The “Internet of Things” and the Connected Home

When most of us think about being “online,” we think of computers, tablets and smartphones surfing the Web. But lately, the rise of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) has introduced a world where just about anything – from TVs to home thermostats – can connect to the Internet and communicate via a network of electronics and software, as well as enable users to access and control them from mobile devices when they’re away from home.


Did you know that in 2008, there were more than eight billion “things” connected to the Internet? By 2020, experts predict the number of Internet-connected things will reach 50 billion, making just about everything in our lives “smart” and interconnected.


What started primarily as technology for factories, businesses and healthcare has now made the leap to the consumer market with more and more “smart” devices available for personal and home use. You might already have some of these IoT gadgets in your home:


  • Smart TVs. We’re sure you’ve heard a lot about “smart TVs” lately, especially with Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services becoming more popular. Televisions with integrated Internet and Web 2.0 features are prime examples of the marriage of computers and home technology. Besides watching traditional broadcast media, smart TVs can also bring you interactive media like YouTube and online games, on-demand streaming services and home networking access – all without needing to have a separate device or set-top box.


  • Gaming Consoles. Internet-connected gaming consoles, such as Xbox and PlayStation, not only play video games, but connect gamers to other players across town or across the world for multi-player experiences. These devices often have apps that you can download to access other non-gaming content like online videos, Internet browsing and on-demand streaming content. In fact, more than half of U.S. homes with Internet own a “connected TV device” like a gaming console that can be used to go online.


  • Smart Thermostats and Energy Use Monitors. New products like Nest and Ecobee3 are leading the way to help drive down energy consumption. By connecting your thermostat with apps on your smartphone or computer, you can more easily monitor and control your total HVAC power use. These devices can even analyze and break down activity by device and send you alerts when energy usage is unusually high to help you use energy as efficiently as possible.


  • Wireless Speaker Systems. Multi-room streaming audio systems let you play your own music or stream online services like Pandora and Spotify from any room of your home. With the IoT, you can control everything – from your playlist to the volume – using a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet that connects to the speakers via Wi-Fi.


  • Smart Security Systems. All-in-one security systems for your home include HD video cameras and sensors for air quality, motion, sound, temperature and vibration in one unit that is controlled through your computer or mobile device. These systems often have accompanying smartphone apps to enable you to monitor your home while away to remotely set alarms or even lock your doors.


  • Smart Appliances. There are increasing numbers of Internet-connected refrigerators, washing machines, coffee makers, even Crock-Pots! These appliances allow you to control, monitor and automate key functions through your computer or smartphone. For example, some refrigerators allow you to record your shopping list directly on the appliance and send it to your phone or stream music in the kitchen while cooking or entertaining.


  • Home Automation Systems. With all of these smart devices, you need a way to control and monitor them. There is a category of products that enables you to do just that with all the “smart” things in your home – such as wall switches and plugs, LED light bulbs, motion sensors and lighting devices. This can be done via your web browser or smartphone app. Acting as a sort of “mission control,” the systems can also control and monitor door and window sensors, your garage door opener, outdoor security, even lawn sprinklers, all in one place. Some can even stream weather reports and other information from the Internet.


With the Internet of Things growing in popularity for the home consumer, it adds a level of complexity for common everyday devices. Gone are the days of simply plugging a device in and turning it on. For some consumers, making sure everything is “talking” to one another – that your TV, gaming console or even that Crock-Pot is properly connected to the Internet – can be a challenge.


Should you ever hit a rough patch with device set up or simply want to be sure you have your security settings right across the board, give Online Owls a call. We’ll be happy to come out on your schedule and get everything up and running.

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