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Smart Phones to Smart Homes

Written by Halley Feaster

When smart home technology first developed, it was considered something extra; something “over the top.” Today, everything in life is starting to be “smart”—smart TVs, smart phones, smart tablets—and “wireless”—WiFi, access points -- and we’re all enjoying the versatility, connectivity, and convenience. Smart home technology now serves a real and present purpose for our everyday lives, not only for comfort and convenience, but for safety and security as well. Plus, Smart Home Tech is the perfect way for homeowners to keep tabs on, and even control, their second, third, and fourth homes from any place in the world they are. For many, Long Beach Island is a second home, a place that may be out of sight, but not out of mind. Responsibility and concerns can magnify from a distance, and some worries are not without foundation. More than one LBI homeowner has received a call from a contractor with bad news that a pipe had burst during a cold snap, and water had been running through the house for weeks. Smart home technology can help you to keep an eye on your home remotely as you monitor and control certain elements of your home’s systems. Using smart home technology, you now can have the ability to monitor and control the temperatures on your HVAC system, receive alerts from your security system, visually monitor your home via a camera system, and control your home’s indoor and outdoor lighting, all from anywhere in the world. This is not only convenient, but also gives you control over safety and security factors, and ultimately, peace of mind.

Smart home technology falls into two main categories: security and convenience. Three, if you want to count the coolness factor.

The smart home tech that fits under the “security” heading includes door and window sensors; motion sensors; indoor and outdoor cameras; and access control, such as a deadbolt keypad. When a sensor is “tripped,” your system sends an alert message directly to you. If you already have a traditional security system that calls a central station or police, the smart security system will work in conjunction with your existing one. Your smart security camera system can also aid in investigation when you view the automatically recorded footage, which tells you date and time, might pick up a car or license plate on the street, and can even catch the culprit’s face.

On the convenience side, your smart thermostats can also be monitored and controlled from afar. You can set a schedule for “home” and “away” settings, which save energy, and therefore, money. When monitoring your home system, you might notice that the thermostat is detecting temperatures that are not in line with the temperatureyou’ve set. Now you know it’s time to call your HVAC specialist, and you’ve caught a potentially costly and disastrous situation early, and nipped it in the bud.

Remember those analog timers you set to turn your lights on and off to make it look like people are home? Now, with the convenience of smart home technology, you can turn your indoor and outdoor lights on and off from anywhere, using your smart phone. You can even set a schedule for them so you don’t have to do it manually all the time.

And, then there’s the fun part—the “coolness factor”—the stuff you can’t wait to show your friends and neighbors. Some of our Island Audio/Video customers with multiple homes have shared some very cool ways in which they use their smart home system. Imagine this scenario: It’s going to be a perfect beach weekend on LBI, but it’s 98 degrees outside your New York City apartment, and 92 in South Jersey. While you’re not at your LBI house, you keep the AC running only minimally to save on energy and your electric bill, so the house could be pretty hot and stuffy. But, on your way down in the car, you open your smart home app, and set your thermostat to 73, and the house will be delightfully cool when you get there. You’re still saving energy by not cranking the AC all the time, but you also get the comfort and the convenience that you deserve.

Up to this point, we’ve focused on operating your smart home system remotely, but the technology also provides some convenient features you can take advantage of while in your home. Instead of running all over the house to operate wall switches and thermostats, your home’s lighting and HVAC can be controlled from your phone or tablet. Plus, you can control all your entertainment systems, like music, TV, and surround systems, and access to the house.

At Island Audio/Video, our favorite way to control any music zone is SONOS®. SONOS® has its own app, but it can also be integrated into your smart home system, eliminating the need to switch apps to control multiple facets of your system. Each SONOS® device (speaker, amplifier, etc.) is its own “zone” in the app, so it’s incredibly easy to use, and addictively fun. Also, in addition to, or sometimes instead of, a universal remote control, we use software on our customers’ Apple and Android devices to control their TV and surround system, effectively making their phone or tablet a remote control. In many of these set-ups, we include a dedicated tablet for each system.

“Access control” sounds more complicated than it is. It simply means “who gets into the home, and how.” For example, if you have a deadbolt keypad in your smart home system, you can unlock that from your phone when you’re away so that a contractor can get in and work in your home, or give your niece the code so she can hang out at your place, or unlock the door for yourself from the driveway when you pull up with a load of groceries. There’s also a doorbell system that connects with your phone or tablet, so you can see who is at the door. And no one has to have a key.

Our smart home systems use one app to control everything mentioned, so far—lighting, HVAC/thermostat, security, music, TV and surround systems, and access control—and even more! Pool temperature and lighting, and window shades all can be controlled with just one app in our smart home systems. This means that smart home tech is not only easier than it’s ever been for you, the user, but is also more efficient to install and program. Also, our systems can be completely retrofitted. No special wiring is needed for new construction, and no walls torn up in existing construction. We just switch out some wall switches, electrical outlets, and thermostats, program your system on our computer, and, most importantly, show you how to use it.

Technology will only move forward, and we will become increasingly wireless and automated. With the current and evolving smart home technology, homeowners can become more productive, more able to focus on the important things, more safe and secure, and even more energy efficient. And it fits into our LBI lives. For so many Long Beach Islanders, smart home technology helps us keep our care-free, safe, family refuge, for many generations to come.

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