Smart Homes

Paula LaBrot

So, what the heck is a smart home anyway? We hear it all the time, along with smart TV, smart cars, smart phones. Smart. Smart. Smart. 

Smart technology is much more than remote on-off switches. Kelly Bowers, writing for, says, “The word ‘SMART’ refers to self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology…. It is a technology that uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analysis to provide cognitive awareness to objects that were in the past considered inanimate.”



First of all, you need electricity. Ha! Then, according to, “You can make a “Home Network” based on the existing wiring in the walls or use wireless options. No cost for infrastructure there…. Alternatively, you can install a whole system from scratch. The cost varies, just like the cost of building a house; the more you put in, the more it costs.”

You need a broadband connection, i.e., an internet connection, so your systems can communicate. You may get what are called “smart plugs” to turn your older “dumb” outlets into smart outlets. Each plug can be controlled by an app on your phone, tablet, or computer or by Alexa, Siri, and other voice assist smart technologies.

With a smart home system, one literally has the world at their fingertips! With more and more gadgets and appliances wired for the Internet of Things (IoT), the home of the future has definitely arrived.


IOT—INTERNET OF THINGS states, “The Internet of Things is actually a pretty simple concept, it means taking all the things in the world and connecting them to the internet. That means, when something is connected to the internet, it can send or receive information or both. This ability to send and/or receive information makes things smart, and smart is good.”

The “things” that are being connected, from soil moisture analyzers to home refrigerators, collect information, act on that information, or do both. The more they are used, the more they “learn” how to perform specifically for you.



The Samsung’s Family Hub “refrigerator” does much more than hold your food. One can scarcely imagine its many talents. It has a touchscreen on the door where you can leave messages. This fridge can get recipes for you and read them out loud to you as you cook! It can send photos, sync people’s calendars, play music for you, or connect to cameras in other parts of the house. It will meal plan, create shopping lists, keep inventory, warn you of expired food, or that you need to buy something. It can order out for you. The more you use it, the more it will “learn” to anticipate your needs without you having to ask. Cameras inside the fridge allow you to check its contents from as far away as the other side of the world.

As for light, heat and irrigation, Smart Homes give you much more control over your energy and resource use. You can program climate and lighting controls according to your usage: turn on the lights or turn up the heat or air-conditioning just before you get home and have your house nice and comfy for your arrival. Smart appliances like washing machines and dryers avoid using energy during peak demand times by responding to signals over the internet from utility companies and turning themselves on when energy costs are cheaper.

Watering systems have sensors that measure soil moisture. Through their internet connection, they check weather reports and trigger irrigation systems when needed. Security systems in Smart Homes can remotely lock and unlock the house, track whoever goes in and out, allow you to monitor pets and children or send you warnings when there is a breach of security.

Disabled and elderly people really appreciate the Smart House. They are able to solve a myriad of accessibility problems using voice commands to virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa to control the new appliances or to summon help.



We Topangans know a thing or two about power outages. Electricity is needed to run any Smart Home system. And, when lost electricity comes back on, you must have a Smart Home protected from power surges to avoid corruption of your gadgets. If the internet goes down, you are toast. Your “Things” can’t communicate. Most concerning for me, however, is the privacy issue. Smart devices can be hacked. Once a hacker gets into your fridge or toaster, it’s on to everything else on your network…especially your computer.



My very beloved and very smart 98-year-old mother was fascinated by the idea of such futuristic homes. She wisely observed that the line between the future and the more primitive past is very thin, and that it is still prudent to keep a bunch of matches and candles handy. I just love her.

Vamos a ver.


Paula LaBrot

Paula LaBrot is a 30-year resident of Topanga, a futurist with a special interest in the uncharted waters of cyberspace.

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