With Modern Wireless Technologies, You Can Benefit from the Latest Innovations
Much of what we call home automation today began in the 1990s. Before the age of the internet and software-driven devices, there were systems to control and program home technology such as lighting and AV systems. In those days, the technology required quite a bit of wiring.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and the internet protocols we depend on every day, as well as a variety of optimized wireless technologies - RF (radio frequency, Bluetooth, Zigbee, etc.) - are powering new communication and control capabilities in a slew of smart home devices. Add to the sauce the intelligence from inexpensive processing power and software that makes the control systems of 20 years ago blush, and you have sophisticated home automation possibilities available today that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and custom programming.
What does this all mean? To answer the premise of the blog, yes, you can. You can add smart home features to your property without taking it down to the studs and adding low voltage wiring everywhere. We're not saying you don't need any cables or wires - there are tradeoffs to fully wireless approaches - but there's much you can do with today's wirelessly connected devices and systems.
So if you want to retrofit smart home features to your home in the San Francisco Bay area, we all know that property here is expensive and budgets are not necessarily unlimited for full-scale remodeling. The good news is that you can get sophisticated smart home technology that doesn’t require you to embark on a major rebuilding project.
Read on for some examples of what’s possible. It may be more than you think.
Is There a Difference, and Why Should You Care?
To cut to the chase on our premise, yes, there is a difference, and you should care. Even though the economy here in the San Francisco Bay Area is largely based in technology companies and residents are more than familiar with these terms, it’s still useful to start with some definitions.
Much is written about IoT, which is an acronym for the Internet of Things. The “things” refer to smart devices that have internet connectivity and enough intelligence within them - chips and software - to do “smart things.” Think of your smartphone as one of those smart things, and for that matter, your tablet or laptop. We all know what they do for us every day.
The other side of IoT is how the intelligence being built into devices is changing industries and the way we live. IoT is an all-encompassing term about how smart devices can communicate with each other and take advantage of information over the internet to do things like never before. For example, IoT will make a significant impact on healthcare. Devices that monitor physical data like blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar will be able to use that data and the power of cloud computing to warn of a stroke in a diabetes patient - before it happens. Another example is the self-driving automobile. The automobile was once not a particularly smart device needing a human driver. With the power of advanced computing, sensors, sophisticated software, and internet connectivity, cars can drive themselves and navigate to a destination without your input. We may not be to that level yet - but we’ve seen that future and know it’s coming.
So where does home automation fit into this equation? Home automation is but one part of IoT. Smart devices like Nest thermostats, smart lights, video doorbells, and Samsung's smart refrigerators are all part of the Internet of Things. Why? Because they can all share information and offer control of their operation over the internet to other applications. And as IoT devices, that means you can do smart things with them, like adjust your thermostat and lights when you leave the house, automatically. More than that, as part of IoT, these devices can do even smarter things. In some cities, intelligent thermostats can participate in demand-response programs to help curb peak electricity loads and keep the energy grid stable. This is another example of what IoT can do in the future, beyond simple remote control and automation.
Getting closer to home, let's take a more in-depth look at how true home automation is more than a collection of smart IoT devices, and why that's important.
What You Need to Consider
Here in the Bay Area, a hub of technology development, we have no shortage of tech-savvy people. Most are quite familiar with home automation technology or already use some form of it; indeed, a lot of it is developed right here. Given our high level of tech awareness, it should surprise no one that smart home technology would be high on the list of features when people are looking to either remodel a home or build a new one.
We also know that there is an ever-growing array of smart consumer devices available for intelligent home control and management. Smart cameras, lights, thermostats, speakers, refrigerators, and more are readily available at local electronics retailers and online. Some of these are designed to work well together, while some will only work within a given ecosystem. Choosing a home automation system might be an exercise in frustration depending upon what you want to do, involving choices in wireless technologies that may or may not work well in a given environment as well as different control mechanisms.
The best home automation installations are a seamless experience. In the tech world, “seamless experience” is a buzzword often bandied about but a goal that's rarely achieved. From our perspective, it means that disparate functions in your home can be made to work as a well-orchestrated whole that fits your lifestyle. To accomplish that seamless experience, the right planning in a new home build or remodel will go a long way to set it up for today's smart home technology as well as tomorrow's. Keep reading to learn more.
With Voice Control Now Practically Mainstream, How Do They Compare?
The History of Voice Control
They say that life imitates art. In the 1960s, shows like Star Trek envisioned an era of smarter computers, intergalactic space travel, and the personal communicator - like our smartphones. That decade also saw the debut of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction classic “2001: A Space Odyssey," featuring HAL, the talking computer. Fast forwarding half a century later, we now see that HAL predicted the future of today's voice assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google. Did you know that the name HAL was a play on the initials IBM, the predominant computing company of that era? Did you know that IBM also pioneered the first speech recognition machine in 1962? Perhaps that’s why Arthur C. Clarke named it HAL. While HAL turned out to be a bit of a control freak, fortunately, today's voice assistants are here to do our bidding.
In the past four years since the introduction of the Amazon Echo smart speaker and Alexa, voice control technology and adoption has raced ahead at an astounding pace. The integration of your life in digital form onto computers, smartphones, and the cloud has allowed these voice assistants to become digital butlers. Through voice commands, you can ask about your package deliveries, an update on your schedule for the day, basic math questions, if a flight is on time, call an Uber - and much more.
Since Twilight Solutions is a smart home integration company in the heart of Silicon Valley, naturally, we have an interest in voice control for smart home automation. A host of intelligent devices have been introduced or integrated for smart home control with the leading voice assistant ecosystems from Amazon, Google, and Apple. There is also one more that was recently introduced - Josh.AI - that is specifically designed for smart home control. What are the differences? Read on to learn more.