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What is home automation and what are the advantages?

Home automation is the automatic control of smart domestic devices such as lights, thermostats, appliances, alarm systems, and security cameras. More precisely, it is an ecosystem in which all the elements communicate wirelessly with each other – and with the homeowner. Home automation offers many advantages, including comfort, security, convenience, and energy efficiency. There are many examples of the benefits of home automation, including:

  • unlocking the front door remotely to – for example – let the dog sitter in;
  • controlling the thermostat to turn up the heat or activate the A/C while one is away from home;
  • freedom from worries about whether one forgot to turn off the stove or to lock the door after one has left home for work.

How does home automation work?

When ordinary household objects like a light bulb or a thermostat get connected to the internet, they become part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and can be triggered remotely through a home automation system. This is a network that links together the IoT objects, and enables remote controlling them one by one through a voice assistant or app. For example, a home automation system connected to IoT devices allows turning home heating on and off while one is at the office as well as setting the home's outdoor lighting to turn on before one arrives home from work – all from a smartphone app. Many of these devices are also equipped with sensors that provide information about the surrounding area.

Home automation systems can work in three ways, often simultaneously and enabling:

  • remote monitoring of devices through an app (such as viewing a live feed of one’s household pets in action);
  • automation of devices so that they can communicate with one another, like when a home security camera sees movement and 'tells' an alarm to activate;
  • remote activation of any equipment that moves or shuts on and off.

What are examples of home automation systems?

Automated homes are full of smart devices, including alarms and smoke detectors, lights and plugs, and thermostats for heating and air conditioning. Home offices, kitchens, bathrooms, and gardens can all benefit from the advantages offered by home automation systems. Many appliances – such as washing machines, dishwashers and ovens – come with smart features that allow controlling them remotely. Even smaller appliances like coffee makers, food timers, air purifiers and vacuum cleaners – to name just a few – can be hooked up to home automation systems.

In order to exploit their full potential to make users' lives more comfortable and easier, home automation systems need to communicate with smart gadgets and appliances in a way that is smooth, easy and integrated.

An example of a home automation system is Enel X's Homix, an app that learns users' habits, preferences and routines, enabling it to automatically adapt to their way of living, adjusting lighting, thermostats and home security devices accordingly. Homix acts as a portal to each of a user's smart appliances, allowing customization of settings with just one click.

What are the benefits of smart home automation?

Forgetfulness is the bane of energy conservation. All too frequently people forget to turn off the living room lights before they go to bed and leave the home air conditioner on full blast when they're at work. Forgetting to turn off lights and electric appliances when they're not needed is both wasteful and expensive. This is where the benefits of smart home automation come into play. These systems save energy and reduce energy bills because they cut down on the power used for heating, cooling, lighting and running home appliances.

The advantages of home automation are several and include:

  • Remote access – perhaps the most obvious benefits of home automation are those related to the ability to control smart home features – like lighting, temperature and security systems – remotely, either via smartphone app or via smartphone-delivered voice commands;
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  • Comfort – another key advantage of home automation systems is their ability to ensure a comfortable home environment. For example, home automation systems allow users to set their thermostats and lights on schedules so they switch on and off automatically at certain times of day or night;
  • Energy efficiency – home automation systems cut down on wasteful electricity use, therefore they help reduce a person's carbon footprint (and energy bills), especially when the electricity consumed is generated from renewables like wind, solar and geothermal;
  • Convenience – not only do home automation systems allow controlling pretty much all Internet-connected devices from one's smartphone; they also allow for certain systems to work together – automatically. For example, some smart home systems facilitate domestic chores, like food shopping, thanks to ‘smart’ refrigerators that can send reminders when certain foods are in low supply or missing;
  • Safety – another obvious advantage of home automation is security systems. Internet-connected security means, for example, that people can get live feeds of their homes when they're away to check everything is ok and that home security cameras can sound an alarm when they detect unauthorized entry;
  • Flexibility – a key benefit of home automation systems is their tendency to be extremely flexible in 'welcoming' new members to the network, something important to consider when one needs to replace an old appliance whose useful life is over;
  • Insights – by having access to data in real time, home automation systems can also process all this information and turn it into useful insights about how one manages home electric appliances, helping monitor energy consumption over time and offering tips that can help save energy (and money).

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