Smart Homes: Costs, Advantages and Disadvantages

The smart or automated home applies new technology to control and automate heating, ventilation, air conditioning and security, but can involve appliances as well such as refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and many other items.

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All these home items when they can be monitored remotely and also controlled, often via the Internet, can be an important part of what is called the Internet of Things. Every device involved is connected to a central hub often called a "gateway". The system is controlled through a user accessed wall-mounted terminal, mobile phone software, or a web interface of some kind.
One problem with smart home systems is that there has not developed as yet many global industry standards:While there are many competing vendors, there are very few worldwide accepted industry standards and the smart home space is heavily fragmented. Popular communications protocol for products include X10, Ethernet, RS-485, 6LoWPAN, Bluetooth LE (BLE), ZigBee and Z-Wave, or other proprietary protocols all of which are incompatible with each other. Manufacturers often prevent independent implementations by withholding documentation and by litigation.
This lack of standardization and use of proprietary technology can cause problems for those automating their homes. A customer could invest in an entire system of a company that fails. Consider what happened with the Revolv Hub automation system. Google bought the company that was selling the system and integrated it with its own Nest system. In 2016 it shut down the servers that Revolv Hub had depended upon making the system useless. Another disadvantage of a smart system is that it can be vulnerable to hacking. Microsoft research found in a 2011 study that there was often inflexibility of interconnected devices, and sometimes high cost of ownership. Often the consumer will rely upon one vendor for an entire smart system with mostly proprietary hardware although there is now some open source software that can be used with the proprietary hardware.
One advantage of having a smart home is the convenience it can add to your daily life. You can program your lighting, security, ventilation, heating and other features to meet your daily needs. You can also control many features in your home remotely. You can always customize what you decide to make a part of your smart home. You can decide what is most important for you and and then add products as you wish. Some people may decide that what they need most is an automated home security system for example or they want a smart thermostat so that temperature can be controlled when residents are not home. Most systems are not that difficult or expensive to install. Smart devices can often save you money and also help show where you can save money by keeping track of energy use and expenditures.
Often your smart devices depend upon having an Internet connection. If the Internet connection fails then the smart aspect of the system wont work. Sometimes too, communication by wireless signals, which is certainly the most economical way of connecting items, can be subject to different signals possibly interfering with one another causing them not to perform properly.
A recent HomeAdvisor article puts the average cost spent on home automation at $1,331 but also shows a graph which starts with an expenditure as low as $75 going up to $5,000 but you could spend much more than that. Obviously, what you spend will depend upon your budget and what you decide needs to be automated. If you can afford smart devices, you will enjoy added security. Another recent article suggests that one might start out with a digital security system including smart locks and alarms. Smart thermostats are also a good entry point since they should provide a good return on investment. Sometimes you can find yourself bargains as the appended video shows.

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