Home automation technology - often just called "smart home" tech - sounds like something you'd see on an old episode of The Jetsons. Computer devices working together to manage everything in your home that most people do manually - whether it's turning on and off lights, raising and lowering the thermostat, locking and unlocking doors, or even preheating the oven for the Thanksgiving turkey, smart home technology is on the rise.
But how do smart homes actually function? It's not magic. It's technology - the kind of technology that will become increasingly in demand when it comes to new and existing homes. Here's what you need to know about this futuristic technology that's going to be everywhere sooner than you think.
Smart home technology is a direct offshoot of internet connectivity. As the high-speed internet and wireless computing advance and increase in adoption, technology manufacturers have begun to integrate Wi-Fi enabled remote controls in nearly everything they can think of. The resulting network of "smart" appliances that can connect to your home wireless network has become known, collectively, as the "Internet of Things," or IoT for short.
It's an odd term - probably why most people are more comfortable using "smart technology" instead of using IoT to refer to these interconnected, Wi-Fi enabled products. However, using the term "Internet of Things" does draw attention to one of the most innovative factors of smart technology - the ability to control these devices remotely over the internet, no matter how far away you may be.
One of the first smart technologies that saw widespread adoption was the use of Internet-accessible cameras integrated into home security systems. Webcams allowed home owners to check in on the state of their house whenever they were away, whether for just the day or for more lengthy absences and get a real-time look at what was going on. This is, of course, a major selling point for anyone investing in a home purchase, and as technology became more advanced and compact, the cost of these services has since become more affordable.
Soon, other web-connected security devices followed. WiFi-enabled electronic deadbolts make it easy to grant people access to your home, like pet-sitting and cleaning services, when needed; lamps plugged into smart outlets enable turning on or off lights to ensure you never come back to a darkened home; and thermostats that can be used to set home temperatures remotely ensure that, after a long day in the elements, you'll be able to relax in a comfortable, climate-controlled home.
It's not just security concerns that smart technology has revolutionized. The Internet of Things has spread to rooms like the kitchen thanks to the advent of connected appliances like refrigerators that can monitor its own internal temperature and convection ovens that offer you a wireless feed of their interiors as your meals cook.
Meanwhile, smart technology has found a solid home in home entertainment in your living room or family room. Web-enabled televisions and Blu-Ray players can stream digital media content directly to the screen while being controlled by a mobile phone or a tablet, and smart devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo can be - quite literally - given verbal instructions to control every aspect of your house's integrated smart device network.
Does all this include a robot maid that will vacuum your floor and cook your dinner? Not quite yet. However, with the rate that smart technology - and connectivity - continues to develop, it's only a matter of time before we're all living like George Jetson.