What’s so SMART about it?
The dos and don’ts of making your home more tech-savvy
By Tobi Walsh
The world has always been fascinated by smart homes, smart describing a home’s automated technology. Walt Disney dreamed of what the world could look like with his Carousal of Progress. We’ve seen the future portrayed by the Jetsons, Marty McFly, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. While pop culture may have missed a few details, smarter homes certainly are more accessible than ever.
“I remember realizing when we would see more ‘smart’ technology come to the average consumer,” TechdHome owner Tony Pennix said. “I saw this advertisement for a smart fish tank that you could control with your phone or a web browser.”
With a background in engineering and IT, Pennix worked at the University of Virginia initially, servicing and programing academic buildings. As a side gig, he began setting up systems for his friends before transitioning over to his own consulting business last year.
“My friend said he hated adjusting the thermostat when he left his house and wanted to know if there was a way he could program it,” Pennix said. “So I sat down with him, explained how a hands-free system would work, and scheduled a time to set it up.”
According to Pennix, the market is saturated with smart products ranging anywhere to lightbulbs to ovens to mirrors.
“The most popular thing that people want is a security system,” he said. “They see advertisements for Ring all the time and go, ‘Oh, I want that.’ But it’s my job to help them decide what they want and what the best product is.”
Pennix said every system does something different—so it’s important to ask a lot of questions.
“Like, do you want alerts every time there’s movement? Sometimes, that’s not what people want. Do you want a spotlight to shine? Do you want to change the batteries in your system every few months? Then I make recommendations based on what a customer is looking for.”
If you want to transition to a hands-free smart home, Pennix said the best place to start is your WiFi connection.
“Nearly all of these systems run over the internet,” he said. “You want to make sure you have a great router and provider. That will make all the difference in the world when setting up a system.”Next is research. Pennix said you want to find companies with a reputable reputation before making a purchase.
“You will get what you pay for,” Pennix said. “If you buy a $5 camera, chances are they may be selling your information. You also have to decide whether you want to pay for a subscription to keep your information or if you just want to have access to it.”
Besides home security, Pennix said the second most popular smart product he sees in homes are speakers—Google products are popular and so is Amazon’s Echo.
“Your smart speaker can do so much more than just tell you what the weather is or how traffic is in the morning,” he said. “Not only can it tell you the weather, but you can set it to adjust your thermostat or turn on the fans to help with air circulation or maybe open the curtains to let some sunlight in.”
Pennix said that’s why consultations are important; customers get more bang for their buck.
“You can usually set up a system, but sometimes you don’t know how to work it to the fullest extent. That’s why I like to add things like adjusting the blinds or turning on the lights when you get home to add extra things to a smart home package.”
So, what’s the next trend we can expect to see in homes over the next few years? Pennix believes our gadgets will only continue to impress by adapting to the home they are in.
“I think we’re going to be all about the artificial intelligence and machine learning to give customers a more curated experience based on their needs,” Pennix said.