By 2019, the number of North American households with smart home systems is predicted to reach 38.2 million, up from just over 10 million in 2014. (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg is even devoting 2016 to creating his own home automation system.)
Home automation essentially helps you control or manage your home via devices or applications. You may be familiar with the phrase “smart home.” Think of home automation as Internet-connected devices that help make your home life more efficient — or smarter.
Try not to let home automation intimidate you, though. Truly, anyone can turn their humble abode into a smart home, one device at a time — and you don’t even have to hire anyone to do it for you.
So whether you’re ready to go all in and automate everything under your roof, or you’re just curious about how you can begin to incorporate some home automation elements, read on to learn a few easy ways to start.
The possibilities really are endless
You’ve probably already heard about tech gadgets that help keep your home secure, control your thermostat, or program your lights.
These are some of the most discussed uses of home automation, but they’re really only the beginning. There are quite a few not-so-common home automation options out there worth a look.
Check on your pet from the office
From Piper to Motorola Pet Scout to Misafes, there are many products focused on keeping your pet safe and happy, while giving you peace of mind.
You can find wireless camera devices that let you see what your pup is up to all day, while also allowing for two-way audio — so not only can you hear if Fido is barking, but you can talk to him, too.
Some devices, like the Belkin NetCam, can even email you after detecting motion in a designated area, so you’ll know every time your pet goes in and out of a typically off-limits room, or you can simply check how often your pup uses the doggy door.
You can try just about any wireless security camera of your choice, or opt for products specifically for monitoring pets.
Clean your home
The iRobot Roomba 980 Vacuum Cleaning Robot will put an end to your vacuum chore days and make cleaning your home smarter than ever. Its internal camera allows this cleaning robot to map out the layout of your home, so it knows where it’s been and where it still needs to go. It’s also wirelessly connected to its own app, so you can schedule it to clean when you’re at the office, running errands, or just out with friends — all with just one tap to the app.
Other automatic cleaning devices include the Samsung POWERbot, the bObsweep bObi, and the Miele Scout.
Gain a personal assistant
Perhaps the most well-known personal assistant on the home automation market is the Amazon Echo. The Echo is activated by your voice, and allows you to listen to your favorite Pandora station or Amazon Prime music on command; get the latest news, weather, or traffic reports; and control other smart home devices.
As an alternative to Echo, keep tabs on ivee, available for pre-order now with estimated shipping in April 2016.
Water your plants
Sure, you can set reminders to water your plants, but you don’t have to with Tableau. With a smart watering system, your plants will be good to go while you’re away.
Tableau tracks how much water your plants get, and can care for up to three plants for up to one full month.
Cook dinner remotely
Have you ever heard of a Wi-Fi slow cooker? Yep, it’s a real thing. The Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker lets you decide when to start cooking dinner, all from a free WeMo app.
And if you get stuck away from home longer than planned, you can adjust the timer to continue warming to avoid an overcooked or cold meal.
Monitor water leaks
Water leaks are common, but home automation can help monitor the situation and prevent the much-feared basement flood.
The Fibaro Flood Sensor can be installed in any hard-to-reach space, and will alert you if it detects movement, water, or a change in temperature. Everspring’s Wireless Flood Detector works similarly, in that it sounds an alarm if it comes in contact with water. And the SmartSense Moisture Sensor alerts your phone via text or push notification if it ever detects a leak.
Home automation for anyone
Whether you’re living in a dorm, just bought your first home, or you’re a senior wanting to try out home automation, there’s a device on the market for you.
While there are home automation devices for every space in and out of your home, don’t let that overwhelm you. Which tasks frustrate you most? What do you want more help with around the house? What “just for fun” activities do you wish you could do from anywhere?
Consider what you care most about and start there. Add a home automation device one at a time, and you’ll be a smart home guru in no time.