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Blog: Smart Homes; Staying Ahead of the Curve

By Brooke C. Stoddard

This is the last on our four-part series on smart home technology.

To read part one on how it can work for you, click here.
To read part two on green initiatives in smart home technology, click here.
To read part three on training to install smart home technology, click here.

Staying ahead of any technology curve these days is difficult, but here are some ways to help.

Some universities run Smart Home or Smart House programs, with a heavy emphasis on energy savings and researching new ideas. Drexel University runs Drexel Smart House in Philadelphia, by which students develop new ideas and technologies for Smart Home living; its special emphasis is homes in city cores. Duke University’s Smart House works with Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, the emphasis being on energy savings and construction methods. Also concentrating on “green” is the U. S. Department of Energy’s “Solar Decathlon,” which challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered homes. The best homes are constructed and shown every two years at various places around the country — and are open to the public for inspection. Research and new ideas also come out of the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

AT&T runs a program called AT&T DigitalLife specializing in home security and communication as well as caring for pets. Telephone company CenturyLink has a home security program. And Verizon bundles a variety of services along the line of home automation, namely Internet, TV, wireless and such.

Cutting edge Smart Home design ideas come out of the upscale providers. These include Savant Systems, which installed controls for the Electronic House “2013 Home of the Year;” Vantage, which handled the lighting portion of the same Arizona mansion; SmartHome Group, which works on offices and hotels as well as homes; and Magnolia, which sets up fancy design displays in Best Buy stores.

Two trade associations promote Smart Home ideas. The Custom Electric Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) has more than 3,500 members and organizes annual trade shows that allow exhibitors to display their latest devices, products, and services. CEDIA also recognizes superior projects and products with its Electronic Lifestyles® Awards. In addition, CEDIA holds showcases in Britain and Australia, reaping ideas from Europe and the Pacific Rim. The trade association has a searchable list of its members, which can be divided by region as well as by specialty such as designer, instructor, network specialist, and home cinema specialist.

The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) has organized several councils, among them the Connected Home Council and the Intelligent and Integrated Buildings Council. CABA also offers a library of research papers available to the public (others to members) and it puts out iHomes and Buildings magazine that concentrates on trends and products while also posting updates on trade shows, seminars, and industry education. Additionally, CABA offers market research and R&D possibilities for members. Although not particularly oriented toward homes, the International Society of Automation (ISA) is a good resource for automation engineering and research.

Besides CABA’s iHomes and Buildings magazine mentioned above, Electronic House magazine, published in Framingham, Mass., covers the industry. It also produces newsletters and makes available RSS feeds. SDM magazine covers Smart Home technology in general but with an emphasis on the security aspects. There are also Smart Home Ideas magazine and Smart Home magazine, the latter of which is produced by the company Control4.

Brooke C. Stoddard is an Alexandria, Virginia-based writer covering business, manufacturing, energy, and technology.

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