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The Internet of Things

If you have heard the phrase, “the Internet of Things or IoT,” raise your hand. Good. If you understand what the IoT is, keep your hands up. Thank you. For those not familiar with the IoT, please read on.

The IoT is the name being applied to the growing number of products that can connect to the Internet. These include individual light bulbs, security cameras, thermostats, appliances, televisions, smoke detectors, window blinds, garage doors and more. It seems every manufacturer under the sun is adding Internet connectivity to their products.

What is driving this push to put everything online? Convenience, comfort, savings and control are the top contenders in my book. For this article let’s look at how the IoT can help you reduce your energy use and save money.

Nearly all IoT devices connect to the Internet wirelessly. This has the benefits of using an existing wireless network and eliminating wiring hassles. Some devices will connect via your standard wifi network while others connect to a hub that is connected to the Internet. Frankly, I prefer the wifi approach because I already my network and I am not locked into one manufacturer’s proprietary hardware.

Let’s look at how you can use these devices and the IoT to save energy. The smart thermostat is my favorite for energy savings. Two key features equip them to provide savings while maintaining comfort and increasing convenience. Learning thermostats don’t require any special programming by the user. You simply tell the thermostat your maximum and minimum temperatures and leave it alone. Using motion sensors, the thermostat can tell when you are home and when you aren’t. It creates a program that only conditions the space to your desired temperature when somebody is in the house. Other times, it is in a conservation/away mode.

The second feature is geofencing. In this case, you pair your smart phone to the thermostat and set a distance from home as the geofence, say two miles. Now when you leave the phone sends your location to the thermostat so it will know when you have moved past the fence’s limit. The temperature goes into the conservation/away mode. When you cross the geofence line coming back, it turns on the home mode.

Lighting is another area of potential savings, particularly in the winter when the days are short. You can program lights to come on in accordance with sunrise and sunset. Instead of leaving a light on so you won’t arrive home to a dark house, let the device do the work for you. While I have not seen it yet, geofencing for lighting is a terrific idea. You can also program varied lighting schedules to make your house look “lived in” while on vacation to deter criminals.

The smart phone is on its way to being the defacto control for all these wonderful gadgets. The reason is quite simple –  smart phone users are rarely without them and the phone gives you access and control from anywhere in the world…as long as you have a signal. When I installed my smart thermostat, I had to use my smart phone. I couldn’t install it without one.

A lot of this may seem superficial but the potential for improved comfort, convenience and efficiency is huge. And the cost of entry is coming down. I recommend giving the IoT a try and deciding for yourself. A good place to start is with a smart thermostat as that will provide the largest savings. While not cheap, the payback can be fast.

And that’s a good return on your energy investment.

Oh, those with your hands still up can put them down now. Sorry.