatever the scenario, you get the idea, the home is really thinking and acting for itself.

Year’s ago, I attended my first certification program for a Smart Home system with Automated Outlet out of Dallas Texas.  Our instructor Trey really pounded this home.  It was important to him that people understand there’s a difference between controlling devices from your phone (manual control), and the home actually operating on its own (automation).  The purist in me agrees with Trey.  I think it’s important to understand the difference, but at the end of the day we’re talking about two halves of the same coin.  Whether it’s manual control from your smart phone, or full fledge Automation, it’s still a Smart Home.

Expanded Definition

So as you understand the discussion on Automation, it will make sense then that a Smart Home encompasses any technology that can make the home smarter.  This can include Home Automation, Home Audio and Video, Sustainable Energy, The Internet of Things, and much more.

If you’re a first time home buyer, and you have a simple Smart Home with one or two devices that you operate from your Smart Phone, you have a Smart Home.  If you’re designing and planning your 10,000 square foot home with Automated Blinds, Voice Control, Low Voltage LED lighting, and Smart Theater Chairs, it’s still just a Smart Home.  You just have a much bigger Smart Home.

I don’t want to oversimplify the discussion, but at the end of the day, a Smart Home is a home with cool tech inside that makes our lives easier and more enjoyable.  Pretty simple right?

Now I want to mention the Internet of Things briefly.  We’ll cover #IoT in more detail in another post, but it causes some confusion in this discussion.  #IoT, at least as it pertains to the home is nothing new.  It’s a bit of a buzz word, but it is probably more descriptive of where the Smart Home is going in our connected world.

The Internet of Things, or #IoT comes from the idea that all devices are connected to the Internet.  What we’re really talking about is global connectivity via the Internet.  As it pertains to Smart Cities, Smart Cars, and full scale connectivity, it’s significant and worth understanding.  But for the home it just means that your devices are connected to the Internet, and that’s been a part of Smart Homes for a long long time.  What will change because of #IoT, is most if not all of the electronic devices in your home will eventually live on the home network, where now only a handful of devices in the Smart Home do.

↓ Watch the YouTube video “Defining ‘Smart Home'” ↓

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What’s Your idea of a Smart Home?

I’d love to hear what your idea of a Smart Home is?  What would the perfect Smart Home look like?  What do you think is still missing from the Smart Home market?  Share your ideas with us in the comments.



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Matt Montgomery, TYM, Salt Lake City, Ut

Named one of Technology Integrator’s Top Talent Under 40, Matt has designed systems for 20 national award-winning projects, including  "Home Theater of the Year", and "Custom Smart Home of the Year" from CTA™ (Consumer Technology Association). His ebook “How To Wire Your Smart Home” is a best seller among professionals and DIY-ers alike.  He has taken classes with Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). You can watch Matt share the secrets of his craft on YouTube!

Matt is a Golden State fan.




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