Then, you send a message to your other home and tell it to lower the thermostat, arm the security system and turn on the bedroom lights every few hours to ward away any potential burglars. Just to be sure, you hang up and dial your phone number, hook up to the real-time video camera connected to your home security system and check out what Fluffy the cat is doing to your garbage while you're gone.
Think it sounds a little far- fetched? Well, it's not.
A growing number of new homes being built today are now sporting a variety of automation options designed to make life easier and safer. These smart homes can do anything from monitoring and controlling your lighting, heat, and air and water systems to opening up the shades and brewing that morning pot of coffee for you.
Essentially, it works like this: Everything is wired together like a mini-computer network.
There's a main computer – or "brain" – that controls all of your connected devices, and a wired/wireless information network that acts as a central nervous system, much like the human body. How smart or "connected" it all is depends on how much money you want to spend.
Sky's the Limit
On average, a person can expect to spend about $15,000 to $20,000 for a basic installation, including wiring and connecting a few household systems like your HVAC system and lighting, provided you have the system-ready hardware. After that, the sky's the limit.
Smart homes will one day be so common and so intelligent that they'll be able to adapt to an individual's habits and routines. Settings could be personalized for different members of the family to automatically adjust room temperature, lighting and even television channels so that, perhaps, children are not be exposed to inappropriate programming or certain Web sites on the Internet.
The best part is that these homes are quite environmentally friendly. Whatever type of energy in use can be programmed to work as efficiently as possible. Even outside, for instance, the sprinkler system can be timed to water the lawn only when the weather's dry.
The future of smart homes isn't too far away either. Many new homes are already being built with smart home technology to eliminate the cost and pain of having to do it yourself.
Because it is a "built in" option, you can expect to pay up to half as much as you would if you did it later.
Keep your ears open – the next house you walk into may even greet you with "hello."
Michael Trantas is CEO, e-Safe Solutions, Inc., and can be reached at: [email protected]