Smart Technologies that are Transforming Homes Across the UK – Human culture is changing fast as new and innovative technologies are becoming ubiquitous. Unless you live under a large rock, no aspect of modern life is untouched by the burgeoning technologies that are changing the way we work, live, and play.
Opinions of these new technologies range from: they are extremely useful, they are fun to use, they are a bit gimmicky, they can be a bit costly, they have no practical use, and they are way too expensive. Indeed, not all innovation is particularly beneficial in terms of making a useful improvement to people’s lives.
Many new technologies, I think many would agree, are useful and improve the lives of countless people. Smart technologies in the home setting are such technologies that help improve the way we all live by adding convenience, safety, and cost savings and can be a differentiating factor for landlords to fill their rental property.
The top end range of smart technologies can learn and anticipate the user’s behaviour to help respond in a unique way to the user. For example, a smart thermostat can learn and anticipate what time you will be in the house and adjust the temperature accordingly to save on energy costs, something that has become a hot topic due to huge energy price rises across the board. Entertainment and security systems are others that can greatly be enhanced by smart technology.
Now let’s take a dive into some of these technologies that are already transforming homes across the UK by providing convenience, safety, efficiency, and, overall, a greater home living experience.
Smart lighting systems
Home smart technologies crept up on us all over the years, and now they are bursting onto the scene with even greater energy and force. Smart systems are being integrated and connected with each other so they can communicate and share data. Smart lighting is no exception. Once we have experienced the convenience of smart lighting, controlling them from virtually anywhere on the planet, setting timing and schedules, having them turn on automatically when you get home or as you move from room-to-room, who would want to revert to the old way of doing things?
One such smart lighting technology is a smart bulb that can wake up users by emitting a blue hue that can reduce melatonin levels in the body. On the other hand, going to bed can help you fall asleep much more quickly. As you can see, this bulb is intended to do more than just provide light in a room; it is also intended to improve health and sleep patterns.
Another light bulb available has millions of colour gradients and, like the bulb mentioned above, can be totally controllable via your smart phone or tablet. It’s possible to programme the bulb to emit different colours at different times of the day, and even react to the sound or music level in the room.
Smart lightbulbs can now even integrate Wi-Fi boosters into their builds, which can help greatly with the home’s Wi-Fi signals, especially in larger houses or multiple home occupancies.
Smart entertainment systems and devices
Thanks to the growth of enabling technologies like wi-fi, smartphones, cloud computing, and the internet of things, our homes and workspaces are becoming spaces that can be controllable and automated to a high degree of efficiency. Entertainment systems and devices, too, are now controllable via smart phone technology.
Most entertainment electronic devices sold these days, such as TVs, music or sound systems, phones, and tablets, are likely to come already equipped with connectivity capability. Smart hubs can be used to connect them all together into a centralised unit.
A smart hub, comprising the centrepiece of an integrated smart entertainment setup, will usually come with a free app that can be downloaded on your smart phone or tablet and will allow you to control up to about 10 entertainment and other devices. The smart entertainment hub is a bit like the magical ring from the Lord of the Rings: One hub to rule them all!
Via the entertainment smart hub, you can control what’s on the TV screen or the music coming from the speakers, control the lighting in any room, control the temperature via smart thermostats, and many other aspects of the functionality of your home.
And for those party and celebration nights with family and friends, you can line up the entire night’s music ready to play like a pro DJ. Don’t have the right CD or music? No problem, you can surf the net using your smart hub and grab exactly what you want.
Smart appliances: ovens and slow cookers
Smart home appliances are particularly useful when it comes to safety and convenience. Most of the time, they go unnoticed; they just do their job and free up time and mental space for other things.
Home appliances like smart ovens and fridges are becoming more sophisticated with each passing year. Many smart ovens can now be controlled from anywhere in the world, including, of course, from the office. Why not come home to find your oven preheated and ready to go with your dinner waiting in the fridge? Furthermore, you can sit and watch your favourite Christmas movie while being able to change the oven temperature and timings from your phone.
Anyone who has used a slow cooker (also known as a crock-pot) knows how useful they can be. With a smart slow cooker, you can have it turn on at the right point of the day, so dinner is perfectly ready for when you are scheduled to arrive home. And if you anticipate being home later than expected, you can alter the temperature, timing, and other settings to compensate.
Home utilities can be more efficient, safe, and convenient when integrated with smart technology. For example, properties with large gardens can greatly benefit from a smart watering system that can control sprinklers via their phones. From the swipe of your phone, you can monitor water usage and control flow rate, as well as adapt to different garden sizes and ground conditions.
Fresh water resources, just like energy, are becoming an increasingly important natural resource that needs better conservation and management. Intelligently targeting water use is more essential than ever as depleting fossil aquifer groundwater is becoming a major concern in many countries around the world.
Smart air conditioners can learn the user’s patterns and behaviour and help save a lot of energy and money. There’s no need to leave a unit on all day just so you can have a chilled room when you get home. A smart aircon unit can make sure only the right amount of cooling is done at the right time when it is needed.
Many homeowners and renters will be surprised to learn that smart technology even extends to windows and shades. Smart windows are built with glass that helps self-cleanse and can warn if windows are left open when leaving the home.
Smart blinds can help manage the amount of natural light that enters your home. With smart blinds that can be programmed to open and close at certain times of the day and night, you can receive passive savings. For example, if it’s a hot summer day, your blinds can respond by closing during the day, allowing for the room to be cooler when you get home from work, saving money on air conditioning use.
With careful control of your smart blinds, you can ensure that they open just before you arrive home, close just before you go to bed, and are open and ready for when you wake up in the morning.
Some smart shades can be changed from a clear view of the outside to an opaque view by using a “privacy” setting on them. These blinds (“mart glass”) can be controlled with a remote, manually with a wall switch, or controlled via a smart phone app. Furthermore, some of the designs can even be used as touch screen computers or even cinema screens!
Smart CCTV and surveillance
Smart home CCTV and surveillance technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. It might not be at the top of most people’s lists when thinking about home smart technologies, but it is increasingly becoming a technology that many homeowners are turning to for improvements in safety and security.
Most tend to think of it as just a camera that records images, perhaps letting the user know when someone has activated the motion sensors. However, you can get home camera technology that utilises facial recognition features, giving the user a powerful remote security tool at the wipe of a phone. Think about it. You can be alerted when family members or children have walked by the camera, identifying exactly who the person is. Facial recognition technology can give you peace of mind by knowing exactly who is at home by having their names sent directly to you in real time.
Furthermore, the facial recognition technology will also alert you when someone unknown is near your property. When you are away at work or even on holiday, this technology can help you keep a close eye on your property and give you greater peace of mind, all without having to take out an expensive monthly subscription fee.
Smart CCTV cameras can also come with built-in external lighting and come with an intercom system so you can speak with those at the front door, even if you are many miles away.
A summary of main features of modern CCTV and surveillance systems:
- Facial recognition
- Two-way audio capability
- Night vision capability
- Accessible from anywhere in the world
- Records and saves images
- Waterproof versions are available
- Real-time surveillance of your property
No need to worry about losing or misplacing your keys because smart locks enable users to go keyless. These locks are not the same as the standard keypad that most of us have seen before; they allow you to programme specific users to be recognised via their smart phones or go even more high-tech with their biometrics, such as with a fingerprint scan.
As implied above, smart lock technology can allow you to programme your locks to only admit specific people and reject everyone else. The software will also allow specific timings to be attached to certain users. The housekeeper or babysitter, for example, will only be able to enter the property at certain times and days of the week and will be unable to do so at any other time.
Some smart locks will keep a record of all the comings and goings in the house and come with an auto unlock function as you approach the door, a useful feature if you have just returned from a busy shopping trip. Furthermore, some models enable you to connect the smart lock with the smart lighting system so that the lights will come on when the unlock has been activated.
For families with kids, a smart lock with a fingerprint entry system is useful for parents concerned that they may lose their keys, especially if they are out doing sports or other physical activities.
Smart garage doors
You may think that smart garage doors couldn’t bring that much usefulness to a family. Well, you may be pleasantly surprised at what they can do to improve your home experience.
With these smart devices, the days of getting out of the car and struggling with heavy doors in the pouring rain are over.
Via the use of the ubiquitous smart phone app, you can monitor and control your garage door. Alerts will be sent to your phone when the door has been opened or closed, letting you know about activities at home. They can also be integrated with a CCTV system to show you who is entering the garage when it is active.
Home smart technology summary
While it’s probably true that there are some neo-luddites out there who reject all the benefits that smart home technology can offer, most are starting to enjoy the numerous benefits that these appliances and systems can provide to users.
They can improve safety, security, efficiency, and convenience. Energy efficiency, from appliances like thermostats and air-conditioning units, is a benefit that many more are now recognising. Indeed, these technologies pay for themselves in a very short time.
For those who aren’t very tech-savvy and prefer to live in the “good old days,” a simple smart light bulb is a good place to start. However, once you’ve experienced the convenience that technology has to offer, you’ll want to explore further into the Technosphere and look for ways to improve your home living experience.