Not too long ago I read an interesting article in FAST COMPANY by Jared Newman. In that article he asks if the Smart Home is a pass or fail. He suggests that the Smart Home concept is a fail. He points to flat international sales as one proof, but at the same time he lays most of the blame because of too many options, incompatibilities, obsolescence, etc.
To some degree I have to agree with. I’ve been installing “smarts” into my last four homes, going back to about twenty years ago. Plus, I started building this site, and writing about it back around 2013. It’s never really been simple.
Yes, there certainly are issues, I know I’ve wrestled with many. And decisions – Zigbee, Z-wave, controllers, routers, extenders, ethernet, lighting that needs a hub, lighting that doesn’t. Smart switches (old ones) that don’t support LED lights properly, and so on.
There are many folks who would count theirs as being a “smart home” to whatever degree they have taken them, as not only passing, but with great grades. That’s because I do believe that the folks with the resources to go out to use higher end home automation focused companies to design and install systems for their homes, are generally very happy.
But then for all the basics – alarms, sensors, temperature, locks, lights (indoor and out), spending probably at least $50K to $500K+ is the norm for high and higher end custom homes. (Yes, you can use different gear and different contractors to save, but, often those are really not integrating it into a home, rather a lot of separate systems that sort of work together. And that, folks, is also most typically what those of us who do it mostly ourselves, also end up with.
First things first, let’s decide what makes a Smart Home. Is it simply having a number of smart devices, such a thermostats, lights and door locks that you can individually control, or is it demanding that they all beintegrated together to create a pretty seamless, easy to use system?
We can debate how smart is smart enough to be called a “smart home” but does it matter? I’d say our last place was pretty smart. Although I never did get around to setting up some Geo-fencing.
The Smart Home is a concept. Something marketable. Ultimately though, probably nothing short of Iron Man’s home in Malibu is completely smart!
“Works for Me!”
If you are saving money with your smart thermostat and smart lights, and are feeling safe because of your Ring or XXXX video doorbell, or your Schlage, Kwikset, or August smart locks, then you’ve made your home is at least smart enough to be of real value, even if you are controlling each with their respective Apps.
Your home’s even smarter, though, that is, if you basically have a single solution/app (ie Crestron…) that controls just about everything on a day to day basis, or if you can control most of it with voice commands such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant consider yourself there. If you go with a high end control solution like Crestron or Savant, etc., those installers are also almost certainly discuss with you, and then do all the needed programming as part of the solution you want.
You Don’t Need To Automate Everything!
It certainly isn’t necessary, nor for that matter, desirable to automate everything. I decided I really didn’t need smart light switches on over half of the switches in my condo. You can go overboard. You could have motion sensors tied to lights on your walk in closets, water leak sensors everywhere, and smart appliances that can, for example, start cooking the roast in the oven, when you are away, or tell you how much milk is left…
So much can be automated, but how much is really important to you – especially if price is a factor. Other examples, we just didn’t need in our home: Smart control (ie turning on the closet light in the 3rd bedroom (it’s just Lori and I) by voice command – is that really necessary or worth an extra $55 Lutron switch, installation time, and configuring it? Naw!
Whether everything is under one scheme/control, like a high end installation, or a lot of separate ones, you still end up with, at the very least, a somewhat smart home. Because doing things like controlling temp or security while home or far away is still smart and effective, and brings cost savings, safety, etc.
Let’s leave it at: There’s homes with lots of smarts, and there are homes that are almost completely automated. We realized that, when we chose the name Smarter Home Automation!
FunFacts about Amazon/Alexa/Dot! Approximately 100,000 different devices support Alexa. 70% of smart speaker owners (Amazon Echo Dot, Google Home/Nest, Apple HomePod), use Amazon Echos/respond to Alexa. Thanks to users, Alexa now has over 100,000 skills (when launched in 2014, Alexa had only 130 skills).
Google had 25% share of smart speakers, while Apple only 5% in 2020, however, Apple came very late to the smart speaker category despite launching their Personal Assistant Siri, well ahead of Alexa, and Google Assistant. Expect Apple’s market share to grow rapidly.
Bottom Line: Smart Home Schmarthome! The goal is to make your home friendlier to you, and yours. Add smarts where you get to benefit – either financially, ecologically, or just for added convenience. Do it all at once, or piece by piece. Most will agree – (if it works), the smarter the home, the better. (I, Robot the movie, notwithstanding).