Imagine a home where 'smart' devices are positively changing the way we live.

Technology is already playing a part in home automation which can free up time and in some cases even help save money. Here's an introduction to smart homes as well as some tips for those considering exploring home automation. 

Smart homes explained

A smart home features electronic devices that allow its owner to remotely control them. They can talk to each other (known as the Internet of Things, or IoT) or even think and act for themselves (known as Artificial Intelligence, or AI). They can also be programmed to follow your rules, through mostly wireless, but also wired, connections.

Plan ahead for the smartest set-up

It's a good idea to first consider  exactly what you want a home's devices to control, and how connected they should be. This is especially true for new dwellings. However, smart connectivity is still achievable in an existing home, mostly by utilising wireless-enabled appliances. Next, consider the question of how devices will be controlled. A central hub controller, touch screen, remote or keypad can stand in as the brain of your smart home and control one or all devices. It’s also possible to use an app in conjunction with your computer, smartphone or tablet.

Wi-Fi is key to a great smart home

A high quality Wi-Fi router is crucial to a high-performance setup. Also, consider what memory storage devices will use. Some store content on an in-built and secure SD card or hard drive. Others use a subscription-based cloud service which stores the device’s data on the internet.

It’s important to note that most smart device DIY kits are easy to incorporate into your home. But if any require hard-wiring through electrical cables, make sure they are installed by a licensed professional.

Choosing your smart appliances

In the past it has been notoriously tricky for different tech brands to work seamlessly together. But not so much anymore. "Most smart devices now include Application Programming Interface (API) technology, which allows them to be controlled by other third-party systems," explains Brad Arthur, tech blogger and creator of www.smarthome.com.au.

Smart tech can help keep tabs on pets with a smart camera or use sensors to check if a window was left open at home. One of the biggest features is voice activation. "With the success of Amazon Echo Dot and Alexa Voice Service and Google Home overseas, we will see more virtual assistants helping to run our smart homes," Brad predicts.

Set the perfect scene

Smart lighting systems can match a room's hue to a mood, or dimmers can add sophisticated ambience. On a larger scale, smart homes can adapt living spaces to preferences by controlling appliances, rooms, energy, lighting, water, entertainment, climate and security. This is achieved by integrating devices and programming preferred rules or scenes to various day-to-day situations, so that specific actions occur simultaneously. For example, create a bedtime scene that turns off all lights, except those in a bedroom and hallway, and locks doors and windows, all before turning in for the night.

Smart homes may save money

Smart devices are considered environmentally-friendly and may deliver significant savings. A smart motion sensor can detect when a room is unoccupied and switch off the lights. Smart lights can be programmed to turn on during certain timeframes to conserve energy, or blinds can automatically open when the sun comes up. Likewise, "you can schedule a washing machine to run during off-peak hours when electricity and water tariffs are lower," suggests Brad.

A smart power plug can shut off an iron mistakenly left on or prevent the TV from using power in standby mode when it's off but still plugged in. Similarly, a smart water valve can irrigate gardens efficiently or a smart flood sensor can sound the alert about a leak.

Create a preferred climate

Smart temperature and ventilation devices can make a home more comfortable and potentially cheaper to run. "Heating and cooling your home accounts for around 40% of your yearly energy costs," says Brad. But changing to a smart DIY temperature or thermostat device can make a discernible difference, he says. A smart multi-sensor can analyse the air quality and humidity in a room remotely, and allow you to set your home to a certain temperature.

Next-level smart entertainment

Audio-visual equipment has the potential to come together to create an authentic cinematic experience without the hassle of going to a theatre. A smart controller can set a ‘movie time’ scene by turning on the TV, receiver and home theatre equipment and tuning them to the right settings and volume – all while the curtains close and the lights slowly dim.

A smart entertainment system can let the kids access the DVD or game console library elsewhere in the house, in HD definition. Imagine smart hi-fi or wireless speakers which broadcast different playlists to various areas of your home, including the backyard.