Raising A Smart Home

Erm, that’s not what I meant.

Having a smart home is a venture most people get into, thinking it will make their lives easier. I know for myself, that is exactly why I started down this path and why I continue down this path today. A smart home is a journey or an evolution over time; one that must be nurtured, taught and loved. I feel that most people who get into a smart home as a hobby or way of life never actually get to the point where their home is truly smart because they are not prepared for living with a smart home as it is maturing. Today, we are going to talk about what it is like to live with and help mature your smart home, how to deal with the crankiness of your smart home as it grows, and why seeing it through to the end is worth it.

The Inception of a Smart Home

So you have decided that you want a smart home (hopefully if you have a significant other they are on board as well). That is great, but before you go crazy, you need to plan both for the present and future of your smart home. You start by planning:

Then you move on to planning things like:

  • Ecosystems
  • Voice Control and Voice Assistants
  • Automation

Once this plan is done you are ready to start buying products either all in at once or a little bit at a time. In either of these cases, you need to remember your plan. I cannot stress enough just how important it is to have a proper plan in place before you start. Planning is the most commonly skipped step and not having one is the leading cause of growing pains as your smart home begins to mature. Once you have your products installed and you can control them from some smartphone app or maybe even through a Voice Assistant, congratulations: you now have a baby connected home. The keywords in that sentence are “connected home.” I call it a connected home because at this point, that is all it is, because it is brand new and has yet to be taught how to be smart.

There are many differences between a connected home and a smart home. All smart homes are connected homes, but not all connected homes are smart homes. There is also no way of getting to a smart home without starting out with a connected home. Physical product installation aside, this part (teaching your connected home) is where the work really comes in, but you are blinded by your shiny new toy that does what you want when you tell it to. The keywords in that sentence are “when you tell it to,” but also enjoy and celebrate this time before getting into the real work. Understand that this calm before the storm will not last very long.

The Terrible Two’s of Your Smart Home

Truth be told, age 3 is usually worse

The fun and glee of your new connected home is starting to wear off at this point and it is time to start teaching our connected home and transforming it from a connected home into a smart home. This is done through automation and unfortunately, there is no automated way of bringing automation into our lives; automation needs to be meticulously taught. At this stage of development, we will spend countless hours thinking of and implementing automation in our smart homes. Some of these automatons will work, some will not. Some might work sometimes, some will never work. That is all okay. We will continue to work through them and refine them as we work towards the grand vision of the smart home.

What is most important at this stage is to figure out exactly what works and what needs tweaking, either by changing a component or how automation is implemented. We may even need to look at different ways to implement all or some automation. You may need more or different smart gadgets, but this is a process and both you and your smart home are learning that. A great example of this is using a contact sensor on a door to turn a light on and off. It sounds great until that light turns off on you when you are in the room, because you closed the door that you normally do not. So you think some more and eventually you come to the conclusion that you need to all base the “turning off” portion of that automation on a motion sensor, so you add one and build in a delay so that now the lights can not turn off if motion was detected in the last X number of minutes.

Things are getting difficult now because maybe we did not do enough planning ahead of time or we are starting to realize just how much time and money, blood sweat, and tears we are going to have to invest. We need to push through this and only some of us will.

Most will not get past this phase in smart home development because of simple human nature. As humans, we want instant gratification, we want to take the easy road, and no one ever talks about what it actually takes to raise a smart home or how many automations have failed on them just to get one that works exactly as they need it to.

Depending on the size of your smart home (remember we are calling it a smart home, not a smart room so it should encompass your whole home) this stage should last for a while. Think of it as starting with the terrible two’s and going through the rebellious teenage years. There will be successes and failures along the way and they should both be embraced because you can learn from both and eventually when you have automation in place that is useful and have eliminated both the not so useful and just plain not working automation you will realize that your smart home is all grown up.

The Mature Smart Home

If you stuck with your smart home and devoted the time and energy required to teach it and help it grow, this is the time in the life of your smart home when you should be proud. You should have a house that acts for you instead of you acting for the house, you should have lights that turn on and off when you need them too, you have sensors and locks in place that will protect your family which should also include your smart home and you should have a consistently comfortable climate. Most importantly, however, you should no longer need a manual to explain to your significant other or guests how to interact with your smart home. If your house is truly smart, no one should ever have to struggle again to figure out how to turn a light on or off.

You now have something that most people that get into this never have: a truly smart home. I can even say that I will most likely never reach this point because every time I get close, I make a major change either in the ecosystem or implementation that causes me to start over. I am not sure why – maybe I like the pain and suffering… but that is probably a topic for a different blog or maybe a psychiatrist 😊

What is important now is to enjoy this time and to watch it in amazement. You want to remember the time that you put into it and see that it was all worth it. The most important thing that you can do at this point is to praise your smart home, brag about it at every chance you get so that more people get excited enough to put in the same amount of effort as you. Remember back when you had a connected home and could turn your lights on and off with your phone? You probably showed everyone this and thought it was so cool but very few people show off the finished product as much as this and that is a mistake. Because all it does is set up the next generation of smart home enthusiasts to get into it and not be fully committed.

Our smart homes are now adults, our work is done (at least the heavy lifting), our automation work most of the time (nothing will ever work one hundred percent of the time) it’s now time to grow old with our smart homes. All we need to do at this point is maintained. As things start to not work, we need to address them, devices have a life span and will need to be changed, batteries will die, and automation that was once important will become less important as our lives evolve – and our home needs to evolve with it. That minor maintenance aside, we can now truly enjoy our smart homes.

Published by Mike Salerno

I am passionate about the IoT and connected devices. Using connectivity to automate our lives will empower civilization to achieve greatness.

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