Can you activate your home security system using your smartphone once you walk out the door? Can you check security cameras, dim the lights or draw the shades using an app? These all are features of a secure smart home.

Although many electronic and wireless devices such as thermostats and baby monitors have been around for years, what sets the smart home apart is the homeowner’s ability to interact with those devices through the internet. Homeowners can control and monitor devices using a smartphone app, tablet or computer. Some smart home devices are stand-alone units, but the industry is quickly moving to connect several disparate devices under a single control or “hub” system for easier access.

Smart home devices provide remote access to security systems, consumer electronics, climate control, lighting, and energy and water control. The global market for connected smart home devices is expected to reach 477 million units in 2020, with most of the growth occurring in the Americas.[1]

Most smart homes have security systems that enable homeowners to use their internet connection to set alarms and monitor the property. Security web cameras, also known as IP (internet protocol) cameras, are among the most popular smart home devices. They can be accessed, viewed and repositioned through a smartphone app.

Several companies have developed web cameras that interact with their traditional products and provide access through an app.[2] In addition, smart locks allow homeowners to control when doors are locked or unlocked, making it easier to remotely provide access to the home for children, house cleaners and dog walkers.

Amazon, Google and Apple all want to be at the center of the smart home, and they have created consumer-friendly interface devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit.[3] These systems act as hubs that control multiple devices. They often are voice-controlled and can be programmed to create automated actions, such as the homeowner saying “good night” to the device to shut off lights, turn down the thermostat and lock outside doors.

Smart home systems can be vulnerable to hackers, so homeowners should regularly update their systems with passwords that are new and unique to ensure that their wireless networks remain secure.

[1] “Rapid Expansion Projected for Smart Home Devices, IHS Markit Says,” IHS press release, Sept. 1, 2016. Available at: http://news.ihsmarkit.com/press-release/technology/rapid-expansion-projected-smart-home-devices-ihs-markit-says

[2] “Smart Home Guide: What to Know Before You Buy,” by Samara Lynn, Tom’s Guide, Jan. 11, 2017. Available at: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/smart-home-guide,review-2692.html

[3] “Smart Home Guide: What to Know Before You Buy,” by Samara Lynn, Tom’s Guide, Jan. 11, 2017. Available at: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/smart-home-guide,review-2692.html

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