Smart Homes: What’s New & Next in Tech


“The only thing that is constant is change.” That adage, nearly 2,500 years old, is even truer now. Today, technology dramatically speeds the pace of constant change.

Take our households, for example. Technology is hard at work in many of our homes so we don’t have to work as hard. And, we can do things in our homes even when we aren’t there. Because the home front is where tech companies look to expand, technology is rapidly changing our everyday lives. As a Verizon employee, I see firsthand how technology brings powerful answers to consumers’ wants and needs.

How does this happen? One of the biggest ways is by using wireless and wired systems over the Internet so devices can “talk” or respond in specific ways when they receive certain information. This is known as machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, which makes the business environment more productive. Same for the home.

If love makes a house a home, then technology makes a house a “smart home.” In such a dwelling, equipment comes to life as it no longer must wait for us to show up. We can program lighting, heat, AC, energy, and play movies, television shows or music from our PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

And how does that happen? Smart homes have a central control system that receives commands. These automated devices talk with the controller and the appliances being controlled. And, the right application, or “app” for short, gives consumers new freedoms. Apps increase the capabilities of devices like computers and smartphones that are used in home automation.

Since I was convinced that I was more nice than naughty in 2012, I gave myself a tech holiday gift, the Samsung Galaxy Note II – an exciting combination of smartphone and tablet small enough to fit into my jacket pocket. With that, I have been researching the Android (the operating system my Galaxy uses) apps for the home like DroidSeer, ElkDroid and Android@home for lights, security and a larger number of devices. Other apps can be purchased, such as Apple’s iHome Touch and several others sold by a host of companies to perform similar tasks. Spend some quality time online to educate yourself on the latest and on what is soon expected.

Imagine how much easier life would be if you used a smartphone to start dinner, set the thermometer, close blinds, adjust lights and order movies and music on your way from work. Once you reach home – which has been kept secure inside and out by motion-sensitive surveillance cameras – you would automatically deactivate the alarm, open doors using fingerprint sensors and admit visitors after viewing them on a screen when they ring your doorbell. By the way, if you were late, you could even unlock the doors before arriving so your guests could come in from the cold. This all can be done with technology that’s available now.

The tech industry’s home focus also makes sense in that it brings technology’s evolution to our lifestyles. Remember the magic of Beta videocassette recorders, which was followed by VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray technologies? Today we’re able to download and view movies and TV shows from Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and Vudu – and, soon, from Redbox Instant by Verizon.

Another benefit comes from concerns about safety for seniors, especially those living alone. Home automation can be used to support those taking vital medications and contacting medical professionals when problems arise. An additional advantage would go to families with seniors suffering from conditions such as dementia who might be prone to wandering. Surveillance, tracking and notification device features can help keep loved ones secure in one location while other family members are somewhere else. As the nation’s senior population continues to climb, such smart home technology can provide a life-or-death difference as well as peace of mind.

So, let’s be smart about the smart home. Its future is currently being shaped. We should resist falling behind. And, as we learn more about smart home advances, all of us will no doubt conclude that the future is already here.

Tabb Bishop is Verizon’s vice president for state government affairs for the mid-Atlantic region.

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Smart Homes: What's New & Next in Tech

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