Outdoor automation helps manage your yard
Smart home technology doesn't have to be limited to the boundaries of your interior living space. Today, you can automate tasks and easily control key security and entertainment features outdoors, too.
This move outdoors is thanks to the increasing availability of intelligent devices built to withstand the elements and managed by your smartphone and voice assistant.
"As we unplug and spend more time outside, the outdoor living spaces around our homes increasingly become an extension of the indoors," Brad Wardle, vice president of B-hyve Smart Home at Orbit in North Salt Lake, Utah, says. "The tools and technologies that define our inside spaces, like smart thermostats, aren't all applicable outdoors. But companies are responding to outdoor product demand and providing smart tech to accomplish tasks that require time and knowledge many may not have -- allowing you to spend more time enjoying your property with better peace of mind."
One such gadget that instantly springs to mind is a wired or wireless outdoor-rated smart security camera that can be operated and viewed by your smartphone.
"A video doorbell adds a layer of safety, with or without a security system, and lets us see our kids and loved ones arrive and leave home safely, talk to a delivery person, and discourage thieves," says Sean Miller, president of PointCentral, a subsidiary of Tysons, Virginia-based Alarm.com.
Smart outdoor lights, including pathway lights, wall-mounted fixtures, light strips, spotlights and outdoor-rated bulbs have also illuminated the outdoor living experience for homeowners and boosted security by increasing visibility around a property.
"You can set smart outdoor lights to automatically turn on as you come home and pull up in your driveway. You can adjust your lights with your smartphone as you attend to yard work or enhance your home's curb appeal," explains Tim Rider of Signify, the Somerset, New Jersey-based maker of Philips Hue products. "You can also customize the lighting ambience to any occasion -- whether you're eating dinner on the deck or celebrating the holidays."
Find it a hassle to water the lawn and garden? Install a smart sprinkler controller that you can easily program -- taking the guesswork out of irrigation and cutting down on water bills.
"You can control in-ground sprinkler systems or even automate the outdoor faucets at your home. And many of today's smart sprinkler controllers will automatically shut off if rain is in the forecast," says Wardle. "It typically pays for itself in less than a year from water savings alone, and can be set up in as little as 10 minutes."
Smart garage door openers make remotely opening and closing your car's home with a mobile app a breeze, and a garage tilt sensor will ensure your garage door is fully closed.
Smart pool alarms, meanwhile, can instantly alert you if a child or pet falls into the water.
"There are many different types of outdoor smart audio devices today, too, including water-resistant Bluetooth speakers, speakers disguised as landscape lighting, and in-ground subwoofers," says Christopher Sterle, founder and CEO of Acoustic Design Systems in Las Vegas. "These systems can play the same music in your backyard that you're playing in your kitchen so that you can enjoy the same cohesive sound throughout your party or get-together."
Brad LaRock, vice president of marketing for Alula, a security solutions provider in St. Paul, Minnesota, says many of the hyped "plug and play" devices are fairly easy to set up.
"But once you have multiple systems running, it layers on more complexity. For example, if your smart devices aren't all on the same Wi-Fi network, or aren't Z-wave enabled, they may not work together in a home automation system or work at all," LaRock cautions. "That's why you might need to hire a professional who can make sure all your systems communicate and can be controlled via one phone app or voice assistant ecosystem."
Millers adds that outdoor smart tech requires good Wi-Fi speed (2 to 5 Mbps per second upload for cameras and 20 Mbps download for streaming services), a strong local Wi-Fi network (preferably dual-band or a mesh network), and the use of robust WPA2 passwords to protect against infiltrators.