Here are some factors you need to consider:
Home Automation Protocols
This is the system that your various smart technologies use to communicate with each other, so it’s like a language or an operating system. Some automation protocols are wired, while others allow for wireless communications.
One very convenient way to network various gadgets together is to have them operate with the same automation protocols. This avoids the very distinct possibility that two or more smart devices can’t interact with each other because their protocols are incompatible. In addition, a single protocol may enable the use of a single controller to manage everything in your home that has smart features.
Each protocol may have a different set of pros and cons, so you need a protocol that offers features to suit your needs. The X10 protocol is expensive, for example, but the speed and reliability of the communications may not be optimal. The ZigBee is a wireless protocol that uses low power, while a new protocol based on it called Thread can interconnect up to 250 gadgets. Insteon combines both wired and wireless, while the ubiquitous Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology allows for computer and smartphone control. IFTTT (If This Then That) offers a lot of customized “recipes” that takes home automation to a more detailed level.
Smart Home Controllers
These are the hubs and remote control devices you use to monitor and manage your smart devices. What’s great is that with smart home systems you don’t need a different controller for each device, so you don’t have to juggle through a dozen controllers to make your adjustment on a particular device. It’s possible that you can use only a few—or even just one—to monitor and adjust everything.
Of course, the problem is that a particular hub may not support a particular protocol. So you have to find a hub that can support the various devices you use or you limit your device selections to what’s supported by the hub.
Then you need the right program or app that can control everything efficiently and effectively. The design of the app should make things easy for you to make your adjustments, and it should offer the info you want in just a glance. Then you should check that it is easy to install, that it doesn’t have any complications (or it has a very active community behind it that can offer various solutions for every problem you may have), and that you can afford it.
Options for controllers include:
- Your smartphone or tablet. This is a very handy setup, as you can use it to control your smart devices even if you’re not home. So whether you’re at work or even if you’re out of town on vacation, it doesn’t mean you can’t oversee what’s going on in your house.
- Your desktop PC. Sometimes you need a bit of hardware muscle to control everything in your home, so your desktop PC can prove to be a very hand hub to maintain your smart home technology. It offers a bigger screen and more memory than your smartphone, and it can also allow multiple users to set controls aside from just you.
- SmartThings Hub. This is a very versatile hub, as it’s compatible with several different protocols (Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave) from an Android or iOS device. It also provides support for smart home security devices. As many as 200 individual gadgets can work with this.
- Icontrol Networks Piper. It’s a surveillance camera, but its hub can let you control your entire home automation network. It comes with integrated Z-wave sensors.
- Amazon Echo. Ostensibly it’s a Bluetooth speaker, but pair it with IFTTT and you have a way to monitor your lights and thermostat with verbal commands. The setup may not be all that simple, but then again the benefits are outstanding.
So what you need to do is to check the price. Then you can look over the support it offers and see if it covers your smart devices. If you only have very few of these smart devices, then you can perhaps make use of limited hubs to save money. For example, the Lutron Smart Hub can let you program and adjust your lights and even your window shades.
You’ll also need to be aware of any connectivity issues and bugs. An ad may say that a hub supports a particular device, but in reality is that such connectivity may not be all that reliable.
This is where most people often focus on first. Lights can be fitted with various sensors so that it can dim or switch itself on when it’s beginning to get dark.
These systems can be networked with your alarm system, so that if you go on vacation you can set it up to turn on a few hours each day so burglars won’t know that your home is empty. It can also blink or go full blast when it’s connected to a motion detector right outside your house. It can then illuminate the area when you want to record whatever event you want with a camera.
Inside the home, you can also fit it with motion detectors, infrared sensors, or even GPS monitors, so that if you enter a particular room the lights turn on automatically.
Smart light bulbs are available from Philips, Smartbotics, LIFX, GE, Insteon, WeMo, and Lumen. Most of the time, these bulbs use LEDs that offer the same amount of light as standard bulbs at a much higher wattage. They can last for a longer period of time, and they emit less heat.
Wireless Thermostats and Temperature Controllers
With smart thermostats and remote temperature controls, you can now oversee and manage your home heating and cooling system wherever you may be. With a simple app, you don’t have to get up from your comfy couch in the winter to adjust the heating. And during summer, you can also automatically turn on your air conditioning a half hour before you arrive home, so that your house is properly cooled when you arrive.
With smart thermostats, you can monitor if your heater or air conditioner is turned on or off when you’re away from home. What’s more, it can even give you real time info about your heating energy use that can make help you save up on your electricity and heating bills. In fact, it can manage your heating and cooling much more effectively than you can ever could by yourself.
Some of these devices can even adapt to learn your preferences. Others can make adjustments depending on the number of persons in the room or according to current temperature readings.
Smart thermostats can be one of the most useful ways you can employ to save money, and it’s probably not going to be long when just about every heating and cooling device will have smart technology. It’s extremely too useful to ignore, and they’re becoming more and more affordable.
Smart Home Door Locks
In the old days, you had locks which you can open with a key. But today, such a simplistic setup won’t do anymore. Smart home door locks can be controlled remotely, so that when you’ve left home from work you can just use an app to check whether it’s locked or not. And if it’s not, you can then just lock it yourself.
This feature allows you to let in people to your home at any time you wish, even if you’re very far away. So if you’ve asked a neighbor to take care of your pet goldfish or cat at your home, they can call you and you can let them in.
Other locks even have proximity sensors that know when your smartphone is close by. So if you’re arriving home, it opens the door automatically for you, which saves you the trouble of having to fish out the key to let yourself in. That same feature can also lock the door automatically when you’re far enough away from the house and you’ve forgotten to secure it.
These types of locks can also send you an SMS or email if someone tries to open it other than those whom you have authorized to do so. It can also send the same message to your security center or to the nearest police station. It can work with cameras so that it can record every instance when the door is opened, and it can also send you videos (or even real time images) of people opening your door.
Smart Home Cameras
Cameras are one of the main features of home security. They can be used to detect intruders and burglars, and they can be wired with sound so that they can then raise an alarm if the camera detects something moving. The camera can use motion detectors or heat signatures to see if someone’s out there right outside your house.
With such a camera, you can then record on video anyone who tries to enter your home and you may even get to see real time images.
These cameras also work well inside the home. You can use it to watch over your bedroom, your vault, or inside the baby’s room. If you have a stranger or a babysitter in your house, your cameras can make sure that they’re not stealing from you or maltreating your children.
Having a camera isn’t just a way to notify you of troubles or a way to record video evidence. They’re also a very effective deterrent, because most people (including burglars) are often on their best behavior when they know you have cameras operating outside and inside your home. But you can also have hidden cameras too, such as along the walls or inside a stuffed toy so you can discreetly monitor and video everything that happens inside your home.
Various appliances and gadgets can have smart features. Nowadays it seems like every month there’s a new type of gadget with smart features. A smart TV, for example, can be used to surf the Internet, and you can download videos and movies directly so you can watch it on the big screen. The smart features can also keep young children from watching mature shows, and it can even turn itself off after a specified period of time.
Then you also have smart vacuum cleaners. These are “robots” which can clean and vacuum your floor on their own. They have sensors that let them avoid obstacles along their path, and they can even sense it if they’re right near the edge of the stairs. These things can be programmed to clean an entire room, and they can generate sweeping patterns so that they don’t overlook any spot. Some of these devices can even tell the severity of the dirt, and they can make several passes over particularly dirty spots.
These devices are often powered by rechargeable batteries. You can program them to activate at any time during the day, so they can clean your home while you’re in the office and you can come home to a very clean floor. These can also sense if their battery is running low, and when that happens they can go directly to their recharging hub and come out when they’re fully recharged.
A lot of appliances can be made smart, and the list grows longer every day. Even your coffee maker can have smart features, and it can change its schedule of making cups of coffee during the day. Dishwashers and laundry washers can be smart, and they can auto-delay washing during energy rush hours when it’s more expensive to use up electricity. Microwave ovens and even refrigerators can even have the latest smart features as well.
Smart Outlets and Switches
Many appliances still don’t have smart features, but you can compensate with smart outlets and switches so that you can add some of the smart features you need. Your app can turn it on or off, and you can even use the app for scheduling.
Some of these outlets are sophisticated enough that it can notify you if you accidentally left a device plugged in and powered. Other smart outlets can even tell you the power consumption of whatever device or gadget you plug in.
As you can see, you’re no longer limited to just timer features for home appliance automation. Now you can have several devices working together, and each one of them can provide you with the convenience and cost savings you need. Don’t worry about apocalyptic movies portraying the rise of the machines in revolt. These smart devices work for us, and it’s all good. They’re affordable, and they offer convenience, security and peace of mind.