Field Guide to Smart Homes

(Updated May 2017)

Smart home devices, which allow the remote monitor and control of home features, are a booming industry with major players and mass adopters. Automation technologies have been around for decades (recall The Clapper (link is external)), and consumers can still purchase separate technologies to control thermostats, sprinkler appliances, or door locks.

These days, Smart Home Hub systems are available to manage disparate functions through one centralized interface that can be accessed on a user’s smart phone or tablet. Homeowners and renters alike have taken notice. They want smart home devices for lots of different reasons, but security and energy management are among the most significant. Read on, and learn why some (link is external) say the global home automation market will be worth over $121.73 billion by 2020. (A. Creitz, Information & Web Content Specialist)

Get to Know the Lingo

There are several keywords used for this evolving industry:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Domotics
  • Home automation
  • Smart homes
  • Intelligent homes
  • Automated homes
  • Wired homes

Reasons for the Home Automation Boom, in a Nutshell

“…the [home automation] market, experts agree, is growing, and rapidly. This growth is driven, in part, by the rising tablet market. Smart home DIYers have increasingly found the tablet as an effective remote control to manage all of the systems commonly found in a smart home. Additional drivers include the decreasing costs of smart technologies; increased government regulation regarding energy consumption; increased energy costs; increased consumer awareness of, and concern about, the environment; and consumer security concerns.”

Source: The Smart Home: Intelligent Home Automation (link is external), (Entrepreneurial Insights, Aug. 22, 2014).


The Basics

When It Comes to Smart Homes, the Future Is Already Here: Why Creating a Connected Home Is Easier Than Ever (link is external), (Medium, Apr. 2017).

How IoT & Smart Home Automation Will Change the Way We Live (link is external) (Business Insider, Dec. 2016).

Six Benefits to Home Automation (link is external), (SenSi, July 2015).

2015 State of the Smart Home (link is external), (iControl, 2015).

Home Automation Comes of Age (link is external), (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 17, 2015).

Testing the Benefits of Smart Home Technology (link is external), (Property Management Insider, Jan. 10, 2015)

House of the Future: How Automation Tech Is Transforming the Home (link is external), (Forbes, Oct. 10, 2013).

The Advantages of a Smart House (link is external), (SFGate, n.d.)


How to Get Started

Best Smart Home Devices (link is external), (CNET, May 2017).

Home Automation Buying Guide (link is external), (CNET, Apr. 2017).

Smart Home Guides (link is external), (Amazon, 2017).

How to Automate Your Home with These 8 Devices (link is external), (Inc., 2016).

Quick Guide (link is external) (Choose Simple or Advanced Playbook for information about upgrading to a Smart Home, and get links to related products, companies, apps, reviews, and more.), (SmartHomeDB, 2015).


Benefits: Energy Efficiency & Security

Smart buildings: Energy Efficiency at What Price? (link is external), (Youris.com, Feb. 2017).

Smart Home Technology: 6 Gadgets That Will Increase Home Efficiency (link is external), (RealtyTimes, Sept. 2016).

How Smart Homes Help Energy Efficiency (link is external), (CTA Blog, Dec. 2015).

Smart Homes: Focus on Security and Efficiency, (REALTOR® Mag, July 2015).

Nest Thermostat Pays for Itself in 2 Years, Studies Find (link is external), (Greentech, Feb. 2, 2015).

Smart homes aim for consumers’ wallets as energy costs soar (link is external), (CNBC, Mar. 22, 2014).


Home Automation for Seniors or Disabled

For the Disabled, Smart Homes are Home Sweet Home (link is external), (Fortune, Feb. 1, 2015).

Smart Home Sensors Could Help Aging Population Stay Independent (link is external), (Scientific American, Feb. 1, 2014).

Smart-Home Technologies to Assist Older People to Live Well at Home (link is external), (Journal of Aging Science, 2013).

Consumer Perspective on Home Automation Systems (link is external), (AARP, Dec. 2012).


Security Issues With Home Automation Systems

Amazon’s Camera-equipped Echo Look Raises New Questions About Smart Home Privacy (link is external), (TechCrunch, Apr. 2017).

Consumers Are Wary of Smart Homes That Know Too Much (link is external), (NetworkWorld, Mar. 2017).

Can Your Smart Home be Used Against You in Court? (link is external), (TechCrunch, Mar. 2017).

Study Highlights Security Vulnerabilities in the Smart Home (link is external), (CNET, Apr. 2015).

Keeping “Smart Homes” Safe From Hackers (link is external), (CBS News, Sep. 9, 2014).

The Problem With Home Automation’s Internet of Things (IoT) (link is external), (Forbes, Sep. 26, 2013).

When ‘Smart Homes’ Get Hacked: I Haunted A Complete Stranger’s House Via The Internet (link is external), (Forbes, Jul. 26, 2013).


Market Players

Here’s a sampling of companies that have entered the home automation space:

Apple – HomeKit (link is external) (not yet available)
ARCOS – Smart Home (link is external)
AT&T – Digital Life® (link is external)
Comcast  – XFINITY® Home (link is external)
Google – Nest (link is external)
Microsoft / Insteon® (link is external) (partnership)
Samsung Electronics – SmartThings  (link is external)
Siemens – Synco™ living (link is external)

Remotely (link is external) and IOTAS (link is external) create home automation systems for the rental market, and focus on developers and property management companies, rather than on individual consumers.


Automation Standards & Protocols

IEEE Standards Association (IEEESA) (link is external)
IEEESA is a “consensus building organization that nurtures, develops & advances global technologies” (Source: IEEE.org). IEEESA approves and publishes standards for IoT applications.

ZigBee (link is external)
“ZigBee is the only open, global wireless standard to provide the foundation for the Internet of Things by enabling simple and smart objects to work together, improving comfort and efficiency in everyday life. The ZigBee Alliance is an open, non-profit association of approximately 400 members driving development of innovative, reliable and easy-to-use ZigBee standards” (Source: ZigBee.org).

For a great primer on home automation protocols, see Home Automation Technologies (link is external) from PC World.