Welcome to the Internet of Things: the advantages and challenges of smart home living

You can be forgiven for not being familiar with the terms ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘smart home’. But as they become more and more prevalent in our everyday lives – and gardens – it’s a good idea to find out what they are.

In a world where consumer technology has become an integral part of daily life, today virtually everybody knows what the internet is and how to use it. And there’s a good chance that when you settle down to watch your favourite films and shows tonight, you’ll do so through a streaming service on your smart TV.
If you’ve picked up a newspaper or magazine – or more likely, read one on your smartphone or tablet – in the last few months, you may have noticed new phrases like ‘the Internet of Things’ and ‘smart home’ starting to become more prevalent. As innocuous as they might sound, these concepts are set to take the digital revolution sweeping the world to the next level.
In straightforward terms, the Internet of Things refers to any device that is connected to the internet. It goes beyond devices like smartphones and tablets, and is often used to refer to other objects that ‘communicate’ with each other. These include many previously ‘dumb’ items, like cars, fridges and even toasters, which are starting to become connected and ‘smart’.
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Smart homes are simply households that feature devices connected to the internet, whose functions we can control remotely by another connected device such as our smartphone, or that perform their functions automatically. For example, a connected or ‘smart’ refrigerator might know when you are running low on milk and automatically add it to your online grocery delivery order. Or a connected thermostat might monitor the temperature of your smart home and send that data to your smartphone, allowing you to turn up the heating remotely so that you can return to a warm house or flat at the end of the day.
It’s not just homes that are becoming smart: the technology in your garden is becoming equally advanced. Gardeners can already control their irrigation using systems like GARDENA’s smart Water Control, and programme a robot lawnmower like GARDENA’s smart SILENO to automatically cut their grass. All of this can be controlled remotely via GARDENA’s free smart App for Android and iOS.

Smart home: advantages

Reduced bills
A device like the smart thermostat mentioned above, for example, can save you money compared to a manually programmed thermostat, by knowing when you are and aren’t at home. This means that you no longer have to rely on remembering yourself to turn the heating off to ensure that your home is heated efficiently. So if you are called away suddenly, or simply don’t think about whether the radiators are on before heading off on a night out, your heating bill won’t suffer.
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• Convenience

With all the demands that modern life places on our time, the more our devices work for us, the better. In a smart home’s garden, you no longer have to worry about doing the watering, for example, thanks to GARDENA’s smart Water Control which will irrigate your plants atomically on a schedule of your choosing. So even you are not at your smart home, or anywhere near it, you can quickly and easily adjust the smart Water Control’s irrigation times via the smart App.

Smart home: challenges

• Cost 

Smart home devices are still fairly new technology, and although prices will fall as increasing numbers of people adopt them, at present they still come at a premium in comparison to their less automated equivalents. As you add more smart lighting, heating, security and voice control systems to your home, the cost could become prohibitive. So before you invest, ask yourself whether these solutions really do offer an advantage over the system – smart or not – that you currently have. 

• Installation 

Not every smart home device is difficult to install, and with many it’s simply a case of plugging in, connecting to the internet and you’re off. But a smart heating or security system might be more complex and could require the services of a professional to help you install it. Add that to the cost of the system itself, and an already not inconsiderable purchase may become even more expensive.

The Internet of Things and smart homes are likely to revolutionise more and more elements of your daily routine over the next few decades. They might not be cheap, and there’s an inevitable learning curve, but whether it’s inside the home, or out in the garden, they have the potential to help change our lives for the better.