What is a Smart Home and What Defines it?

ou’ll know that it has become increasingly common to read and hear about Smart Homes and smart technology. More and more people are investing in Smart Home devices and appliances; however it seems that we are only at the beginning of a trend whose potential is yet to be fully realized. Ever since the first Internet of Things (IoT) advances, to today’s home automation technology (also referred to as domotics), new features have been developed to provide a more connected, convenient and comfortable home.


A couple of decades ago nobody thought it would be possible to control a television via voice, at least not in real life. In the past few years, though, voice command has become a key feature in most devices.  How many people do you know that have a smart speaker? According to a survey conducted by National Public Media, in 2020 at least 24% of adults in the US reported owning a smart speaker. Then, in 2021, around 43% of US households reported having at least one Smart Home device, and it is expected that these percentages will continue to skyrocket until 2025, according to Statistica.


It’s safe to assume that Smart Home technology is here to stay; but how does a home become a Smart Home and what benefits does it have?


What makes a Smart Home smart?


A Smart Home is characterized by the use of Internet-connected appliances and devices that allow us to control them remotely as well as monitor them. Smart technology can be present in varying degrees, from simple smart lighting fixtures paired with a smart speaker, to a fully connected home with multiple smart appliances. Most of these appliances can be controlled remotely through a smartphone; for example, to adjust the intensity of light, the color of a LED bulb or monitoring when it is turned on or off. When used with a smart speaker, it is also possible to control these settings using voice commands.


A step further in Smart Home technology leads us to Home Automation or domotics, which consists of setting up your Smart Home tech to automatically function to suit your lifestyle. You may set up your smart light bulbs to have a determined schedule, to turn on automatically when you enter your home, or even to turn off when there’s no one in the room. The key point is that once the desired functions are set up, the technology handles itself, and you can focus on more important tasks.



Benefits of a Smart Home


- Convenience and comfort. One of the key benefits of a home with smart appliances is that they make our lives simpler and more convenient. Either through the tap of a button, swipe of a screen or voice command, you can simplify the management of everyday small tasks. You can automate lighting, window blinds, music devices and more to adjust to your preferred settings on arriving home and, you won’t unnecessarily worry about having left them on when you leave for work. Some smart kitchen appliances prepare or heat your food at a scheduled time so you don’t have to cook at the end of a hard workday. Learn more about how your home appliance experience can be improved with smart systems and IoT technology.[BJT1] 


- Security and safety. You probably know already about Smart Home security systems that use cameras and sensors to detect human presence when you are away on vacation, and automatically contact local law enforcement organizations. But other Smart Home safety systems can protect you from or prevent other types of risks, such as smoke and flood detectors, or even malfunction sensors that notify you of any abnormal change in your appliance’s activity.


- More accessible technology. One of the greatest issues we have to tackle, as a fast developing society, is the growing technological gap between generations. As digitalization is more present in our daily lives, it becomes more and more difficult for some generations to keep up with quickly evolving tech trends. Smart appliances can help bridge this gap by implementing more intuitive interfaces that are accessible to everyone. Not only our elderly, but also people with limited mobility in general can greatly benefit with Smart Home features, especially those that offer a screen-free and hands-free experience, such as voice command.


- Efficiency and savings. Energy efficiency is a huge feature of modern appliances, in many cases smart appliances are more efficient than their regular counterparts; according to TiO Home, smart cooling and heating systems can save a household 50% in energy. Usually, smart appliances can be paired with smartphone apps that allow you to monitor their use. By being able to track and monitor how energy is used in your home you will be able to improve how you use everyday objects around you, improve energy efficiency and thus enjoy savings on your bills. What’s more, by automating certain tasks around the home (lights and plugs, for example) not only will you benefit from savings, but also enjoy that sense of convenience and comfort mentioned above.



Smart Appliances for Energy Efficiency


When shopping for new smart technology, apart from looking for their Energy label, it’s good practice to keep in mind how they can be used to help lower energy consumption. How do different smart appliances improve energy efficiency? Let’s take a look at some technology that you can implement easily into your home and save energy.


- Smart speaker/virtual assistant. A smart speaker is one of the most popular choices for first-time smart device buyers. The reason is that a smart speaker will allow you to use voice commands with your devices, even if they do not come with a built-in voice command feature. Of course, compatibility will be the greatest element to take into account when shopping for a smart speaker, as it will become the hub for your smart appliances network. A good smart speaker should have transparent security and privacy policies, and offer compatibility with a wide range of technology and brands. With the help of your virtual assistant, you’ll be able to connect and set up smart appliances for optimal efficiency.


- Lighting. When it comes to Smart Home technology, lighting is one of the first components that comes to mind. But why lighting? It is one of the easiest installations you can make, and it won’t cost you much to ease your transition into a Smart Home. All Smart bulbs are LED, in comparison to incandescent light bulbs, LEDs have a longer life span, are more energy-efficient, and, depending on the smart light bulb, can offer light dimming features, which will also reduce consumption. An added benefit is quick ambience customization for every moment: working and studying, relaxing, watching TV…


- Smart plugs. Use smart plug adapters to improve your control over “regular” appliances and make them smarter. With smart plugs you can turn regular appliances on and off without physically touching their switch. Plus, if used correctly, smart plugs can make an old appliance more efficient as well: using smart plugs can save up to 4.5% of energy yearly. The features of smart plugs are limited, but they can be a great previous step to try, before you invest in a large Smart Home appliance.




- Kitchen appliances. Take refrigerators, the latest Smart Home technology for refrigerators showcases some features that seem to have come out of science-fiction. Smart refrigerators automatically adjust their compartments’ temperature according to external factors, achieving greater efficiency levels. It’s these small details that we may not have considered previously that make smart tech and home automation worthwhile. Going further, Wi-Fi connected fridges can even help you keep up with expiry dates of the products stored inside, thus reducing waste, and manage shopping lists to make your meal preparation easier.


- Air conditioners. Efficiency tends to be a huge factor when air-conditioner shopping. A high-performance smart air-conditioner system will not only reduce unnecessary consumption, but it will also help you manage indoor temperature and adjust to your comfort and needs. This moves us on to our next point, Hitachi Residential Air Conditioners and airCloud Go.


Manage your Smart Home with Hitachi airCloud Go


It’s now possible to integrate your Hitachi Residential Air Conditioner into your Smart Home using airCloud Go, an easy to use and intuitive app that gives the user impressive control capabilities of their AC. With the tap of a screen or by using voice command, airCloud Go lets you select between different operation modes, temperature and fan speed to set your ideal indoor ambience. Then, in order to adapt to your lifestyle (and help reduce energy consumption), schedule timers, remotely turn the unit on or off or, and better still, use the Smart Fence function which, once enabled, detects when you’re leaving or arriving home and adjusts your AC’s operation automatically.


It’s these little things that not only improve the experience of a product or appliance but also help us find ways to operate them more effectively.



The Future of Smart Homes


As technology keeps advancing, new features keep arising. The adoption of home automated systems will continue to rise as will artificial intelligence and machine learning. At the moment, we are accustomed to programming and organizing many of our smart devices to interact with each other via timed requests and sensors, but in the future a smarter Smart Home will learn how to improve our experience to minimize daily chores, such as setting the alarm clock earlier for an important event.


We can expect machine learning to become an important feature in the following generations of appliances; what’s more, it already is starting to slowly integrate into new appliances, such as washing machines that automatically detect how dirty the laundry is, to efficiently choose the most appropriate cycle.


There is also the expansion into different technologies. These improvements can also vary on cultural terms; for example, in Japan, it is quite common to have smart bathtubs. The Japanese have the custom of relaxing by soaking in a hot bath at the end of the day, smart bathtubs can be programmed to heat up the water at the desired time and temperature, and also to keep the water warm for as long as needed.


This proves that technology and culture can not only coexist, but also merge and thrive together, all the while improving our lifestyle and comfort, and helping us improve efficiency in the day to day.


Click here, to learn more about airCloud Go, what it offers and its compatibility with Hitachi Residential Air Conditioners. 

by Hitachi Cooling & Heating