Next up: Smart homes

May 28, 2012

You've got a smartphone and maybe a smart TV, and may have heard that smart refrigerators are in the works. Next up: the smart home.

and are transforming daily life, so it should come as no surprise that such technologies may soon improve the places where we live.

The "" is a catchall term for a collection of technologies designed for a broadband-connected house. They allow consumers to monitor and control appliances and locks, and to automate particular tasks, such as controlling the temperature.

For most consumers, the smart home has been little more than a futuristic fantasy. Sure, some affluent families already have homes that they can program and use like computers to lock doors from afar, or have their alarms automatically set when everyone leaves the house. But the cost of such systems has been beyond the reach of mainstream consumers.

What's more, the complexity of such systems typically meant that they either had to be installed as a house was being built or they required a professional installer-further driving up their cost.

But that is starting to change. The cost of sensors and controllers has come down dramatically. Many devices now utilizing standard networking protocols such as Wi-Fi and ZigBee, an emerging low-power standard for wireless data connections, allow users to more easily build out their systems.

The growing adoption of smart, connected devices such as smartphones and the spread of wired and is allowing users to connect to their homes with equipment they already have.

But perhaps the most important change is that smart-home services are starting to be offered by companies such as ADT, Comcast and Verizon, which are making the technology more accessible by subsidizing upfront costs with longer-term .

, for example, is offering a promotion on its just-launched smart-home service that includes free installation of a standard set of security sensors. It costs about $40 a month, which is in line with what you'd pay for standard home-security services.

Of course, even if a smart home is becoming more affordable, that doesn't necessarily mean you'd want one. That said, services have some compelling capabilities.

For example, parents can be notified by text message when their kids come home-or when they don't. Or homeowners can view video recordings of everyone who has recently approached their front door. Eco-minded consumers can get smart home features that automatically turn down air conditioners when no one's around, or allow them to closely monitor electricity use in their homes.

But systems are being developed that will allow them to see how much electricity is passing through individual outlets-and get alerts when those outlets carry extraordinary loads.

Explore further: Environmentally compatible organic solar cells

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Smart grid' would save energy, cut costs for US consumers

Jan 05, 2011

Momentum is building for a new energy "smart grid" that would overhaul the U.S.'s 100-year-old electrical power network. The impact would be huge –– from installation of a new web of electrical transmission lines ...

ZigBee would allow remote use of home electronics

Mar 31, 2010

You probably have a mobile phone with a Bluetooth radio in it, and you may have a Wi-Fi network as well. Soon, you could be using a third wireless networking technology in your house.

Recommended for you

Environmentally compatible organic solar cells

6 hours ago

Environmentally compatible production methods for organic solar cells from novel materials are in the focus of "MatHero". The new project coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) aims at making ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

8 hours ago

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

8 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...

Ikea buys wind farm in Illinois

Apr 15, 2014

These days, Ikea is assembling more than just furniture. About 150 miles south of Chicago in Vermilion County, Ill., the home goods giant is building a wind farm large enough to ensure that its stores will never have to buy ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.