Looking for Home-Improvement Ideas? Consider Upgrading to a ‘Smart Home’

Never mind painters and interior designers. Your next remodeling job at home may call for technology consultants.

Many new homes today have “smart home” technologies already wired into their walls, offering a range of automated options that were unthinkable even 10 years ago. And owners of existing homes will soon be scrambling to catch up, if they haven’t already done so.

Smart-home wiringSmart homes have home-security and energy-management devices that can be controlled from a smartphone or over the Internet. Some of these devices allow homeowners to control or monitor their homes’ thermostats or door locks from anywhere.

A recent article on Forbes.com predicted that the smart-home services industry will shoot up from under $2 billion worldwide in 2012 to nearly $11 billion in 2017. Major players will include telecom and cable giants AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, as well as technology innovators such as Apple and Cisco Systems–even Amazon.com.

While some smart-home technologies  call for new wiring in the home and expert help, you can still bring your home into the 21st century all by yourself.

Amazon.com made news earlier this week when it opened a Home Automation store, selling programmable thermostats, smart locks, sensors, video monitors, and more. The online store also offers introductory guides for those of us not expert in the latest networking and automation technologies.

Meanwhile, Apple is seeking a patent on new technology that can turn a device like its iPhone into a smart-home remote control, according to a report last week from the tech website SlashGear. Soon, taking photos and sending text messages with your phone will take a backseat to remotely managing your home theater and audio systems–even changing the lighting in your living room or kitchen.

Technology is already available that allows an average homeowner to set up and manage a variety of smart-home services that require only a network connection and a smartphone or tablet.

The Babble website recently profiled six such “mobile-controlled gadgets and services” for the home: smart-lock technologies, wireless cameras, security and motion-sensing systems, home automation systems, media servers, and wireless speakers.

A word of caution, however: Some experts warn that security isn’t being taken seriously enough by manufacturers of smart-home services or the people buying them.

A CNN report warned that  hackers at a computer-security conference last month in Las Vegas were able to remotely open front-door locks, hijack power outlets, and commandeer home-automation hubs after they hacked into a Japanese “smart toilet” and took control of the bidet.

(Photo: Flickr/Nicolas Boullosa)

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