Humans have always been fascinated with coming up with new ways to make tasks easier. Even our hunter-gatherer ancestors, says Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman, were "as likely as 21st century Americans to instinctually avoid unnecessary exertion."
From motion sensor lights to air con timers, we've invented a host of gadgets and gizmos to help automate our lives since. In particular, many devices have been created with our haven of peace and rest in mind - the home.
In other words, the capability to control your locks and light switches remotely has been around for a while.
Due to factors such as prohibitive pricing and inaccessible technology, having your own smart home has probably always been a pipe dream - until now. Here's why 2018 is the perfect year for you to get into smart home automation in Singapore.
But First: Why Home Automation?
Automating menial tasks at home might come across as frivolous.
Yes, having the aircon in my bedroom switch on automatically when it gets a bit warm is pretty cool (pun intended). But if all I have to do is spend a minute to stand up, walk into my bedroom, and press a button on the remote control to do the same, is it really worth spending good money on that? Why not save it up instead?
The answer lies in two words: decision fatigue.
Protecting Your Mental Health
Everyday, we face an incredible amount of decisions that need to be made.
Some are more important, such as whether you should fire an underperforming employee or not.
Other decisions might seem less impactful, but require equally lengthy consideration.
On Burpple alone, there are 57 food categories to choose from. There goes half an hour of pre-lunch work productivity.
On a daily basis, we make a large number of seemingly “routine” decisions, which are actually not routine at all.
All of these add up to decision fatigue: “the more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts,” according to The New York Times.
The result? We end up making bad decisions, or none at all - which could be catastrophic if we happened to be in such a state when facing an important but tough call to make.
This is the reason why people who need to make big decisions constantly - such as CEOs and presidents - wear the same thing everyday.
“I’m trying to pare down decisions,” former US president Barack Obama tells Vanity Fair. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
The solution? Automate as many so-called menial decisions as possible. And that starts at home.
1. Home Automation Costs Are Lower Than Ever
To those who are not well-acquainted with this industry, technology always seems to be expensive - even when it is not - because everything appears to be futuristic and shiny.
The fact is, however, that the more technology advances, the cheaper it actually gets.
Take the personal computer, for example. In 1971, the first ever PC debuted at an inflation adjusted price of over $4000. And let’s not talk about Hewlett-Packard’s first attempt to produce a business computer, which had a stunning price tag of $95,000 (inflation adjusted price: $541,209).
Even in the last two years, the cost of smart home automation devices and parts have halved (in some cases, even more), according to Home-A-Genius.
In other words, you can now get Chinese smart home automation devices and parts in Singapore that are as good, or even better, than their US counterparts. At a price point that makes sense for the everyday consumer.
Don’t believe me? Here are some examples we have gathered:
2. Home Automation Tools And Technologies Are Readily Accessible in Singapore
Earlier in this article, we talked about the Z-Wave protocol, which basically allows you to add any device in your home to your network and control it remotely. This can be achieved simply by plugging the relevant Z-Wave module into your devices of choice, which can then be controlled with a Z-Wave controller.
While Z-Wave smart home products are very popular in the market, they’re notoriously hard to purchase in Singapore - typically, you’d need to ship them in from the US or Europe.
Additionally, the Z-Wave protocol works in different frequencies for different countries. In other words, Z-Wave products purchased in the US won’t work in Singapore.
Once again, China has offered us a better way to get past these difficulties.
For one, we can now get our smart home products and devices directly from manufacturers in China. Xiaomi, for instance, shipped over 10 million smart home products globally in the past three years. MiJia smart switches and smart sensors, for instance, are very highly rated.
Furthermore, Xiaomi smart home devices are also generally compatible with Zigbee, another well-known protocol. Zigbee’s advantage over Z-Wave is that it is is a standardised protocol, which makes it far easier to implement, especially in this part of the world.
3. Home Automation Setup Is So Easy, Your Mother Could Do It
All that said and done, setting up a smart home system in your home can seem like a daunting task.
A major issue is technological fragmentation - that is, when each of your devices, while able to communicate with each other, require separate remote controls and mobile apps to operate.
Another is the sheer amount of options available for hub devices, protocols, software ecosystems, and so on. For the average user, it can be overwhelming.
The good news is, these issues can be easily overcome by having a smart home hub.
The foundation: a smart home hub
A smart hub allows all your devices to operate on the save wavelength, and gives you centralized control over your entire smart home automation system.
Rather than having to manage different apps and remote controls for your devices, you’d be able to access everything through a single hub.
From then on, you can control them via the smart home hub directly.
Another advantage of using a smart home hub is the ability to group devices in a room or environment together. For example, if you have a lamp, fan, and speaker from different ecosystems in your living room, you can group and control them as a “room” unit.
A good smart home hub also includes connectivity across different wireless standards, regardless of whether you’re using Z-Wave or Zigbee, so you don’t need to worry about compatibility.
Here’s how our Home-A-Genius Hub looks like:
Pick your devices wisely
This is the fun part! Here’s where you consider which devices you want to automate, and find the relevant smart plugs and switches that will accomplish that for you.
Either way, a good smart home hub would allow you one-stop connectivity all of these devices - regardless of the ecosystem they belong to. Home-A-Genius takes it up a notch by operating through local network connections, which allows the system to receive triggers and send signals to the respective devices faster.
You can go one step further and get a voice controller - such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home - which would allow you to deliver commands from anywhere in the house.
The best part? Once set up, smart home automation systems tend to be relatively low maintenance. Apart from updating device and hub software, there’s really not much else to be done.
An exception would be sensors and IP cameras, which require changing of batteries once every three years and three months respectively. Even then, it’s a small price to pay compared to the alternative of running wires to power these devices. Sure, you might go through some trial and error at the beginning, but once these systems are optimized, you’ll reap great benefits from it.
2018 is the Year for Smart Home Automation in Singapore
Clearly, many factors have aligned to make smart home automation a much friendlier and affordable option in 2018. If you’re looking to dive into it, we’re here to help. Let’s explore how we can help you save time and money together!