What better way to review smart-home tech than from a house meant for that exact purpose?
Rich BrownFormer Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
ExpertiseSmart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
We've looked far and wide for months for the right property, and we at CNET can hardly contain our excitement for the project ahead. We're really buying a house, and a fantastic house at that.
We've tested connected locks, thermostats and other smart-home products around our state-of-the-art test lab and our own homes since we launched the Appliances section in 2013. But we've always thought a house dedicated to reviewing smart-home products would let us tell a more complete story about this rapidly evolving category.
Here's a bit about the house. It's big: 5,800 square feet counting the finished basement. It sits about 30 minutes away from downtown Louisville, Kentucky, and about the same distance from our appliances testing facility. As you can see in the photo gallery above, the house is no cottage. Four bedrooms, three and a half baths, a three-car garage and a pool, all on a one-acre lot in a rural golf course community.
We're fortunate to have all of that, but what the house really gives us is a blank slate to examine the idea of the smart home from top to bottom so we can bring you along for the ride. You'll be able to follow everything we do in the house on this dedicated feature page.
We'll use the CNET Smart Home for two primary goals.
First, we'll conduct all of our smart-home reviews from the house going forward. Now we can test pretty much any connected household device, from robot vacuums to water heaters, in a real residential environment. We'll see how the tech performs by itself, as well as how it behaves when we try to integrate it with other smart-home products.
Can you really get your smart window shades, your lights, your coffee maker and your music all synced up into some kind of morning routine, for example? Would anyone want that? At what price? We'll find out.
We'll also use the house to help you understand the best way to bring your own home online. As I said, our house is a blank slate. It has one TV, some stools left over from the previous owner, and Time Warner cable and Internet service. For the moment, that's it.
Over the next six months, we'll turn the house into as complete of a smart home as we can make it. Starting with the wireless network ( which we've already written about) and covering everything from the lights to the thermostats, the kitchen and the home theater, we'll show you as much as we can about how to approach installing and living with all of these connected household products yourself.
We'll tackle one topic a week with our build-out posts. Some will be big and foundational (speech recognition, security, lighting), others will take on seasonal topics. One question I already want to explore: Can a connected house help you better accommodate overnight guests around the holidays?
On top of all of that, we also plan to incorporate some cutting-edge smart-home tech that hasn't quite made it to the broad consumer market yet. We own the house, so we might as well use it to explore the smart home at its edges.
Our goal with the house overall is to use it to find answers to all of the key questions about smart-home tech. Does it work as advertised? Will it actually make your life easier? Is it worth the price? Is it safe? What happens with your data?
I expect you have your own questions, and we'll do our best to look into as many of those as we can. If there's something we miss, forget or fail to consider along the way (and there very well may be; this topic is huge) we also hope you'll point us in the right direction. To get in touch you can comment on any post. On Twitter, I'm @rh_brown. The house itself is @CNETSmartHome. And you can also email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This house is an incredible resource, and I'm still in minor disbelief that it's ours to play with. But it is. I can't wait to show you what we're going to do with the place.