What is smart home technology?

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When a security company offers a gazillion services, you might wonder what you really need to be safe. But high-tech home security systems do more than just protect your home from intruders. Today's buzzword is home automation—smart home technology that "wires" your house for a variety of services. The possibilities are limitless, but you can rein them in according to your personal needs.

Worried that you left the lights on? You can actually lower your energy costs with a system that allows you to control your lights as well as your appliances and thermostat through your smartphone, tablet or another web-enabled device.

Most concerned about home security? With a camera detection system, you can monitor every room in your house online, no matter where you are.

An enhanced system can warn you if smoke or carbon monoxide alarms are activated through an alert sent directly to your smartphone. Real-time technology provides you with instant information in an emergency.

And when your home is equipped with a state-of-the-art security system, you’ll never have to wonder if you locked the front door—simply log in, check the status and secure it with the touch of a fingertip.

With an unlimited list of services to choose from, how can you know where to start or even what you really need? The experts at the Electronic Security Association (ESA), the trade group for the electronic life safety and security industry, have some suggestions. Consider three factors when assembling your wishlist and putting a plan in place: What system features are important to you, identifying companies qualified to install the system and selecting the right company for the job.

To avoid succumbing to feature overload, think about what you'd like your home system to do and whether that capability fits into your budget and your lifestyle. Once you have an idea of what you'd like, you can communicate your vision of a smart home to a security industry professional who can help you customize your choices and make them a reality.

Finding a licensed professional to design and install a customized home automation system is your next step. You not only want a contractor or firm who can tailor the system to your needs, but who can also continue to monitor and maintain it.

To help with the search, ESA has created the special designation of SECURE integrators to increase awareness of association members who have the proven expertise to design and install enhanced home control systems that work for any lifestyle, like Vivint (www.vivint.com) of Provo, Utah, a company that operates in 39 states.

Photo courtesy of Vivint