14 Smart Features & Renovations That Are Making Their Way into Silicon Valley Homes

14 Smart Features & Renovations That Are Making Their Way into Silicon  Valley Homes
The Siliconreview
13 August, 2019

A strip of land just south of San Francisco Bay, better known as Silicon Valley, has long been renowned as one of the most technologically advanced areas with thousands of tech startups and more than a quarter million IT workers. In this relatively small place, there are more than 39 companies that are ranked on the Fortune 1000 list. The largest city in the region, and the third-largest in California, is San Jose, which impressively holds the rank of having the world's third-highest GDP per capita behind only Oslo, Norway and Zurich, Switzerland. 

With technology playing such an integral role in the lives of people who live, work, and operate businesses in Silicon Valley, it's no surprise that smart devices are becoming the norm in many of the area's homes. More specifically, here are 14 smart features and renovations that are becoming increasingly popular with Silicon Valley homeowners:

1. Solar Panel Installations

Eliminating your electricity bill is probably the smartest move you can make as a homeowner. While it may take a few years to recoup your investment, the long-term benefits of being able to produce your own power will definitely justify the short-term expenditure. Plus, California has passed a law that will require solar panel systems on all new homes built after January 1st, 2020. The state's governor has also introduced an initiative to build more than 500,000 new homes per year between now and 2025.

With Silicon Valley being home to some of the state's fastest growing communities, it's likely that many of those newly equipped solar homes will be located in cities like San Jose. Semper Solaris, one of the leading solar providers in San Jose, has seen a tremendous increase in the area's solar panel installations during the past two years. The company has offices throughout the state and specializes in providing and installing American-made solar panels that are backed by 50-year Platinum Protection warranties. What’s more is that you can reduce the solar panel costs in San Jose by making use of the government’s solar tax credit California scheme.

2. Smart Home Control Panels

Smart home control panels or remote controls make it easy to control every smart device in your home within a centralized dashboard. These interfaces connect to your home's Wi-Fi and can control any other devices that are also connected to the same network. Popular examples of smart home control panels include Logitech's Harmony Home Hub and the NuBryte Touchpoint.

There are also apps that can serve as smart home control panels, although these will usually require a little more effort in terms of installation and setup to get everything connected and working properly.  

3. Smart Windows and Automated Actuators & Blinds

There are two advancements in home window design that have been seeing a rise in popularity within Silicon Valley – smart glass and automated actuators or blinds. Smart glass can be remotely controlled to change from transparent to opaque and every level of translucency in between. Basically, you have full control over the tint level and clarity of the glass at any given moment.

Smart actuators can detect when opening the windows would be beneficial (i.e. - in the event of a cool breeze being present outside) in order to create more comfortable living spaces. They can also be triggered via a smartphone app to drastically simplify the process of opening all the windows in your house, which can be very helpful when you want to let fresh air in after a kitchen mishap or other malodorous issue. The same automated functionality can be added to window blinds to integrate that feature into your smart home control panel as well.

It is way too useful features like these; an invention brought to make things a lot easier at home. Imagine how interactive the indoors could be by installing functional block out blinds and controlling them from the distance while cleaning or reading a book.

4. Smart Lighting Systems

Smart lighting systems save electricity and enhance mood by automatically turning bulbs on and off or dimming them according to your preference. There are smart lighting apps that you can use to create lighting schedules and change settings, and apply presets to try out different modes and configurations.

With this approach to lighting control being so much more convenient than the old-fashioned way of manually flipping light switches, it's likely that this functionality will become the norm in modern interior design projects within the next 5 years.

5. Doorbell Cameras

The conventional approach of seeing who is at your door is to walk up and peek through the peephole or look out the window. Of course, having to do that sort of makes checking who's at the door pointless, especially if you wanted the visitor to think no one was home, as audibly walking up to your door or peeking out of your blinds isn't really the best strategy for playing the “no one's home” card.

With doorbell cameras, you can be sitting on the couch and check who's at the door with a few swipes of your smartphone. Silicon Valley played a role in the advent of high-quality doorbell cams, as San Jose-based GEO Semiconductor Inc. developed the first full HD doorbell camera in conjunction with Gainspan in 2014.

6. Voice Activated Digital Assistants

Voice activated digital assistants like Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri can interface with your smart home devices to allow for voice-guided control over your entire home. Sales for these devices are higher in California than in any other state. Roughly 33% of the national population currently uses voice activated assistants at least once per month. That figure is estimated to be closer to 50% in the Silicon Valley region due to the high number of smart homes per capita.

Again, the area was directly involved in the development of this technology as well, with the Cupertino-made Apple Siri being the first voice assistant to come standard on a smartphone. Although IBM made the first predecessor to modern voice assistants with Simon in 1994, Siri is widely credited as being the first app-based voice assistant.

7. Motion Sensor Activated Garbage Bin

Lifting the lid to the garbage bin manually seems simple enough, but why even touch it if you don't have to? Motion activated trash bins are affordable and simple enough to be considered an impulse buy, which is probably why many homeowners have been buying these during the past two years. These devices provide two main benefits:

First, you don't have to touch or shake the bin to get it to open, which would normally expose you to germs via contact with your hands and through the particles that are released into the air when the bin or trash bag is rattled. Secondly, you don't have to use one of your hands to open the lid, so you can throw trash away gently with two hands instead of dropping it in with one hand while holding the lid with the other. This is another household convenience that's really starting to take off in Silicon Valley and will eventually become a societal norm worldwide within the next 5-10 years.

8. Smart Bathtubs

Smart bathtubs don't just give you the ability to turn the bath water on and off with a smartphone app, some of them also have built-in speakers that can send your favorite songs vibrating through the water as you bathe.

These are less common than the other devices on this list, but are still worthy of a spot in the top 10 because of just how innovative and futuristic they are. Some smart bathtubs also have cool underwater lighting effects that will change the color of your bathwater.

9. Automated Lawn Mowers

Automated electric lawn mowers are making yard maintenance much easier while also eliminating the pollutive use of gasoline as a fuel source for cutting the grass. Like all the other smart devices on this list, robotic lawnmowers can indeed be controlled by a smart home control system or voice activated assistant.

With a smart mower, mowing your lawn can be as easy as saying “Alexa, please cut the grass,” for example. Top selling devices in the automated lawncare industry include the Worx Landroid and the iRobot Terra, the latter of which allegedly took ten years of research and development. You can even set daily, weekly, or monthly mowing schedules along with cut height preferences and the exact time of day you want the grass to be mowed.

10. Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are quickly replacing hand-controlled thermostats because they connect to your Wi-Fi network and can be controlled via smartphone apps, voice assistants, or smart home remote controls. Some smart thermostats can also turn on and off automatically whenever you leave home or return, thereby helping you avoid the mistake of leaving the heating or cooling on while nobody is home.

Some of the top smart thermostats on the market include the Ecobee 3, EcobeeSmartThermostat, Honeywell Lyric, Lux Geo, Lux Kono, Nest Learning Thermostat, and the Nest Thermostat E. Of course, with Nest – one of the first smart thermostat companies – being owned by Google and headquartered in Palo Alto, the smart thermostat industry also has its roots in Silicon Valley.

11. Smart Detectors

Smart smoke and CO detectors can notify you a number of different ways instead of just issuing the same old-fashioned beeping alarm that conventional detectors emit. Smart detectors can even send notifications to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection. This means that they're useful not only when you're in the home but also when you're out commuting, at work, or on vacation.

In addition, instead of having to climb up on a chair or step ladder to manually disable the detector's sound after an alarm, you can just turn the beeping off directly from your device wherever you are in the home.

12. Central Vacuum Systems

This smart home feature hasn't caught on in the mainstream yet because of the relatively intensive installation process that involves running a vacuum tube system through your walls. In a nutshell, a central vacuum system (CVS) equips you with wall outlets that you can plug vacuum hoses and attachments into for quick and easy vacuuming without having to haul around the vacuum unit itself. While automated robotic vacuums seem to be a more futuristic option, it's likely that future generations will still want the option of vacuuming up certain messes themselves, which is where the home's CVS comes into play.

13. Self-Watering Planters

As home gardening continues to increase in popularity through California, Silicon Valley is once again leading the way in this trend with many homeowners incorporating self-watering planters into their greenhouses and home garden bed setups. Some of these smart planters can interface with monitoring apps on your smartphone to give you a quick indication of soil moisture levels, air humidity, room temperature, and other essential gardening metrics. With these tools in hand, you can take care of your garden and prevent accidental droughts, indoor heat waves, or other environmental mishaps that could be disastrous or unpleasant for your plants.

14. Smart Security Systems

Conventional security systems have included mounted cameras that could be controlled remotely, but new smart systems are making it possible for the camera to control itself and follow moving targets based on motion sensors. Likewise, these systems are directly integrated into smartphone apps that are programmed to notify you if the camera spots any movement.

Furthermore, smart security systems can be incorporated into your home's locks and windows to only allow entry via the use of a PIN, password, or biometric identification (i.e. - fingerprint or facial recognition). Unlike the systems of the past that only gave you the ability to check footage or monitor a CCTV screen, today's smart security systems keep track of everything for you and notify you when something is wrong.

Did Silicon Valley Birth the Smart Home Movement?

When you consider why Silicon Valley got its name – for being a hub of innovation in the development and production of silicon-based computer components – and the resulting impact that the area had on technological advancement, one could factually state that, at the very least, the region paved the way for many of the smart devices of today. As such, it's only fitting that these same cities which are home to some of the tech industry's most influential corporate giants are also now hosting some of the fastest growth in the sale and installation of smart home features and renovations.