Right back as far as 1923, the genius Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965) described a house as “a machine for living in”. Slowly, as the 20th Century progresses, this vision became more of a reality. First came convenient electric power which gradually stripped away the drudgery for household chore; washing machines and dishwashers, vacuum cleaners all began to find their way into our homes as the century progressed. By the 1950s, transistors made electronics more affordable to the mass market and appliances started to a degree to control themselves, via built –in sensors and programming.
Despite these early innovations, it is only now in the 21st Century that Corbusier’s vision truly takes on meaning, as the fully automated “smart home” becomes a reality.
Thanks to the internet it is now not only possible, but relatively easy, to set up almost any domestic electrical appliance to be controlled from anywhere in the world. Add to this the “Internet of Things”, and pretty soon all sorts of web-connected devices and machines will be communicating with each other and using automation to run yet more of our lives and our smart homes.
So what exactly is a Smart Home?
Imagine a central computer installed in your home which is wired up (or connected wirelessly) to various electric and electronic devices or appliances and can switch them on or off depending on pre-defined circumstances; set your heating to come on at certain times in different months, or depending on the ambient temperature; set your lights to come on at home when a sensor detects it is dark. Getting the idea?
Most homes already have what could be defined as “smartness” in existing appliances; most modern washing machines can be pre-programmed and central heating systems are likely to be thermostat controlled or include timers. Maybe you even have an automated robotic vaccum, that constantly crawls around your floors sweeping the dust?
Whilst these things are examples of home automation, they don’t really go far enough to be considered part of a smart home. The Smart Home concept takes things a step further by introducing centralised control, constantly monitoring the multiple appliances in your home and switching appliances on and off according, just as you would do yourself. So if , for example, light levels fall at dusk, it will lower blinds and switch on lights automatically. Or imagine moving between rooms and lights and music coming on as you move around.
Not everyone will be able to afford a Bill Gates style state of the art smart home built from the ground up, but we can all incorporate a bit of the smart home ethos into our homes.