Imagine having a smart home so smart that you do not have to issue voice commands for simple tasks like adjusting the thermostat and turning the lights on. The system anticipates when you are on your way home and makes the adjustments automatically. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Such advanced smartness is now possible with geofencing.
For the record, geofencing is far from mature. We have a long way to go before it is considered mostly reliable, most of the time. But we are getting there. Furthermore, geofencing has come a long way in the last five years. Its gradual maturity is the result of constantly evolving smartphone capabilities.
Assuming you already have some smart home devices working for you, check the app that controls them. It may have a geofencing setting you can enable. If so, you have the foundation for making your smart home even smarter.
More About Geofencing
The geofencing concept is fairly easy to understand if you imagine a physical fence around your property, a fence with an electrical switch that is activated every time you open and close the gate. Now, imagine that switch connected to a light in your living room. Opening the gate when you leave turns the switch off. Opening it when you arrive turns it back on.
Geofencing accomplishes the same thing with wireless devices. You can set it up with a smartphone or tablet. With geofencing, you essentially establish an electronic perimeter around your home using your mobile device’s built-in GPS capabilities.
They Know Where You Are
At this point it is necessary to explain that your phone is being tracked wherever you take it. Both Android and iOS rely on GPS to constantly monitor your phone’s location. They do so for a whole host of reasons. For instance, have you ever wondered how Google Maps is capable of telling you that there is a traffic jam on the interstate?
Google tracks every single phone with the Android operating system. It can tell how many phones are sitting in cars on the interstate. It can also tell how fast those phones are moving. Armed with that little bit of data, it can figure out that traffic on the interstate is moving at a snail’s pace.
Those same capabilities make it possible to create your geofencing perimeter. With a perimeter established, you can program your home automation system to do certain things based on where you are in relation to that perimeter.
Turn the Lights On and Off
One of the easiest ways to illustrate geofencing’s capabilities is to talk about turning lights on and off. According to Vivint Smart Home, automated lighting is one of the easiest things to set up for people new to smart homes. As such, it is a fitting example for geofencing.
Let’s say you use your smart home app to create a perimeter of five hundred feet. If you take your phone 525 feet away from home, the app considers you away. Bring the phone back within the perimeter and the app considers you at home. Now you can control your lighting with this information.
Program your lights to automatically turn on when you are inside the perimeter. Program them to turn off when you’re outside the perimeter. Now you no longer have to worry about turning the lights on and off every time you leave home and return.
Your lights will automatically shut off when you leave for work in the morning. They will be back on as you pull into the driveway in the evening. With geofencing, your phone is able to alert your home automation system when you enter and leave your perimeter. The system does everything else.
Not Without Its Hiccups
As stated earlier, geofencing technology is not yet mature. There are still plenty of hiccups that have to be worked out. Many of those hiccups have to do with the limits inherent to mobile devices. Take the power-saving features on your smartphone, for example. These can inhibit geofencing.
Both Android and iOS include settings you can activate to save battery power. On some devices, the settings are already activated by default. This can be problematic in the sense that your smart home app could be disabled to save power. If it is disabled, geofencing will not work.
Power saving settings can also influence how your GPS works. And of course, security settings could prevent your phone’s operating system from discovering where you are at any point in time. The good news is that most of these software problems can be corrected simply by changing your settings.
Another common problem with geofencing is having multiple devices connected to the system. For example, maybe you have both a smartphone and a tablet. Your tablet stays home when you go to work every day. If the tablet is connected to the system, the geofencing settings might force your smart home app to assume you are still home when you’re really gone. Why? Because that connected tablet is sitting on the kitchen table.
These sorts of conflicts frequently happen when multiple family members have all their devices connected. For the time being, experts recommend assigning geofencing capabilities to a single device. Once you have mastered it, you can begin adding other devices one at a time.
Smart Homes Are Getting Smarter
Smart homes are getting smarter by the day. Thanks to mobile devices, the cloud and even geofencing, we are quickly approaching a point in time when our homes can artificially think for themselves. They will be able to serve us rather than the other way around. Whether that is good or bad is for you to decide.
If you are interested in exploring the geofencing concept further, do some research on smartphones and GPS tracking. Invest in one or two inexpensive smart home devices and see if you can control them with geofencing. You might just find that making a smart home smarter is not so hard after all.