Smart home automation used to be something that only existed in the world of fiction. Some science fiction movies have even introduced smart homes with built-in AI capable of automation. While this concept may have been nothing more than a figment of fiction in years past, today’s smart homes aren’t too far off in reality. Sadly, we’re not the point of being able to install KITT from Nightrider in your home, but you can incorporate just about every aspect to your automated smart home. In fact, you may already have some of these basic devices now!
Odds are that you’ve seen commercials for Wi-Fi connected light bulbs and thermostats. These give you the ability to turn them on and off no matter where you are in the world. However, their ability doesn’t stop there. What if you could set-up your garage to open as you approach down your street? Well believe it, or not, you can do just that with Protect America’s home automation equipment! These are just two ways in which you can upgrade your home with smart home automation equipment. With the correct devices and professional support, you can upgrade your entire home to that of a smart home with automation!
How Does Home Automation Work?
So, what exactly does it mean to have a smart home? Better yet, what exactly is smart home automation? Most of us use automated devices in our day-to-day lives already. If you have a coffee pot with a timer or a sprinkler that goes off on its own when you out of town…that’s automation.
Many manufacturers employ Z-Wave technology for such applications such as connecting sensors in security systems, smoke detectors, and smart locks. You can also find Z-Wave technology in power meters that measure the power consumption of a home’s heating and air conditioning system.
However, these really aren’t smart devices since you still have to physically set everything up. So how do we make the leap from “home automation” to “smart home automation”? The key difference is the presence of remote monitoring and programming. Once these devices are connected to a network so that you can control them all from a central location, they have then become “smart”. In short, all it means is the ability to communicate with other devices.
With the rise of smartphones and tablets, it means so much more than the original systems did. We can now connect everything from TVs, hot tubs, phones, etc. — making it possible to communicate from unfathomable distances (or in the next room).
There are several different facets and subsections of home automation. To better understand them, we must first look at the history of the industry.
History Of Smart Home Automation
Automated smart homes have been a major fixture in entertainment for years. From Looney Tunes to grimmer science fiction, it’s a concept that has always fascinated us. It’s no wonder that once the technology started to make it possible, smart technology, started up quickly.
Some link it back to a product developed in the 1960s. It was called the ECHO IV, and it was capable of several smaller procedures. For instance, it could work your thermostat or turn certain appliances on for you. It never actually made it to market, but it was still a major step in the field.
It was kicked up a big notch in 1975 with the X10. This was a system that used electric wires in your home to communicate between different third-party devices and controllers. It could send signals throughout the house, turning on lights, appliances, blinds, or whatever else might be able to connect.
If you choose to go the DIY root, you’re going to have a bunch of products that communicate with your phone but not each other. If you hire someone that knows what they’re doing, you can have lights, heating, security, Westral blinds, and even entertainment systems linked together on a single system.
It did have a few issues. Since it used pre-existing lines instead of dedicated ones, the signals couldn’t always make it through. Products might misread a signal from somewhere else and interpret it as an activation code. Despite these issues, the X10 was a technological success. It actually still exists today, and the various products are still heavily in use.
Over the years, automation became more streamlined. Independent connections, whether wired or 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.
What Devices Can You Automate?
In reality, almost anything electronic can be automated. So it is not really a matter of what can but what should. People with resources to do so can take it to the extreme. Bill Gates, for example, basically has his entire house linked up. This goes as far as microchipping visitors.
For the average person, that’s a little out of the question. If you can’t afford to have custom designed products for automation, it’s best to stick to what is on the market already. Fortunately, there’s a lot to choose from, and the options are growing every day.
One of the most practical products is a smart home security system. The basic options are usually just cameras you can access remotely and an alarm that can be set from your phone. You can upgrade it by adding smart locks. This is incredibly useful if your kids get home from school before you, or if you need to let a repairman in. With the remote access cameras, the latter ceases to be a worry at all.
Besides safety, the other allure of smart home automation is sustainability. In 2017, there has never been a better time to start going green. A smart home can help. Here’s a good example: imagine it’s the middle of August. The temperature is in the upper 90s. The last thing you want is to come home after work to a steamy, uncomfortable house, with an air conditioner you can get your house cool when you need it and not leave it on all the time to maintain its life period, and with HVAC companies in new jersey you can find the right one for you or take care and fix the one you already have.
You could leave the A/C on all day, but that’s draining on the environment and your wallet. With a smart thermostat, you could tell your house to start cooling down when you leave the office. That way, you’re saving 8 hours of wasted electricity without sacrificing comfort.
Sustainability and security come together with lighting control. Of course, ensuring that all your lights are off is 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.
With the right equipment, you could have your lights switch on, as it detects your smartphone coming up the driveway. At the lower-tech end, you could even just use the phone to turn them on from the car.
Wireless Home Automation
In larger dwellings with multiple rooms and stories where signals to and from various devices must travel longer distances, smart home technology that relies on hard-wired connections may not be suitable.
This is because of signals growing weaker and the resulting 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?
An example of wireless home automation is if you are downstairs unwinding after a long day and you want to turn off your child’s bedroom light. You can do this via wireless control through your home automation system instead of having to hike back upstairs.
You may have heard the term Internet of Things or IoT. It refers to the wireless devices such as smart thermostats that homeowners install so they can access data and send commands from remote via the Internet. Home automation setups often include IoT devices.
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.
A variety of wireless protocols have been developed for use in a home automation environment, including:
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.
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.
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.
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 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 it.
Other systems are proprietary. 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.
The pragmatic applications of smart home automation are obvious. They’ve also been around for quite some time. But when we watch the old cartoons about futuristic households, those aren’t the features that capture our imaginations.
What people have always wanted to see are the frills: those things that aren’t really necessary but can make your life a whole lot better. Fortunately, a lot of those are already available, and they are advancing at incredible rates.
From coffee makers to crockpots, many small appliances are being made to work with your phone. While they can’t grind and scoop the coffee beans yet, these developments are leaps and bounds from your standard programmable machine.
New 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. Don’t have a smart TV? They even have pluggable products to change that.
Unfortunately, there is one issue that you can’t ignore. They don’t always interact very well with one another since they’re made by different companies. 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.” 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. Rest assured that this will be standard technology within a few years. Advancements continually show that automated luxury is no longer exclusive to the wealthy.
It’s an exciting path, and the tech world is heading down in full sprint. Keep an eye out for new products that can make this technology available in your home. The future is now.