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Create a new smart home, rescue home automation systems or get support to ensure smart home systems deliver the best experience.
+44 (0) 20 7193
June 11, 2024

Smart Homes and the Internet of Things (IoT)

As more items inside and outside of the home become able to connect, the Internet of Things and the smart home have become two powerful and intermingled concepts in the world of the web. Here we take a look at what they mean, how they connect (literally and conceptually) and how they can work for you.

What is the Internet of Things?

Once upon a time, when sports people were tough and politicians were honest, the internet only connected computers to each other via. servers. There may have been the occasional printer or photocopier, but generally, it was PCs and work computers with monitors, keyboards, mice and such that surfed the web.

As more and more home and office tools and appliances gain computational and communicative abilities, they are connecting to the internet. From Alexa to your AC to your fridge, this new wave of web-ready devices forms the varied and expanding Internet of Things (IoT), which stands in contrast to the more droll traditional state of affairs. Today, entire kitchens of appliances or offices of utilities can connect to the web.

Not only that; they connect in multi-layered networks that may already help to run your home without your knowledge. Smart blinds and window controls can connect to heating and air conditioning systems to keep your home at the optimal temperature. All your kitchen appliances can form a network to help you cook, while all your Amazon tools can form another one. This allows them to do a wide range of things they could not before, while also posing some new challenges for homeowners and producers alike.

The Internet of Things and the smart home

Smart homes rely on the Internet of Things to function properly and achieve full automation. Almost every automated thing within a smart home will connect to the internet to fulfil its role properly. As such, the majority of smart home systems and items are considered to be part of the Internet of Things. Not everything that forms part of the Internet of Things is part of a smart home or home automation system though. In fact, many IoT items and systems reside in offices, on streets or even under the ground, helping our essential services such as water and electricity flow properly.

The benefits 

  • Data retrieval: The time is not far away when your cooker can communicate with your fridge to check that you have eggs, milk and butter etc. before you start to cook an omelette in the morning. The connected things in our house can already check little things for our convenience and this ability will only grow over the coming years.
  • Updates: One major benefit is the ability to update your devices, just like your own computer. This can help your home deal with new challenges or add new functionalities to its repertoire. I used to have a microwave that could never time one minute or less than around two. I had to put up with that microwave for years, but today it would only take a little update in the morning and the problem would be gone.

The Challenges

  • Obsolescence: Computer processors, internet connections and updates mean added complexity. This can mean that keeping once simple devices running becomes more of a struggle, requiring regular updates, bug fixes and anti-virus downloads. If these stop coming in the form of updates, the ‘things’ in question can simply stop working one day. While old microwaves couldn’t be ‘fixed’ to solve their little production problems. They would generally work for many years until they literally fell apart. Many web-ready appliances from just a few years ago have already become obsolete and either stopped working or contracted many bugs, by contrast.
  • Varying connectivity: We’ve all suffered bad connectivity on our phones, tablets or laptops. We may have to be prepared to do so much more in the future. In theory, anything that is connected to the Internet of Things has the potential to stop working when not connected. Fortunately, most web-ready appliances are designed to work fine without constant connection thanks to backups, and failovers. Let’s not forget that web connectivity is improving all the time, too.

Creating your own network of things on the IoT

A lot of our readers probably already enjoy the benefits of appliances on the Internet of Things, whether they know it or not. If you use an Amazon Echo with Alexa or have an on-demand media service such as Netflix on your TV, you’re already connected to it, albeit still paddling in the shallow end. Things like web-ready fridges and car chargers will really have you living as part of the Internet of Things in years to come. 

Whatever your situation at the moment, carving out your own niche on the IoT is a must-do for anyone looking to enjoy an ultra-modern lifestyle. The first step on the road to doing this is getting your hands on a smart speaker, preferably with Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant compatibility. These are the three market-leading voice assistants with which you can control your own personal little network of things from bargain-basement-level smart homes to the kind of premium automated homesteads we specialise in. They are all widely compatible and user-friendly. If in doubt, go for Alexa or Google Assistant.

Avoiding obsolescence

There are two ways to avoid obsolescence in your web-ready appliances. One is to stick to large, reliable and well-established brands like Amazon, Google, Apple, Sonos or Lutron. However, this narrows down your choices considerably, especially for niche applications.

A more flexible and variable way to keep your ‘things’ on the internet is to hire a professional installer and integrator to look after them for you. This can take a huge weight off your mind as integrators let you enjoy all the advantages of the Internet of Things while they handle and avoid the drawbacks.

If this sounds like a promising option to you, book a chat with us to see how we can help you.

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