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Putting Smarts into Smart Homes


Smart homes may soon go mainstream. Thanks to companies like Apple and Samsung, home builders are ready to make smart home technologies a built-in feature instead of an aftermarket add-on.

For the past several years, the tech industry talked up smart homes, but the first generation of Internet of Things connected homes was little more than a mismatched collection of accessories – things like light controllers, thermostats, garage door openers and security systems. Each accessory required consumers to download a separate app to control it and the systems ran on a welter of incompatible and often insecure protocols.

Now, tech companies are developing secure, integrated platforms to deliver on the promise of seamless home automation. They’re putting it all together and making it easier for home builders and the consumers who want to live a more connected lifestyle.

For example, Apple’s HomeKit and Samsung’s SmartThings systems, such as plug-in outlets and sensors, enable all manner of connected devices. They each use a single smart phone app, a common protocol and a secure link to connect devices, controllers and hubs to the home’s Wi-Fi network and broadband service. Amazon’s popular voice-controlled speaker, the Echo, is compatible with HomeKit, SmartThings and other device apps which have allowed the e-commerce giant to make the device a voice-activated user interface for the connected home.

Apple announced in June that the three of the top US home builders—Brookfield Residential, KB Home, and Lennar—have agreed to support HomeKit in their new properties.

These builders will likely find a ready market. Home improvement cable channel HGTV and ERA Real Estate found that nearly half (46 percent) of consumers want their current home or the next home they purchase to be equipped with smart home technologies.

About half (51 percent) of homeowners would consider investing in smart home accessories to increase their home’s resale value. Millennials were more likely than Generation Xers to spring for smart home improvements, the study found. 

The most sought after upgrade is a programmable thermostat, like Google’s Nest, which suggests that energy efficiency is a prime motivation and benefit of smart home automation.