by guest blogger Ryan Tollefsen, Unity Home Group

It’s almost like having a personal assistant at your beck and call day and night. But a smart home security system and linked devices that help you control your environment don’t require the “care and feeding” a human assistant would need. Smart home technology allows homeowners to design unique comprehensive systems that cater to individual lifestyle needs. Modern tech installations are reliable, adaptable, expandable and comprehensive. They can also be surprisingly affordable.

Today, more than 77 percent of Americans own smartphones. While 92 percent of individuals 18–29 own one, the ownership rate among older adults has also increased substantially. Nearly half of the over-65 population currently relies on smartphone technology, up 12 percentage points in just the past two years.

Bringing Technology Home
Almost as many American households, 73 percent, now boast broadband service at home, although that depends heavily on “… factors such as age, household income, geographic location and… background,” according to tracking by Pew Research Center. Approximately 12 percent of the population is now “smartphone dependent,” meaning that they have no reliable internet service other than their cell service, an increase of about four percent in two years.

Home automation and smart home technology, though, are highly desirable improvements. In May 2017, Coldwell Banker noted that the question of whether or not a home is “smart” is increasingly moving toward the top of the buyer checklist; it’s a concern for buyers and sellers alike, according to the real estate brokerage.

Real estate agents in some locales report that smart homes receive twice as many conversions (defined as a click-through to get more information or schedule a showing) than properties without smart features. They also sell faster and command higher prices than non-smart comparables. Buyers, they say, are increasingly more savvy about technology and know what they want. Security, smart locks, smart thermostats, smart lights and voice assisted devices are among the features that buyers, particularly Millennials, favor.

A recent Houzz survey of more than 100,000 people confirmed that over a quarter of respondents rate home technology as very important during a home renovation. A third of recent home buyers either already have or intend to invest in home automation, according to the same study.

How Smart Is Smart?
There is still some muddiness about the features that qualify a home as smart, although most people agree that minimum requirements include a security system, the ability to control temperature, and at least two or three other home functions. It is generally agreed that the smart home will have a network or “hub” that connects multiple devices, as well as the ability for wireless communication. Beyond that, however, there is little consensus, and many products vie for attention.

Automation, including programmable thermostats, lighting and irrigation controls, delayed-start appliances and energy-efficient fixtures are routinely found in modern homes. Smart homes include “connectivity” and move into the realm of interactive communication. They make it possible to alter settings from remote locations, monitor occurrences in real time, routinely receive reports and access information, and communicate with the home from afar. The next level of smart home technology allows appliances, systems and devices to “speak” to one another to adjust for changes and to alter responses based on family needs and desires.

Modern smart homes also tend to be green homes, integrating the ability to control and affect the interior environment with enhancements designed to improve quality of life. As such integration becomes more automatic and more responsive to human needs, it is likely that smart technology will also become more intuitive and highly sensitive to individualized needs. As Harold Stark writes in Forbes, the future is in “lifestyle technology.”