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The Smart Living Room

If you're thinking of turning your home into a smart home, the logical place to start is your living room. In fact, you probably already have some smart technology within your current four walls.

Take, for example, that big flat screen TV hanging on your wall. If you purchased it within the past several years, there's a good chance it was advertised as a "smart TV." And anything smart has to be part of the smart home movement, right?

Well, maybe not. The term "smart TV," as it's used today, is nothing more than marketing hype. The "smart" appellation refers to television sets or set-top boxes that offer connectivity to the Internet, typically via Wi-Fi wireless technology, as well as built-in Web 2.0 apps that enable viewing of various streaming video services, such as Netflix and Hulu. In other words, there's nothing inherently smart or IoT-like about today's smart TVs.

Figure 1 One of today's not-so-smart smart TVs, from Samsung. (The next generation will be smarter.)

That said, the next generation of smart TVs promise to be more intelligent. It's likely that you'll see smart TVs that collect data about what you watch and when, what you talk about on Facebook and other social media, and then make recommendations for future viewing. You'll also be able to use your smart TV to control other smart devices in your home.

Beyond your not-quite-so-smart TV, the next process you can automate is your home lighting. Smart lighting systems enable you to control the lights inside and outside your house on either a preprogrammed time cycle, or configured to automatically shut off when a room is unoccupied (and turn back on when someone walks back into the room).These systems, which typically use high-tech LED light bulbs, require that the individual bulbs be plugged into some sort of physical bridge or gateway device. You then connect to the gateway via the system remote control or a smartphone app and send the necessary commands to all connected bulbs. For that matter, you can use the system control the lighting in your house while you’re away, over the Internet. Tap your smartphone, wherever you are, to dim or raise the lights in this room or that.

There are a number of companies that currently offer smart lighting control systems. These include: Belkin (with its WeMo Smart LED Bulbs), Lutron, Philips, and Connected by TCP. While these smart lights and lighting systems are not cheap, they do get you into smart home technology today.

Figure 2 Smart lighting from Philips.

Related to smart lighting are smart window systems. Current technology by Bali, HunterDouglas, Serena, and other companies let you open and close your window coverings with motorized controllers. You control the motors via a programmable timer, the system’s own remote control unit, or a smartphone or computer app. This way you can have your curtains open and close just like you’re home, even if you’re not. Plus, closing or opening all your drapes and blinds for a room or your whole house is as easy as pressing a button on your phone.

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