By Brooke C. Stoddard

Tedmag.com is writing four stories on Smart Home technology. This introduction story examines some of the possibilities to tailor your home to your specific needs with Smart Home technology.

Home automation is said to be a $14 billion a year industry.1 It comprises several technologies and competencies, among them: home security, video and audio entertainment, energy savings, electronic convenience, and communication.

Smart Home Technology, or Smart Homes for short, involves both planned and existing homes. It is increasingly useful and convenient, particularly in vacation homes or when persons are away from their principal residences. Potential user groups can be new parents, pet owners, the security-minded, energy-savers, the elderly, tech-interested persons, vacation home owners, and persons who like entertainment devices or gadgetry.

Smart Home technology components can be designed and installed independently. A home security system can be sold and installed on its own, as can a home entertainment system, energy-saving system, or communication system, or all these segments can be woven together and commonly controlled. The equipment and the skills needed to make a smoothly functioning system are various.

Each component, of course, could have its own potential customers. Persons living in questionable neighborhoods and the elderly would be interested in home security, including fire and smoke alarms, panic buttons, dialers to police or fire stations, and perhaps mounted cameras. Vacation home owners would be interested in cameras sending video to the principal residence or mobile devices, and ways of controlling thermostats remotely as well as intrusion-, water- and smoke-detectors. Young parents may want baby room monitors. Entertainment enthusiasts might want theater rooms, sound piped around the home, and television-Internet connections. Pet owners might want food or water put out at given times, or pet doors unlocked and locked. And the environmentalists would want thermostat and water heater controls as well as perhaps a means of drawing and opening drapery. All of these can be effected with either wired or wireless systems.

New developments come to market regularly. Smart Home technology now has the means of anticipating a homeowner's needs or habits – that is, monitors need not be programed for set times or wait for direct control but can operate by anticipation. Examples are a system turning up a thermostat to a certain temperature 15 minutes before a person normally arrives home from an evening commute, setting water heater temperature to a desired setting before a homeowner's morning shower time, turning on lights in different rooms anticipating usage, turning on an owner's preferred television news program at the appropriate time and on the preferred monitor, and turning off an oven if it has been on too long.

Some of the more exotic Smart Home applications are: house plant and yard watering, automatic lawnmowers, automatic pool cleaners, lighting and sound controls that change ambiance in rooms for mood, and domestic robots that mop or vacuum floors.

Two important trade associations in the industry are CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association), which is headquartered in Indianapolis and has 3,500 member companies worldwide, and CABA (Continental Automated Building Association), which has 400 companies and is headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario.

Editor's note: Come back next week as Brooke Stoddard examines integrating "Green" technology into your smart home.

1 CEDIA