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by Ashley Weber
You’re a few finger taps away from managing your home.
It no longer has to be this crazy. Thanks to the latest smart home technologies, a few swipes and taps on your phone can put those worries and others to rest.
The rise of the smart home
A smart (or connected) home has devices that can be controlled remotely via computer or a mobile device. These include appliances, security systems and entertainment centers. Smart home technology can make your home safer, more energy efficient and easier to manage.
“Home automation technology has been around for about 25 years,” says Grant Clauser, technology and online editor of Electronic House Magazine, a publication covering the latest home technology. “But it only recently became affordable and easy for homeowners to install themselves.”
That’s contributing to its increasing popularity. Over the next five years, it’s predicted that smart home device shipments will grow by 67 percent. That’s a faster rate of predicted growth than for both smartphones and tablets.
“There are so many ways for homeowners to improve their comfort, lower their expenses and decrease the risk of different losses with these devices,” says Joe Vahey, vice president and product manager, Personal Lines, Erie Insurance.
Vahey has seen situations in which smart home technology could have saved homeowners money and grief. “In one case, a washing machine water line split open while the homeowners were on vacation,” he recalls. “When they came home weeks later, several feet of water had accumulated and mold had started to form. In an event like this, a smart water valve that shuts off the leak would have been extremely beneficial.”
Today’s top tech
There is a lot of smart home tech out there. If you don’t know where to begin, consider a starter kit like the Iris Home Automation Safe and Secure Kit ($149). This selfmonitored security system lets you check up on your home for free from a computer, smartphone or tablet—and it only takes an hour to set up.
Looking for something a little more advanced? Then check out these top tech recommendations:
1. Facial recognition cameras recognize faces and send an alert to your smartphone when a friend or family member enters your home. The cameras can also alert you when an unfamiliar face enters your home. Just one model: Netatmo Welcome camera ($199). The sleek, stand-up tube lets you enable (or disable) notifications for specific people.
2. Wi-Fi security cameras allow you to monitor your home, family members and even your pets from afar. Just one model: Dropcam ($199). An added bonus is its two-way talk system with a built-in mic and speaker.
3. Smart tags can be attached to just about anything: a dog’s collar, your kids’ backpacks, grandma’s antique vase or the remote that always goes missing. Once attached, they let you keep track of virtually anyone’s (or anything’s) whereabouts. Just one model: SmartSense Presence Sensor ($31). It lets you know when a tag leaves a defined vicinity—great for pets that like to wander.
4. Moisture alerts send a message to your smartphone if water is detected in areas prone to leaking. And that can prevent big costs: BI Intelligence reports that certain cities have reduced leaks by 40 to 50 percent by putting sensors on their pumps. Just one model: ZigBee SmartSense Moisture Sensor ($49). It can also measure temperature so you don’t end up with a frozen pipes fiasco.
5. Smart doorbells send a video to your smartphone of anyone who approaches your front door. They also let you act as a digital doorman by allowing you to speak to a visitor from wherever you are. Two models: Ring or Sky Bell (both $199). Both models store old video clips in the cloud for a small extra fee.
6. Motion sensors alert you when movement in or around your house is detected. Some places where you might place them for added security include windows, doors and garage doors. Want an alert when the mail arrives? Then consider sticking one on your mailbox. Just one model: SmartSense Multi Sensor ($54). It gives you the option to receive a text or push notification when something is moved.
Because smart home technology relies on the Internet, security is definitely something to consider.
“The companies that make smart home products know the risks and add extra levels of security,” says Clauser. “But homeowners still have responsibilities. Just like with protecting your computer, you want to lock your wireless network and choose a difficult password that you change frequently.”
Other ways to keep your smart home safe include making your Wi-Fi network invisible, restricting access to your Wi-Fi network and your smart home devices, and regularly updating your smart home devices’ software.
Reprinted with permission from Erie Insurance, Eriesense® magazine.