A Smart Home for Christmas

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The holidays are just about here and smart homes are ready, with decorative LED lights, seasonally hued bulbs and Internet of things (IoT) systems that can ensure homes are cozy, secure and helpful for the holidays.

Smart home tech is coming to town

At the center of the smart holiday home are new systems and products that connect and control electronic systems throughout the home, many of which are fueled by the IoT. Led by high-profile offerings such as Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Nest Labs, these systems allow voice, remote and automatic management over a growing set of home devices.

Smart home systems are rising, according to the U.S. Consumer Technology Association (CTA), formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Association.

The CTA estimates that 33 percent of U.S. consumers will buy emerging-technology products during the 2015 Christmas season. Smart home devices will be the most popular emerging technology this year, with 15 percent of consumers planning to buy these products. More consumers are expected to buy smart-home devices than other emerging products, including popular devices like fitness trackers, smart watches, action cameras and drones.

U.S. dealers’ sales of connected home devices are expected to rise to $967 million in 2015, up from $734 million in 2014, according to the CTA.

How Tech Controls Christmas

With a little bit of holiday ingenuity, smart home systems can be configured to control and customize light displays.

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Multiple companies are offering adapters equipped with Wi-Fi connections that turn electrical outlets into network nodes. These nodes interface with smart home systems and can be controlled via mobile devices. By hooking up a Christmas tree to the electrical adapter, users can activate or customize the display.

These systems allow smart home systems to control and configure lighting displays.

One example of such a system is the ConnectSense Smart Outlet from Grid Connect Inc. The outlet includes dual Internet-connected electrical sockets. The sockets are compatible with HomeKit, allowing them to be controlled via iPhones, iPads and even the Apple Watch.

HomeKit supports the Siri voice control system, allowing the user to activate and deactivate devices with simple spoken commands. The Apple smart home system also allows users to customize “scenes,” which perform a series of commands based on a single instruction.

For example, a user might create a scene called “Christmastime is here.” By repeating this phrase to Siri, a HomeKit-enabled adapter app could turn on the power for their tree, activate a lighting display in the front yard and switch on an animatronic dancing Santa Claus.

Christmas Lights

Home automation systems can be used to create a Christmas mood throughout the entire house with the addition of smart LED light bulbs that can adjust their color.

One example of this system is the Lifx Color 1000 bulb, which can emit millions of colors. The bulb connects directly to Wi-Fi, without the need for a smart-home hub. The bulb is controlled via the Lifx app, which supports the display of “themes” that include holidays. To capture that festive mood, users could choose a theme that fits with the colors of the holiday season, such as reds and greens.

LED lighting systems also offer new form factors beyond the confines of traditional light bulbs that are perfect for the holiday season. The Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus provides a ribbon of light that can be shaped and attached to any solid surface to light a room. Lightstrip Plus supports 16 million colors, casting holiday tints throughout the house.

Using a third-party app, such as Huey, the system can also sync with music and movies, spreading the spirit with carols like “Silent Night” or the film “A Christmas Story” throughout a room.

Holiday Warmth

Smart home systems also can be used to keep a home warm and comfy.

This capability is highlighted by the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Nest device is capable of observing and adapting to the patterns of your household, turning down the temperature at times when no one is around, and heating up when occupants are home. This ensures the house is always warm when needed, while saving on energy bills.

A Safe Christmas

With holiday schedules and deliveries, crime and security are major concerns during Christmas.

One of the most common crimes experienced during the holidays is the theft of packages that are left by the mail or deliver services at home entrances. A total of 23 million Americans have had packages stolen from their homes before they could open them, according to Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

This problem is getting worse as more people shop online and have gifts delivered to their homes.

New smart home technologies help address this issue.

For example, there’s the SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell. The SkyBell is equipped with a high-definition video camera, a motion sensor, microphone and speaker.

When someone rings the doorbell, such as a package deliveryman, SkyBell sends an alert to the connected smartphone. The user can then see, hear and speak to the visitor from any location. This allows homeowners to give instructions to visitors, for instance asking them to return later, or to leave a package in a safe place.

The sensor also can detect if someone is at the door, but hasn’t rung the bell. This could allow a homeowner to detect if a package thief is lurking—and could record evidence of a crime.

Christmas is also a time of elevated fire danger from combustible trees and candles. New smart home technology can mitigate this threat as well.

The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm can send alarms to smart phones, alerting users remotely if there’s a fire in the home. The Nest Protect also can deliver information about the nature of a possible health or safety threat, such as identifying the room where carbon monoxide has been detected. The device also can inform users when batteries need to be replaced.

Dreaming of a Smart Christmas

The proliferation of smart home technology is making for a safer, more comfortable and personalized Christmas for everyone.

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