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Home Automation Primer

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What is Home Automation?

Home Automation is the control of home features either automatically and also remotely. Features typically included in Home Automation are broadly categorised as:

Control – remote or scheduled control over thigs like lighting on/off dimming, garage door openers, temperature controllers, and window blinds.

Security – access/egress control, indoor and outdoor sensors and cameras monitored remotely with features greatly exceeding those offered by traditional home security systems. Smart devices falling in to this category now include items such as motion detectors, door and window sensors, security cameras, smoke detectors, leak detectors and smart locks.

Utilities – smart devices controlling utility services activation and modulation. In principal this should improve the energy efficiency of your home, yielding savings on gas, electricity and even water bills.

Entertainment- These are audio-video devices and home theatre equipment, mostly to be able to share A/V streaming around the home. Some Universal remotes work with DIY smart homes to control TVs, home audio systems and streaming sticks.

 

Home automation has been around for many years now, but has historically required a professional (read expensive!!) system be installed. This is now changing with the advancement of wireless technology and penetration of internet access in to an increasing number of households (see below)

 

Why All The Recent Buzz Around Home Automation?

DIY Home Automation is becoming easier and cheaper because:

  • Home networks are increasingly more common
  • Smart devices (end devices which can be IP connected to the home network and therefore the internet) are becoming cheaper and more reliable
  • Smart Phones are getting more powerful and more capable, and are increasingly used as a Home Automation control interface particularly for remote access

 

DIY or Professional Home Automation?

Professional Home Automation

  • Automation Systems Installed by company no need for home owner to master install and programing requirements
  • Changes even slight mods will likely require the install company to accomplish Inability to modify easily or cheaply
  • Possibly limited compatibility with other brands
  • Expensive
  • May be paying for features/functions not really wanted

 

If you are considering a professionally installed Home Automation system then you will need to do some research. We are not going to recommend companies here, there are a lot of reputable companies in this space, and certainly you will find service your area. It is important to check that the system you are interested in is capable of providing the features and capabilities to meet your needs, but also check contractual obligations such as terms of payment, warranties, costs for ongoing maintenance and changes and upgrades.

There are also plenty of websites for offering reviews on specific companies, but you may want to take some of these reviews with a grain of salt.

 

DIY Home Automation

  • You only need to install what you need reducing cost
  • The home owner needs to be at least a little tech savvy, enough to manage the installation, and possibly some basic programming, or app setup
  • Possible compatibility issues should you choose different brand products for different automation services
  • Some automation features, such as light dimming may require the services of an electrician to install the smart device, depending on local regulations
  • Cheaper than a professional system

 

There are already many DIY Home Automation systems available on the market today with the number growing rapidly. While many strive for cross compatibility there are still limitations on the extent to which any system can accommodate smart devices from other manufacturers.

Examples of popular Home Automaton hubs (control centres) are:

  • Insteaon
  • HomeSeer
  • Samsung SmartThings
  • Wink

 

As mentioned above some have limitations with respect to connectivity and cross component compatibility so you may want to spend some time researching the DIY systems to see which one best suits your home automation objectives.

 

Check out our feature on the Insteon Home Automation system, which is expandable and installable by the home handy man.

 

Most people generally have an clear single need with respect to Home Automation such as home security or lighting control, and opt to satisfy these immediate objectives, without considering future expandability needs. However there are now several new manufacturers in the Home Automation space offering standalone automation functions without the need for a central hub.  One such company is Netatmo, offering products in areas of Home Security, Utility and Climate/weather all without needing a central automation hub (see below). 

 

Is Home Automation for You?

If you have a reasonably fast home network (at least 10 Mbps, more if you have a high data consumption family) then automation should work in your house. You will need to check that your home network has good coverage throughout the house, and certainly must cover the locations where smart devices will be installed. However black spots can be easily and cheaply fixed with Wi-Fi range extenders. 

Capability notwithstanding, if you are like me you may feel that a fully automated home is not really for you. Things like light dimming and thermostat adjustment I am happy to pretty much do myself. But there are still plenty of reasons to look at least automating some functions in and around your home, such as:

  • Home security without the expense of a fully installed monitored system
  • Alerting you when your kids arrive home, or leave
  • Keeping tabs on an elderly relative
  • Turning off lights automatically if your kids have a habit of leaving them on

 

The Future

Home automation is a rapidly evolving space. The ability to connect with just about anything connected to the web is already here, and for the most part a relationship can be established between any devices. This includes:

  1. Home appliances (though not all)
  2. Home devices (PCs, laptops, tablets) 
    1. light dimmers
    2. cameras,
    3. motion sensors,
    4. safety devices 
    5. thermostats… and the list goes on
  3. Your phone (of course)
  4. Fitness trackers and other personal devices
  5. Car (yes you can link some cars to other devices)
  6. Voice Activated smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, providing voice activation for home automation features

 

Even if there is no native compatibility between smart devices you need, in the true spirit of innovation there are websites like IFTTT providing online task automation services. Read about IFTTT here

 

Sector Disruptors

A myriad of companies are rapidly developing products in the area of Home Automation, on the back of the opportunity created with smart connected devices. In the area of Home Security for example access control, and interior or exterior security cameras can easily be installed by the home owner, and these don’t just record video but offer feature rich and useful functions built around facial recognition, likely to be beneficial to the average home owner.

A couple of companies offering innovative Home Automation products already available on the market:

 

Netatmo

Netatmo currently focuses on Home Security, Utility Control and Climate Control. Check out the Midlife Mans Article “”feature on Netatmo , and also the “Smart Outdoor Security-Netatmo Presence” on the Netatmo Presence (home exterior camera) ; and “Netatmo Welcome-More than a Security Camera” on the Netatmo Welcome (interior security camera). Both of these products offer some great features not typically available with your standard security cameras 

 

Ring

Ring is a Smart video doorbell. The ring concept is interesting, if you are not home and someone Presses the Ring doorbell, you can see, hear, and speak with visitors from anywhere via your phone. Even if you are not home you can give someone the impression you are by speaking thru the ring doorbell via your phone. Brilliant!

Check out The Midlife Mans article “Home Security Made Easy” home-security-made-easy on the Ring doorbell

 

The Take Away

Watch the space of Home Automation.

There is surely something of personal benefit to you and your family in the wealth of smart products available now, if not now in the very near future.

You can already dip your toes in Home Automation with a DIY solution, and at relatively low cost. Have a look at Smart Home as a starter. Smart Home focuses on Insteon, but also sell products using other protocols , such as Z-Wave, and also sell a range of central hubs.

 

SmartHome.com

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The content of this article and other articles on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute professional advice. Please seek advice from a professional in the relevant field, in relation to any specific matter. Refer to the website Terms and Conditions. 

 

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