You’re leaving work early one afternoon so you go online and adjust the thermostat to preheat your home. After dinner, you load the dishwasher and it decides the best time to run based on the availability of renewable energy and cost. On your way to work the next morning, you forget to lock the house and turn off the lights but you pull out your smartphone and set the house to “away” – problem solved.
After years of hype, home control and automation products are gaining speed, enabling these types of scenarios in what marketers call the smart home. The most dramatic validation of this trend was Google’s $3.2bn acquisition on 13 January of startup Nest, which makes a thermostat and smoke detector that are connected wirelessly to a home network. Given that Google is often a technology trendsetter, the move will likely accelerate the development of smart home technologies.
Retailers, too, are stepping up their home automation efforts. At the annual consumer electronics conference, CES, in January, US-based retailers Lowe’s, Home Depot and Staples each expanded their smart home offerings by forming partnerships with technology providers and ramping up their in-store marketing.
Staples intends to expand the number of stores where consumers can view a display of home automation products designed to work together, including remote-controlled thermostats, door locks, blinds, lights and security cameras. Each connects to a wireless hub in the home, allowing people to use a smart phone app to control each device.