Smart Homes – What and Why?

Imagine yourself driving home after a tough day at work. The temperatures outside range from 29C to 33C, a typical Lankan tropical temperature. Even at 5.30PM, it can be quite sweltering. You’d wish for nothing more than resting on the couch, preferably watching something on TV with a nice hot cup of tea.

In reality, what happens is quite different. With our traffic situation, it’ll take a good two hours to get home. You get home at around 7.30, whip up some quick meal, and while it gets cooked, you take a quick bath. Alas, the hot water wasn’t turned on and you’ve to wait longer for it to heat up. While waiting for it to heat up, you have to wait until the Air Conditioning fully cools down the room so you can finally get rid of that all day sweat that’s been clinging to your back. And then while you’re doing all that, you forgot about your best friend! Time to get up and make more food for him.

Sounds familiar? Well, this can all be changed easily.

Picture this now: On the way home, you bring up your Smart Home app, and with a quick fingerprint recognition, it logs you in. You turn on the Air Conditioning while you’re still on the way home, while turning on your smart rice cooker and letting the rice cook for a good 40 minutes before you get home.

Once you get home, the roller gates detect your smartphone getting closer and automatically open themselves for you. Once you get your daily groceries out of the car, you need not fumble for your key, since your door recognizes you and opens itself for you. As you walk in, your speakers play your favorite wind-down playlist, and you make a direct beeline for the bathroom. Already heated water flows out of the shower, and you walk to the kitchen to make some dishes to go with your rice. Whilst all this happens, your automatic dog feeder has fed your best friend.

Home Automation is no longer a thing of the future. It’s already a regular gimmick today. It isn’t in its early stages, nor is it in the final stages of a trending life cycle. A lot of people prefer automating their household processes, which in turn has led to a million dollar industry. We’ve got the big boys in Silicon Valley funding a ton of smart home projects. Google does Nest, Amazon does Echo, Samsung does Samsung Smart Things and we also see a few old timers catching up, such as Phillips doing smart lighting.

Google Home vs Amazon Alexa

Now this all seems fine and dandy right? Well, it’s controversial. Recently, Amazon was called out on using Consumer voice recordings to benefit their advertising, and similarly, Google has had issues like this. Privacy and Data Mining matters. To combat these, Amazon and Google has done modifications to their Home Assistants like add hardware camera and microphone covers to give consumers peace of mind, but really, can multi-billion dollar companies be trusted with our data?

Howsoever, we should persist with Home Automation. Just the other day, a generic CCTV system of a friend of mine had caught a cat sneaking into their house. Just like that, we’ve increased security and efficiency of our house. Even watering the plants can be done from your bed. Roombas can clean the floors of your house. Daily house maintenance needn’t be done by us any more. This clearly is the future, and arguably, we’re all there.

Roomba with its Charging Dock

Unfortunately, in Lanka, with our depreciating currency , we should hold off automating our house. Just a simple google search shows how expensive it could be for us. A Smart Wall Switch provided by Dialog is nearly 7K, and another website doesn’t even show prices for individual products, just “Contact us for an estimate”. Even so, this does not come without a commitment. Usually services like these has subscriptions to their respective providers. Usually in the 10-20$ per month range, these are quite expensive when it comes to fitting it in a house here.

Smart Home management is now becoming regular thing in homes of most Western Countries, and are also now in developed Asian countries, such as Singapore. While it’s quite costly here, pretty soon we too will adopt to this newfangled way of living, which’ll be a standard for every new house soon. The next stage has begun, which started from physical to electric to automatic to smart to artificial intelligence. 

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