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Your Complete Smart Home Guide

The concept of smart homes is attracting a lot of media attention, but many Israelis only have a vague idea of what a smart home actually is. There is no such thing as a purpose-built smart home. It’s simply any dwelling space optimized by a range of gadgets connected to the internet of things (IoT).

We’ll take a closer look at how smart homes work, which key devices are at the heart of the smart home concept, and how to transform your house or apartment into a smart home. We’ll also take a look at the pros and cons of smart homes, and whether they can genuinely transform our lives for the better. 

What is a Smart Home? 

It’s easiest to think of a home in terms of a private environment. A smart home gives us sophisticated tools to precisely control and regulates that environment for our own convenience. That includes regulating the temperature and humidity, the amount of natural and artificial light within the home, the availability of hot and cold water, the quality of the air, and even the noises we hear. 

A smart home also gives us a high degree of control over labor-saving gadgets and basic household items. Voice-activated appliances like electric kettles, ovens, and vacuum cleaners will become the norm. Apps using geolocation will be able to communicate our approach to a smart home. Benefits could be as simple as the air conditioning or central heating switching on as sensors detect your smart car or cellphone when you drive into the neighborhood. 

Home security is essential for most people. Traditionally, home security meant a robust front door, secure windows, and perhaps a guard dog or a firearm for home defense. New technology introduced more sophisticated precautions like motion sensor lights, security cameras, and a range of intruder alarms. A smart home takes security to a new level and gives ordinary citizens almost VIP standard protection. 

Smart Home Connectivity

The internet of things (IoT) enables smart homes. This is a generic term for the multitude of smart devices that contain chips and sensors. There are billions of these devices in existence and they are all connected to the internet. IoT is already a functioning part of our lives.

Most smart home connectivity depends on WiFi. Smart router and WiFi 6 technology is evolving rapidly and modern WiFi signals are powerful enough to provide full connectivity to a multitude of household devices. Vital devices can be connected to a backup using mobile or landline assets. If you’re planning to upgrade your home with new smart devices, reliable high-speed internet is essential. 

Smart Home Devices 

Smart home devices potentially cover every aspect of domestic living, from the very basics through to luxury consumer durables. Don’t worry if you’re not technically adept - or even a complete technophobe - most smart devices are easy to use. They will also be an integral part of new products, so you will find yourself rapidly adapting to them. The next aircon unit, microwave, or TV screen you buy will probably already qualify as a smart home device. 

One of the reasons why smart homes will be ubiquitous is something called Matter. It’s not a product but is a manufacturer’s agreement. All (or almost all) smart devices will be interoperable. Your smart home could contain key devices made by a dozen different companies, they will all talk to each other and allow you to run a flawlessly integrated home network. 

Not everybody will want to live in a smart home. Some people are already concerned about privacy implications or believe that too much convenience detracts from their quality of life. A minority will prefer to go off-grid and live a traditional pre-IoT lifestyle. Most of us will integrate the technology and the tools that we like - particularly those that reduce utility bills or make us safer.  The next generation will simply take smart homes for granted. Some popular smart home tools include:

Philips Hue Bulbs and Lighting System

smart home - lighting system

Philips took existing energy-saving LED technology and created new smart light bulbs. They are designed for efficient power use and to last for over 20 years. Users can choose from an astonishing 16 million color variations and can adjust the configurations to create any lighting arrangement controlling the bulbs from anywhere in the room. If you want dimmed lights while you watch a movie, romantic background lighting for a candlelit dinner, or bright lights for a work project, the app will precisely adjust the Hue bulbs. You can also use the phone app to set timers and alarms throughout the house. Hue bulbs work with other systems like Amazon Echo Plus and Nest. 

August Doorbell Camera

smart home - camera

The August Doorbell allows you to answer your front door from anywhere in the world. The high-definition camera films anybody who rings the doorbell, and records their identity. You can open your door to admit visitors just by touching your phone screen. If it’s dark outside, a built-in floodlight will provide full illumination. If you’re not at home, but need to manage deliveries, workmen, cleaners, dog walkers, etc. the August Doorbell Camera puts you in control. It’s a lot safer than giving other people a key to the door that can be copied or stolen. 

Nest T3021US Learning Thermostat 

smart home - thermostat

One of the big pros of smart homes is their money-saving potential. The Nest Learning Thermostat is a great piece of smart technology that can easily save money on your utilities. The thermostat monitors your domestic activity and learns your habits and preferences. It will regulate your household temperatures to keep you comfortable while eliminating waste. If you change your routine you can easily make adjustments. A typical function of the Nest thermostat is that it will warm the house just before you wake in the morning, and switch off when you go to work. You’ll also be able to come home to a warm house in the evening. 

Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

smart home - sprinkler

When you live in a hot country like Israel, garden irrigation can be a problem. If you have even a small lawn or flowerbeds, you’ll quickly understand how important it is to water them. It’s also important to conserve water and not to waste even a small amount with a garden hose. A Rachio 3 smart sprinkler controller will automatically water your lawn or beds. You can instruct it to deliver precise amounts of water at optimal times, and basically, just leave it to do its job. The app can save money, reduce water usage, and save you another household chore. If you’re absent-minded, or away from home, your garden won't suffer. 

Ring Alarm Smoke and CO Listener

smart home - alarm

Every home should have a smoke detector. If there is a fire, it can give you vital time to get your family to safety and call the fire brigade. The Ring Alarm Smoke and CO Listener take protection to a new level and the app will even alert you to the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide in your home when you are out. Unlike an old-fashioned smoke detector, there is no need to change batteries. The Ring Alarm Smoke and CO Listener will also save you money on monthly monitoring fees. This small - almost invisible - device could prevent a tragedy. It’s simple to self-install and will definitely help you to sleep more securely at night. 

What Can My Smart Home Do?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns saw huge changes to how we work. Hybrid workplaces are becoming common in Israel and more of us will be working from home. Without the daily commute and nine hours in the office, we could be spending a lot more time at home. A smart home can make a big difference to our quality of life. 

One of the big issues in Israeli homes is climate control. If you’ve already experienced a summer heatwave with maximum humidity, you’ll understand that an efficient air conditioner is a basic necessity of life. They are also expensive to run and can push your electricity bill sky high for three or four months a year. A smart home can optimize climate control and allow you to create a comfortable environment - while reducing energy costs. 

Israel is generally a pretty safe country, but there is a threat of terrorism, and crimes like burglary do happen. A simple investment in some basic smart devices can make your house or apartment a lot more secure. If you have elderly parents, you can fix up their home for a few hundred bucks and enjoy some peace of mind. A Ring Alarm Pro DIY home security system will cover all bases for around $300. 

Even if you’re not a fan of smart gadgets, or see many smart home devices as gimmicks, anything that can easily save you money, or make you safer, is a big plus. Anything that can make you more comfortable, and allow you to control your environment can reduce stress and improve your quality of life. Humans have been improving their homes since we lived in caves. IoT and smart homes are simply massive technological leaps forwards.

What are the Disadvantages of Smart Homes?

Smart homes are rapidly evolving, but we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the IoT and new smart devices can deliver. The current major concern about smart homes is personal privacy and the possibility of devices being hijacked. If your home is full of cameras, you need to know that they can’t be hacked and your privacy violated - perhaps via a live stream. Equally, you don’t want your conversations bugged, or for a third party to learn every aspect of your personal routines. 

When your smart home is configured to run all utilities automatically, you really don’t want a hacker turning all your lights on at 3 AM, or causing similar mayhem with your thermostat, security alarms, home entertainment system, and household appliances. Equally, if the wireless signal fails, or your internet is disrupted, you don’t want to find that your normal domestic routine is paralyzed. You’ll need to know that you can operate all systems and appliances manually in an emergency.

Some people worry that their quality of life will actually decrease if they become dependent on a plethora of smart devices. The easier life becomes, the less satisfying it can be. Not everybody wants to be plugged into the corporate network and for Google, Amazon, and major utility providers to map out every aspect of their daily lives and routines. The potential for government intrusion into smart homes is deeply worrying. The technology now exists for totalitarian regimes to monitor citizens in their own homes. As with any smartphone app or computer program, think before you install, and use it wisely…

Creating a Smart Home: Where to Start and How TCS Can Help

If you want to improve your home and run it more efficiently with smart devices, you need a reliable high-speed broadband connection. Fiber internet is ideal for two reasons: Firstly, it’s super fast with amazing bandwidth. Secondly, it’s glitch-free with no peak time disruption. When you want to run smart devices that are connected to the IoT, you need a connection that you can depend on. 

Not all of Israel is connected to the fiber internet network yet. The government is pushing hard to roll out the networks and extend the cables across the country. If you don’t have fiber at home, talk to us today. It’s possible that your community is already connected, in which case we’ll upgrade you straight away. If your area doesn’t have fiber yet, we’ll put you on our priority list and update you when it’s available. In the meantime, we can look at your broadband options and see if an upgrade is practical. 

TCS is excited by all new technological developments and we’re following the growth of smart homes in Israel particularly closely. We’re committed to providing the best possible internet options - and other telecom services - to Anglos in Israel. We’ll keep you abreast of all smart home developments and offer practical suggestions about how to get the best out of new devices and technology!

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