Smart homes

Smart technology has soared to a whole new level, making life around the home easier – and safer – for the family.



Computers and automation are everywhere we turn, especially the home. Home automation, the centralised electronic control –- and programming -– of functions such heating and cooling, lighting, security, communications and audio, is booming and if current trends are anything to go by, fully automated houses will be the standard sooner than you think.
Smart home systems, based on a network of microprocessor-controlled switches and sensors networked at a central control point, can program and control just about anything that operates on electricity, from a garden irrigation system to a movie projector.
You might, for example, want to program hallway lights to come on at, say, 30 per cent strength during certain hours of the night when family members are likely to be making trips the bathroom. Or you might want turn on the spa or audio system or coffee maker via computer or phone before you leave the office at the end of the day; or maybe even via your mobile phone while driving home. The degree of sophistication is a matter of lifestyle, and budget.
The security benefits of home automation are a big selling point for many people. You can use a home automation system to open and shut powered security gates, switch on lights at a pre-programmed time so it looks like someone is home or to close curtains if you think there is a prowler about. This could be done over the phone, over the Internet or from a touchscreen control inside the home.
Or you might want to explore the growing number of home security solutions available which use sensors and/or video cameras.
A purpose-designed security package can be as comprehensive as you like and might include the ability to receive automatic security alerts over your mobile phone, or the capacity to watch the kids at play in the pool from a television in the kitchen. Of course, for a security system to communicate with and control non-security components such as airconditioning, it needs to be compatible with those components.
Other technologies that function independently of a security system can add extra layers of protection. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, for example, enable home owners to visually inspect their property by tuning the television to a special security channel. You can even link CCTV cameras to a remote monitoring system that feeds the pictures to a secure website.
You might even like to complement your visual surveillance capacities with an intercom system that lets you speak to anyone at your front door.
The key to successful home automation and optimum interactivity is the use of structured wiring and Internet connectivity which enables you to operate a linked home network via keypad, phone, television or computer. While it is possible to retrofit an existing home, it is much cheaper and easier to introduce the required cabling and electrical systems into the home during the building stage. It is also a good idea to engage the services of a custom installer who can give you advice on everything from integrated home telecommunications and networking systems to multi-zone distributed audio systems to integrated security and climate control.
If budget restrictions are an issue, you can plan for the future by creating modular systems that allow you to upgrade and enhance your home electronic system. The best way to accomplish this is to pre-wire the building with cable-based communications systems in wall cavities and ceiling voids. You can then add extra features and functions as your budget permits.



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