Wired for the Future
Breakthrough technology brings smart automation home
Homes are getting smarter, and the benefits are more widespread than you might realize. Architects, contractors and homeowners are transforming into operatives for environmental change as communities focus on cultivating renewable energy sources and money-saving, energy-efficient design. These same technologies that are chipping away at fossil fuel dependency and lowering monthly bills also prove to be more pleasant home additions than their predecessors — don’t worry, the days of clap-on are safely behind us.
Today, smart speakers dominate the home technology scene with millions of people managing their living space with a simple “Hey, Alexa…” As the first-on-the-scene artificial intelligence product by Amazon continues to increase market share, the newer technology reflects Alexa’s gains in “skills” (software upgrades to enable the assistants to do more) and can now integrate with more devices throughout the home.
Prior to modern innovation, homeowners looking to better manage their electric bills were reminded to turn off lights when not in the room, turn down the thermostat when the house goes to bed and lower the blinds to minimize heat from the sun. The problem, in the real day-to-day, was remembering to do all of that while managing children, careers, pets and the assorted parade of everyday life — and to remember it frequently enough to have an impact. In one broad sweep, automation is taking away that stress.
Gerald Mire, a designer with luxury homebuilder Hyman L. Bartolo Jr. Contractors, Inc., noted that Delta faucets have innovated a water-saving technique that injects air, plumping up the water molecules so there is a feeling of more with less.
Mire designs kitchens with built-in coffee makers that connect to phones and to the smart home’s central brain. “You can make coffee from bed, freshly ground,” said Mire.
Jamie Gannon, owner of Dynamic Audio Video, employs a fully automated home system. “I can say, ‘Alexa, turn on away mode,’ and with one voice command, the shades are lowered, lights turned off, thermostat adjusted and the alarm system is on.”
Google Assistant, the mainstream alternative to Amazon’s heavy-hitter, asks that you say, “Hey, Google,” instead. Continued development in artificial intelligence enables full-home integration, although statistically most people only use their digital assistants to play music and check the weather.
Still, Gannon encourages people building new construction or undergoing significant renovation to wire for the future, even if they don’t currently use smart home technology. “Home automation keeps getting better and better,” he said. “Now it is more voice controlled.” For people like his dad, a hybrid system allows for record players and automated thermostats.
The best part, said Gannon, is that most of the new advancements are software, so the hardware — black boxes, as they are called behind the scenes — are not going to be out of date when the next version comes out.
Strides in Home Security
Security systems now have what is called “analytics” to go with 4K cameras that supply clear footage. “Cameras are getting smarter and smarter…they are able to distinguish between person, object and animal,” said Gannon. When a person comes to the door at Dynamic Audio and Video, Gannon has pre-selected a square that, when alerted that a person (not an object or breeze) is in the area, he will immediately be alerted via text with a photo.
“Its pretty significant, being productive with security,” said Gannon. “If it was a residence, you could draw a box around your car and get a text message that someone is on your property before any damage occurs.”
Move aside, Alexa — Ella is here. A long-standing complaint with surveillance video is the tedious playback, but that is not the case with Ella, an AI-powered search engine that allows users to search video footage the same way as they would perform any other Internet search. “Just as easy as you could search on Google,” explained Gannon. “You type in ‘UPS delivery on Tuesday’ and the system combines guess computation with data analysis to pull up any thing that matches in the surveillance footage.” Another plus is that Ella can be added to an existing surveillance camera.
Don’t worry — if you get an alert that your morning coffee, automated from your bed thanks to the smart kitchen design of Gerald Mire, reports an error, you don’t have to solve the problem alone.
“A lot of appliances are hooking up so that if you have a technical problem, the company can diagnose the issue over the phone, identify the problem and make sure they have the part,” Mire said.
With all these features combined, saving energy and reducing costs no longer have to serve as extra sources of stress, to be performed when they fit into your busy schedule. Instead, they can be accomplished with the click of a button, and your home — and the environment — can only serve to benefit.