What the heck is the 'Internet Of Things'? It seems to be a major buzz phrase in the media these days.
Basically, we've found, it's the concept of a network that connects any number of devices/machines to the Internet and/or to each other. This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, and wearable devices, to office equipment, parking meters, and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example the engine of a truck or the drill of an oil rig. We each have at least one such IoT network in our homes, don't we? A computer and phone connected to the internet? Totally counts!
To put this concept in perspective, analyst firm Gartner says that, by the year 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected devices, and some even estimate this number to be much higher - over 100 billion. Who knows? The IoT network of connected 'things' could also soon include people, forging new relationships between people-people, people-things, and things-things.
The broader these networks become, the "smarter" they are, and often these interconnected technologies are simply referred to as smart technology. Officially, a "smart device" is defined as "an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously." -Wikipedia Even basic household items, like thermostats, can become smart devices if connected to other technologies in a network. One characteristic that generally sets smart tech apart from IoT is that it is usually specifically used to make domestic life easier and/or more regulated.
So, what does this have to do with Toronto real estate? Smart tech is showing up in homes across the city as it becomes more affordable, and as people catch on to the implications for sustainability and the added convenience!
Technology Making Homes Smarter
By increasing numbers, people are catch on to the convenience and benefits of having a connected home. Some technologies are already commonplace, like the bedside alarm that signals your coffee maker to turn on, or the NEST thermostat that has tailored scheduled prgramming, remote access, and can monitor the temperature of individual rooms. Other technoliges are still in their infancy, but gaining momentum, like windows that tint themselves based on the amount of sunlight, that can also display the weather or the day's news headlines as a computer screen would. SmartBulbs that'll keep shining when the power goes out, turn on automatically when they hear your doorbell or alarm, and even replay your typical lighting patterns when you're not home are also a new and fast-growing commodity. CNET has the low-down on many of the latest and greatest, as well as an interactive model Smart Home and Smart Apartment that recommend products for each room!
So how are SmartHomes directly affecting the real estate market? They're fast becoming mainstream as more and more home buyers are acknowledging the benefits of living in one. After polling about 4,000 people, "Coldwell Banker showed that 45% of homeowners own smart home technology or plan to invest in it." (RealtyBizNews) A full 81% of respondants said they were more likely to buy a house that was already equipped with smart home technology. And, coincidentally (or cosequently), 54% of homeowners with plans to sell their house within the next year would purchase or install smart-home products to help it sell faster. Interesting!
Here are some of our favorites!
Ecobee's been in the thermostat biz for a long time, but its first few smart models weren't quite able match the appeal of Nest's learning thermoststs; but now it dominates in all categories! It has a fast and easy touch screen display that allows users to customize their experience. Complete with temperature and motion/proximity detection, a sensor makes it easy to determine if someone's home or away, and to track rooms with hot or cold spots. Woah!
Test users rated it 9/10 in categories including Features, Performance, and Usability. But perhaps most importantly, it comes with a PEK (Power Extender Kit) which allows you to hook up the EcoBee4 without having to rewire your whole HVAC system! Perfect.
It's $280 price tag may seem a bit daunting at first, but becomes more palatable once you consider the potential savings in heating/cooling costs!
August Smart Lock
Sure it's a bit chunky-looking, but from it's easy installation to its simple software interface, the August Smart Lock does everything just that much better! Because deadbolts are securing your front door (and the gateway to your life!), you want something durable and reliable that will actually make your life easier. While our research shows that some earlier models were hard to install, had confusing apps or didn't perform well, this award-winning next-gen August Smart Lock excels!
Basically, your smartphone is now your key. Lock and unlock your door and even keep track of who comes and goes – all from your iOS or Android smartphone. It has an easy ergonomic grip for manual lock and unlocking annd the batteries last 6 to 9 months!
"Since you keep your old deadbolt in place, your original keyhole and house keys will still work the same way. And everything will look exactly the same from the exterior of your house -- a plus if you want a smart lock, but don't want people to know you have a smart lock." - CNET
It gets top marks for usability and the accompanying app is easy to use. The smart lock works with Nest, Logitech Harmony, Comcast's Xfinity Home and Siri, so even if you aren't an iPhone user and can't benefit from Siri integration, it's still a still a superior product worth strong consideration! It's available in silver or a dark gray finish, with copper and red on the horizon! Take a peek:
Personally, we're excited about SleepSense. It's a device you'll slip underneath your mattress to track your movements in the night. Samsung claims that it's 97 percent accurate at reading your sleep patterns, and it uses that info to generate sleep reports each morning, complete with tailored advice on how to get a better night's rest. The sensor syncs directly with your phone using Bluetooth, granting you full access to its sleep data in the dedicated SleepSense app. You can also sync it up with Samsung smart appliances. Set the air conditioning to come on at key moments in your sleep cycle, or simply set the TV to turn off automatically when SleepSense detects that you've fallen asleep during a late night Netflix binge. Your appliances can also inform the sleep advice. If your smart fridge shows that you tend to eat dairy before a bad night's rest, then SleepSense might advise you to stick with fruit and nuts for your late-night snack. How neat is that?!
Smart Tech And Realtors
One of the most talk-about real estate topics these days is the growing impact of technology on the the industry. The consensus is that smart technologies not only add value to your home, but also make it easier to sell. In today's housing market - which moves at warp speed - having that kind of edge is invaluable for sellers and realtors alike.
Have you noticed that nowadays drones finding uses in a myriad of industries? Well, real estate is no exception. Realtors are now using drones to collect exterior and neighbourhood pictures and video - fed directly ot their spartphone or tablet! Similarly bolstered by technology, consider virtual tours, which have become a prerequisite of advertising a listing. Emerging virtual reality technology is now offering some extremely exciting possibilities as realtors, developers, and architectural firms explore its many wonders. Through augmented reality, clients can actually walk through a prospective home with just a headset! This is particularly exciting for sellers of pre-construction properties that have yet to be built.
Realtors are also starting to use NestCam to monitor the interior of their listings, and remote access technology to control door locks and to turn the lights and music on/off as desired. This kind of access has countless possibilities for both showings and open houses!
The Future and Smart Cities
So, why would you want connected devices outside of the home talking to each other? There are many examples for what this might look like or what the potential value might be. Say, for example, you are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take, avoiding congestion and traffic jams. Consider the potential of office equipment that knew it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more, or a wearable device you used in the workplace that could tell you when and where you were most active and productive?
There are companies out there, like Libelium, who strive to network “any sensor connected to any cloud platform through any communication protocol”. In this sense, they are focusing all their efforts on having modularity in daily life and in the functioning of homes, communities, and cities. There are hundreds of applications individuals and companies alike are already deploying. 'Smart Cities' are getting closer and closer to a reality as new technology makes automation and 'monitoring' easier and more integrated. For example, new chips - ideally distributed across a city - can sense, monitor, and instantly transmit data on things like dust particles in the air, gas concentrations, noise pollution, light usage/conservation, water quality/conservation, radiation levels, parking, traffic, and the smartphones of people as they commute, shop, etc. Take a look, and imagine:
Crazy, right? Sometimes it feels like we're just steps away form living out a Star Trek episode that seemed so fantastical in our youth!
While some of these tech gadgets are nice to have - or are just cool - there is a growing home buyer base that is actively seeking hi-tech homes, and are including tech gadgetry in their search criteria. Homes that have evolved ahead of the curve hold particular appeal, and may serve well to rise up amongst the competition, helping sellers secure top dollar.
Looking for a hi-tech house, or curious to learn more about domestic gadgetry? Urbaneer knows all about housing bells and whistles - and what direct purpose they can serve in enhancing the quality of life. We’d be delighted to help you learn how some of these features can benefit you, either as a buyer or as a seller.
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*Pictures and video courtesy of CNET.