The current Internet, as we know it, connects people to other people, using websites and emails and social media. The coming Internet of Things (IoT) connects things to other things -- sensors and devices to one another, exchanging and acting of reams of data collected by all those devices.
The home front in the IoT revolution is literally your home. Smart homes promise to automate away much of your daily drudgery, resulting in increased energy savings, improved security, and less time spent on menial tasks. If it all works as planned, you'll see more, more automatic, and more intelligent services provided by the interconnected smart devices in your home -- with less human interaction on your part.
What Exactly Is a Smart Home?
The IoT-connected home is being dubbed a smart home, although experienced techie might know it from its older moniker of home automation. Home automation has been around for a few decades now, in terms of automating lighting, heating and cooling, and the like, typically in high-end full-house systems created by suppliers such as Crestron and Control4, but also in lower-priced DIY systems, such as the X10.
The concept of home automation is a simple one. You take a given task or operation, typically performed when you manually turn on a device, and somehow make that device turn on and work automatically, without your manual intervention. Simple home automation uses timers and clocks, and sometimes smartphones and tablets, to enable the operations. More advanced smart home technology can handle more sophistication operating scenarios and trigger devices based on input from other devices.
What kinds of smart things can you find in a smart home? Just about anything that plugs into an electrical outlet is game, which means centralized control of lighting, heating and air conditioning, appliances, door locks, motorized blinds and curtains, home security systems, and the like.
Why is everyone interested in the smart home? For consumers, the primary benefit of smart home technology is that of convenience; by automating basic operations, you don't have to be bothered with them. There are other benefits, of course: faster response to changes in the environment or breaches in security, more efficient operation leading to energy savings, and the like.
For those of us with a technical bent, there's another reason to automate the operation of your home -- it's really, really cool to control things from your smartphone or have them turn on and off automatically based on various inputs. It's kind of like having the Clapper, but on a more advanced level.