How Does a Smart Home Work?

Smart Home

Smart home automation is no longer something you’ll only see in sci-fi movies set in a far-off future. While we still quite haven’t figured out how to install KITT from Nightrider in your refrigerator – you can just have about every aspect of your home linked up to your network.

You’ve no doubt seen ads for wifi-connected light bulbs and thermostats. These features of your home you can control from anywhere in the world, though it doesn’t stop there. What if you could have your garage door open as you drive down the street? With Smart Ventilated Steel Shutters Perth you can. Looking to have your favorite Spotify playlist simulcast across your entire home? That’s possible with a Savant System.

Smart home automation can do this and more. With the right devices and trained professionals, you can have your whole house connected. Chances are you already use smart home features every day. Do you have a coffee pot with a timer? Or a sprinkler system that goes off when you’re out of town? Well, that’s automation.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! We’re here to help you find the smart home solutions that work best for you.

History Of Smart Home Automation

From Looney Tunes and Back to the Future to some of the stranger sides of science fiction, automated smart homes have been a major fixture in entertainment for years. It’s no wonder that once technology caught up to our imaginations, smart technology was soon to follow.

Some link it back to a product developed in the 1960s called the ECHO IV. Capable of several small procedures, you could program it to control the thermostat or turn on certain appliances. While the product never actually made it to market, it was considered a major step forward.

Jump ahead to 1975 and the X10 system kicked things up a notch. This was a wired system that could communicate between different third-party devices and controllers within your home, turning on lights, appliances, blinds, or whatever else might be able to connect.

However, the system was far from perfect. Since it needed pre-existing lines to connect with, as opposed to dedicated wiring, the signals couldn’t always make it through. Products might misread a signal from somewhere else and interpret it as an activation code. But despite these issues, the X10 was a technological success. So much so that various products utilizing the X10 are still heavily in use today.

Over the years, automation became more streamlined, and independent connections (both wired and wireless) means that the signals are no longer congested. Certain products are so easily installed that you can do it on your own. You likely already have a Wi-Fi network, so connecting products to it is a snap!

Livewire Tip: If you choose to go the DIY route, you’re likely going to have a bunch of products that communicate with your phone but not each other. Hiring someone that knows what they’re doing will ensure all your systems are linked together

Z-Wave

Manufacturers use Z-Wave for all kinds of wireless applications, like connecting sensors in security systems, smoke detectors, locks, and even power meters that monitor the consumption of a home’s heating, Airocle natural ventilation systems, and air conditioning system.

However, that’s not really considered “smart” because everything is set up physically. So how do we make the jump from “home automation” to “smart home automation?” The key to this is remote monitoring and programming. Once these are connected to a network so that you can control them all from one location, they become “smart.” Basically, all it means is the ability to communicate with other devices.

With the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, this wireless communication matters so much more now than when the original systems were being developed. We can now connect everything from TVs, hot tubs, phones, etc. — making it possible to communicate from unfathomable distances (or in the next room).

Smart Home Control4 Panel

What Can Be Automated?

To begin with…everything.

Okay maybe not EVERYTHING, but in reality, almost anything electronic can be automated. Individuals with extensive resources can take it to the extreme. For example, Bill Gates has his entire house connected, down to microchipped pins visitors that store data on preferred lighting levels, music, temperature, and more. For the average person, that’s a little out of the question. Fortunately, there’s a lot to choose from, and the options are growing every day.

One of the most practical and widely-used products is a smart home security system. These will typically include cameras you can access remotely and an alarm system that can be set from your phone. You can upgrade your system by adding smart locks as well, which are incredibly useful if your kids get home from school before you, or if you need to let a repairman in.

Another big draw to smart home automation is sustainability. It’s always a good time to start thinking green, and smart home can help! Sure, you could leave your A/C on all day, but that’s draining on the environment, your wallet, and the life of your unit. With a smart thermostat, you could tell your unit to shut down while the house is empty and start cooling down when you leave the office, saving 8 hours of wasted electricity without sacrificing comfort.

Sustainability and security come together with smart home lighting. Ensuring that all your lights are off is obviously great for your electricity usage, but it has other applications. If you live alone or often come home to an empty house, being greeted by a dark, unlit home can be frightening! And not just around Halloween.

With the right equipment, you could have your lights switched on, as it detects your smartphone coming up the driveway.

Smart Home Technology

Wireless Home Automation

It’s more difficult for signals to travel to and from hard-wired devices in larger dwellings with multiple rooms and stories. This is because signals grow weaker the further they travel, resulting in inconsistent performance from the connected equipment. In cases like this, homeowners typically opt for a wireless home automation system.

How Does Wireless Home Automation Work?

Say you are downstairs unwinding after a long day, and want to make sure your child’s bedroom light is turned off for the evening.  Wouldn’t it be nice to do this via wireless control instead of having to hike back upstairs? That’s wireless home automation.

Wireless home automation works by deploying low-power equipment that can send and receive information, such as light sensors that detect the rising sun and send commands to open your bedroom curtains automatically.

You may have heard the term Internet of Things or IoT. It refers to the wireless devices (such as smart thermostats) that homeowners can access data for and send commands to remotely through an Internet connection. Home automation setups often include IoT devices.

A variety of wireless protocols have been developed for use in a home automation environment, including:

ANT (network)

This works in the 2.4GHz band and is considered an ultra-low-power protocol for wireless connections. It uses a proprietary protocol originally designed for use in fitness and sports data but is now being applied more frequently in home settings. It is similar to Bluetooth in that it runs with low power requirements.

Bluetooth

You are likely already familiar with Bluetooth technology, as it is widely used to connect items such as an external speaker or wireless headphones to your smartphone. Bluetooth is a good choice and developers continue to improve it, with a data rate increase from 1 Mbit/s to 2Mbit/s between Bluetooth version 4 and the latest version 5.

Wifi (Wireless)

Homeowners generally also have experience with Wifi, such as using it to connect a laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the Internet. With Wifi, more power is consumed because this protocol is often used to sustain high bandwidth connections (such as when you binge-watch videos from a streaming service).

Your home automation setup might need Wifi for some higher-data applications, which you can discuss with your installation team during your consultation.

ZigBee

The ZigBee alliance controls the ZigBee protocol, a low-power specification based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for personal area networks, offering media access control.

It works in the 915MHz band in the United States and was developed for mesh networking. With mesh networking, your devices have multiple channels to communicate over, letting each piece of equipment connect with one another.

An advantage of Z-Wave over ZigBee is that it uses less power to achieve better coverage in the home. However, ZigBee is seen as more versatile for short-range connections.

Wireless Home Automation Tech Keeps Growing

This is certainly not a comprehensive list, as developers continue to create and improve their wireless technology offerings. Some wireless networking protocols have open standards so any manufacturer can create devices that will work with them.

Other systems are proprietary, meaning you’ll have to continue working with the same product manufacturer for service and any potential changes or upgrades to your system. Working with a savvy home automation partner who stays on top of developments and follows industry best practices is essential for determining the best system for your house and setup.

Smart Home Automation

Automated Luxuries

Most of the pragmatic smart home applications we’ve discussed are obvious and have been around for quite some time. What people have always wanted to see are the frills – the things that maybe aren’t really necessary but can make your life a whole lot better. Fortunately, a lot of those are already available and are advancing at incredible rates.

From coffee makers to crockpots, many small appliances are being made to work with your phone, and home assistant products make all of these even easier. With an Amazon Echo, you can connect hundreds of products to your phone and then operate them with a voice command. That goes for your lights, your thermostat, and even your television. And even if your devices aren’t “smart” themselves – there’s a number of plugs that can turn Grandma’s favorite table lamp into a smart one!

Since all of these products are made by different companies, they don’t always interact very well. Your coffee maker might work on one application and your lights on another. However, they can all still connect to the same phone, making the issue a minor inconvenience at most.

Smart Home Automation Installation

With many of the small appliances, there isn’t really an installation per se. Once you connect it to the Wi-Fi, you’re good to go. On the other hand, if you want your home to be truly “smart,” you need to hire an experienced professional.

That’s where the major difference between a house filled with smart products and a “smart home” lies. If your system isn’t communicating as a whole, it’s the former.

This used to mean either starting the installation process as the house was being built or ripping out the walls and repairing them after. Neither of those seems like an ideal option. Luckily, you have different options now. Almost everything can function wirelessly, so your house is safe.

Moving Forward With Smart Home Automation

Smart home automation has come a long way. It still has further to go in terms of system cohesion, but adjacent modern technology relieves almost all of that.

Maybe you’re not ready for a smart home yet – but rest assured this will be standard technology in the near future. Continued advancements show that automated luxury is no longer exclusive to the Bill Gates of the world.

It’s an exciting path, and the tech world is heading down in a full sprint. Keep an eye out for new products that can make this technology available in your home.

The future is now.

Book an appointment or contact us at 804-681-2316 today.

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