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smart home

What Is a Smart Home?


Jun 05, 2020 by Barbara Zito

A smart home is one that is set up with devices and tech gadgets to automate household tasks, such as turning on/off lights and adjusting the thermostat. This technology can be controlled by voice or by a swipe of a phone or tablet so homeowners can control the automation whether they are in another room or another city.

Some of the smartest of the smart devices use artificial intelligence, where you can "train" them to behave in certain ways at certain times. For example, a smart device with a wake-up alarm that is linked to your digital calendar may adjust itself accordingly so you don't oversleep and miss an early meeting.

Wireless smart devices like Google Home (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Amazon Echo (NASDAQ: AMZN), and Nest devices are relatively inexpensive ways to boost your home's IQ, as it were. Wired systems tend to be expensive, and with technology evolving at such a rapid pace, you could be pouring money into something that will soon be outdated.

According to Consumer Reports, smart technology can boost a home's value by 3 to 5 percent. So when it's time to upgrade appliances and items like refrigerators and doorbells, smart options are worth looking into.

The benefits and drawbacks of having a smart home

Is smart technology the smart move for your home? There are some clear benefits:

  • Convenience. Clicking the button to close the garage door was never too strenuous of a task to begin with, but it's so easy to forget. Smart technology can save you from having to circle back home. In this way, smart home technology is the savior of the forgetful homeowner.
  • Savings. The ability to adjust something like your thermostat from afar can add up to savings on your monthly energy bills. Some smart thermostats can sense when bodies are in the room -- and when they're not -- and warm up/cool down the space accordingly.
  • Security. From door locks to sensor lights to video doorbells that let you see who's there just by looking at your phone, smart home technology can turn a home into a veritable fortress.

While those reasons would certainly encourage any homeowner to get on board with smart technology, there are some drawbacks as well.

  • Offline = no access. Remember in the first Jurassic Park movie when they had to reboot the computer system in order to lock the doors and keep the velociraptors out? Technically, the same thing could happen to your locks at home if the system goes down. While velociraptors are decidedly not a threat, you'll still want to keep manual processes as a backup for when the smart technology fails or is on the fritz or if your smartphone battery dies.
  • Hackers abound. Hardwired smart systems are harder to penetrate, but wireless is fair and easy game for hackers. You've heard the creepy stories about hackers getting into baby monitors. The good news is that as technology improves -- and it does at a rapid rate -- there will be better devices and other ways to mitigate these risks.

The bottom line

Smart home technology is a smart move for any home. Wireless devices are affordable and easy to install, and once you do, you'll likely wonder how you ever did without them.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. bz829 has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Amazon and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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