5 Key Elements of Smart Home Functionality

5 Key Elements of Smart Home Functionality

By Byron Loker
As technology becomes smarter, the natural evolution is to connect devices in our homes to help us lead more comfortable, secure, and efficient lives. A smarter home is also more ecologically friendly and kinder on the environment.

The range of products already on the market is seemingly endless, and the choice to go smart is perhaps intimidating and overwhelming. To simplify the process, we've summarized the five basic elements that the smart home seamlessly integrates—along with some tips to guide you toward your own choices.

1. Mood 

A relatively new component of creating the ideal set of conditions around the house—from lighting, to temperature, to access—is IFTTT (If This Then That). For the past six years, the startup has acted like a switchboard for Internet services, letting them work together. Linden Tibbets, IFTTT’s founder and CEO, has described the service as "digital duct tape" for tying services together. For example, BMW Lab's Warm Welcome Home applet connects to Philips Hue lighting systems within your smart home, opening the garage door as soon as the car pulls into the driveway and turning on the house lights. Via IFTTT, users have also connected their lights to other applets such one inspired by Prince, which changes the color of Philips Hue lights to purple when it’s raining. 

IFTTT—described as smart home "digital duct tape"—connects BMW Lab's Warm Welcome Home applet to your home systems, opening the garage door as soon as the car pulls into the driveway, turning the house lights on, and setting the Nest Learning Thermostat to 72 degrees.  

2. Energy Efficiency

Smart home installations can lower your energy bills as well as make your home more comfortable. The average household can cut a third of its energy bill by switching to energy-efficient appliances, equipment, and lighting, beginning with thermostat control products. The Nest Learning Thermostat, for instance, is able to monitor whether you’re home or away, and adjust temperatures accordingly. It can also control other smart home devices. With other home automation technology, such as INSTEON, you can lower the thermostat setting and also turn off all the lights and appliances in your home by hitting a pre-programmed button on your way out. 

With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature to different levels at predetermined times throughout the week. For example, during the winter, you can set the inside temperature to a lower level when you are at work and the house is unoccupied. This can save you nearly $150 on your yearly utility bills—depending on climate, home insulation, and other factors.  

 3. Entertainment

With a plethora of home theater components and brands on the market, it has become increasingly difficult to place the products out of sight, yet within reach. An infrared repeater kit solves the problem and has become a smart home essential, allowing you to use an existing IR remote control to operate multiple audio-visual components located behind closed doors or walls in an entertainment cabinet or equipment closet.

An infrared repeater kit allows you to control concealed electronic equipment from up to 40 feet away, as long as it's controlled by an infrared signal. The result is the freedom to have an installation that offers a clean, modern look by keeping all the audio-visual eyesores out of sight.

4. Convergence

Controlling a number of separate devices and services can prove a headache. A solution such as Control4 offers a variety of interfaces to control your smart home, each one custom-designed for simple and easy access to the features of various appliances. You could use an infrared remote control for your home theatre, a touchscreen to browse your movies and music, a keypad that replaces light switches, or your Apple Watch or tablet while you're away from your home to control home systems.

Control4 sends push notifications to your mobile device or smart watch to alert you to issues, or simply keep you updated about what's going on at home.

5. Security

If you want to take a more DIY approach to smart home security, there are a number of smart lock solutions to explore. The August Smart Lock allows you to control whether your home is locked or unlocked, which is ideal for scheduling access for babysitters and dog walkers. Pair the lock with a doorbell cam, and you'll be alerted every time the bell is rung so you can see and speak with visitors from your smartphone. This is a good example of a company that has focused on doing just one or two things extremely well rather than trying to be everything. Yale, Kwikset, and Schlage also offer models that work with a variety of smart home systems.

Eliminate the need to hide keys under the welcome mat with a smart lock.


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