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For Some, Home Is Where the Smart Is

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By Andrew Khouri and Andrea Chang

(MCT)—For Raffi Kajberouni, the keys to his Santa Clarita, Calif., home have become relics.

If he locks himself out, no problem. If a friend arrives at his two-story house before him, there’s no waiting outside for Kajberouni to arrive. Kajberouni taps his smartphone and his front door unlocks.

He can also turn down the thermostat or view his home security cameras from anywhere in the world.

“A lot of my friends are jealous,” the 31-year-old says. “It’s like the home from ‘Back to the Future,’ but in real life.”

From complete home systems to individual Internet-connected products such as high-tech appliances and power strips, the smart home is no longer a futuristic gimmick.

The technology behind smart gadgets—items that can be controlled remotely or perform tasks on their own—has been around for decades, but until recently the devices were rudimentary and, above all, expensive.

“It had always been an upscale-type business: Unless you were in the top 5 percent of income levels, you didn’t have access to this type of connectivity,” says Randy Light, merchant of home automation for Home Depot.

Wireless Internet and the widespread proliferation of smartphones are making smart home technologies more sophisticated — and affordable.

“This used to be something out of ‘The Jetsons’ or limited to the super-rich,” says Jonathan Dorsheimer, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity. But as smart home technology has improved and costs have come down, “it’s becoming more mainstream.”

Analysts estimate that only a small single-digit percentage of homeowners have smart homes.

But the home automation systems and services market is expected to see enormous growth in the coming years and is forecast to reach $14.7 billion in revenue globally by 2017, up from $3.6 billion last year, according to NextMarket Insights.

These days, a wide swath of companies are clamoring to sell smart systems, including home security firms, telecommunications giants such as AT&T and Verizon, cable providers and utilities.

That’s expected to help “propel the market from its fairly modest size today to one which serves more than 35 million households by 2017,” NextMarket says in its recent report.

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