Smart Homes = Smart Choice

By: Louise Scoggins

Once upon a time the smart home was only something of science fiction movies and space age cartoons. Today, the digital home is well on its way to becoming the new standard, especially for the discerning buyer.

So what exactly is a digital home? Also known as building automation, the smart home has a number of systems networked for interoperation, with a computer at the hub. This view of the future spins out of a concept known as ubiquitous or pervasive computing, in which the model of computer interaction changes from a single user and a desktop computer to a multi-computational system, integrated into everyday activities, with ongoing engagement by several users. Basically, these systems are designed to work smarter and save you time and energy. They are connected through cables, wireless ports or a combination of both and can be controlled from a distance, using a phone or Internet connection.

You may already have the beginnings of home automation working in your house already: programmable thermostats and dryers with sensors are examples. Imagine a heating system linked to intelligent sensors, programmed to heat or cool based on occupancy instead of scheduled hours; or pushing just one button before bed to turn off the lights, arm the security system, reduce the temperature and turn off the radiant floor heating.

These smart systems can also alert you by email should your children not arrive home at a certain time or light the entire house upon unauthorized access. Additionally you can program your system to flash the external lights to get attention or set it to illuminate escape routes in case of a fire while simultaneously notifying the fire department.

Audio visual devices can also be networked to become multi-zone systems. This allows you to enjoy music from a single source throughout the house. Or settle in to watch a DVD, pushing a single button to turn down the lights, draw the curtains and turn on the DVD player, television and amplifier. If your televisions are networked, any screen in the house can tune into the DVD playing on the main set.

In theory, any electronic device could one day be included in the smart home network. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags allow inventory monitoring and are being used by several large companies. In the future these may be used in the home network, allowing your fridge to track of your grocery stock and send a shopping list to your cell phone or order online when supplies get low.

So, whether you are buying a new residence or refitting an older property, consider wiring your home for the future because the days of automation are already upon us. Digital homes will be the standard and these systems are already being featured in many upscale projects. With constantly improving technology, the options for your smart home are only increasing.

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