“Smart home technology” is the use of technology to automate your home. Home automation allows you to control almost every aspect of your home through the Internet of Things (IoT).
Home automation began with the invention of the thermostat and has now developed into one of the largest and fastest-growing technology markets. The potential for home automation continues to grow. You can use it to maintain home safety, control electrical appliances, monitor energy usage, as a personal assistant, take care of the elderly or the disabled, and so on.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about home automation. Not only the way it works, but also the different ways it is used, and its shortcomings. You will also find useful links to some emerging smart home products, in case you stumble upon a technology that you never realized you lost.
1. Home Automation: How does it work?
It is difficult to explain how home automation works because there is no universally accepted agreement. Automation technology varies based on country, company, and automation type. Under normal circumstances, because the home automation market is lucrative and fast-paced, companies will suspend new development.
The first industry standard for home automation is X10. X10 helps devices connect to each other mainly through power lines, radio frequencies, and wireless protocols. Today, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Insteon are also leading protocols for home automation. These new industry standards rely more on modern wireless technologies, such as mesh networks. All these systems are very complex. Simply put, they use electricity, radio waves, and wireless technology to send information to devices.
- Central control
Central control is a home automation system that controls everything in your home. It allows you, from a single source, to control your lights, thermostats, sprinklers, phones, washing machines, dryers and more. This type of home automation is the most popular for businesses and high-end private residences. It is also very popular with home automation security systems.
Usually, the central control system runs through a terminal installed on the wall, just like the kind of terminal commonly used in home security systems. They can also be accessed via remote control devices, smartphones, tablets or computers.
The biggest advantage of the central control system lies in its name. You can access all the different aspects of your home from a monastery system. From your shower to your home safety network, everything can be controlled through a central system. The central control system is also quite high-end, which also means high quality.
These systems tend to be more expensive and require professional installation. With the development of home automation, more and more people are turning to application-based automation, which can be paired with smart hubs to simulate a central control system.
They are also very inclusive, which is another problem. If you choose to use a central system, you will usually be limited by the devices paired with that system. For example, if you want to go out and buy a new washing machine, you will be restricted from using machines that are compatible with the system. Over time, many systems adapt to the home automation market by making themselves more compatible with emerging technologies.
App-based smart home technology communicates with the cloud via your home network. Cloud technology is an important part of the Internet of Things, and these two technologies have become very popular in the past few years. Most application-based smart devices connect home automation devices to the home network via Wi-Fi. These devices connect to a server and then access the server through an application on the smart device.
With these apps, you can connect your smart home devices once you create a personalized account. In this way, the company knows which device is suitable for which application user. With a cloud-based home automation device, you can communicate anywhere provided you are connected to the Internet.
Some application-based home automation technologies connect directly to your smart device via Bluetooth. Like cloud-based home automation, you still need to create a personal account on the app. However, unlike cloud-based applications, you need to be near these home automation devices for them to work.
Application-based home automation is undoubtedly the reason for the popularity of smart homes. Therefore, many people are creating DIY smart homes because these devices are affordable, easy to install, use, and update. There are many different options now because this is a huge market and new devices are constantly appearing.
Unlike central control, most cloud-based home animation smart homes require several different applications. Some smart home technology distributors offer several different devices, and you can access them through one of their apps. On the other hand, developers are already creating devices that mimic the central control system.
2. Smart Home
Technology has been growing at a crazy rate, and it has not slowed down. What we once saw only in science fiction is now a reality. Now you have a smart home like Iron Man (hopefully not that) where you can call friends like James Bond and talk to the computer like Hal 9000.
Smart home technology has been around for several years. Bill Gates started building his smart home in 1988 and completed it in 2005. Nowadays, you don’t have to be a billionaire to own smart home, and of course, it won’t take 17 years to build. Whether you want to manage your home through a central system or prefer to use app-based devices, your options are very wide and expanding.
The Basis of Smart Home
Let’s start from the most basic. The following are the most commonly used smart home options on the market. They are easy to use and install and are often the most affordable smart home technology.
- Smart Speakers
According to reports, 39 million Americans have smart speakers in their homes. Considering all the things they can do, this is not surprising. Smart speakers are far more than just playing music, although they do a great job in this regard. They can search the Internet, tell you the weather, give you a newsletter, work as a personal assistant, and also serve as the central control centre for your entire smart home system.
With the right smart speakers, you can control almost every aspect of your home with just the sound. Ask Alexa who is at the front door, use Siri to turn off the lights you left upstairs, and use Google to turn down the heating. If you want to use your smart speaker as a home automation centre, you need to double-check whether the device you purchased is compatible with your speaker, because not all devices are.
- Smart TV
Smart TV is great because you can basically watch anything you want, whether you have cable TV or not. Smart TV usually refers to the TV itself, but in this case, it is the general term for all IoT video streaming devices. When it comes to streaming TV, there are many options. You can buy a real smart TV, it can stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. directly from the device itself, or you can buy a system to pair with your ordinary TV. Many of these devices can be paired with your smart speakers and central control centre to make your home smarter.
- Smart thermostat
With a smart thermostat, you can monitor your HVAC from anywhere. You can also set a schedule for them so that you don’t waste energy when no one is at home. Some smart thermostats have a sensor option that automatically changes the temperature when they sense the need.
- Smart plug
A smart plug can transform an object into a smarter version. Just plug them into a normal socket, you can easily turn on or off anything powered by them from the smart device.
Light automation can be achieved in two ways. The first is to install smart light switches. Smart light switches can not only be controlled by apps, but they can also provide you with a variety of lighting options, such as dimming. Secondly, smart bulbs can be used. Just like smart plugs, smart bulbs turn ordinary lights into smart lights.
Replace your old light bulb with a smart light bulb and you will be able to automatically light up. So, which is the better choice? Smart switches are a more affordable option but often involve complicated installations. Smart bulbs provide more lighting options, such as dimmed or soft light, but are more expensive because they need to buy a translation centre to work with your smart device.
- Video doorbell
The video doorbell can not only perceive and remind you that someone is at the front door but also show you a video clip of who is there and can use intercom technology to talk to your visitors. You no longer have to shout “Who is there?” or “Come in”. You can see it from your smart device and even let your smart speaker show it to you.
- Robot vacuum cleaner
The robot maid may be far away, but the robot vacuum cleaner is the next best thing. They can be controlled by your smart device, including your smart speaker. It seems that robotic vacuum cleaners are not enough. Some vacuum cleaners are equipped with their own artificial intelligence (AI), such as smart speakers, and some vacuum cleaners can even directly transmit pictures and videos to smart devices.
Although technology has not yet provided us with a robot chef, these smart kitchen appliances make cooking and cleaning easier. You can even connect many of them with your smart speaker!
- Smart refrigerators
The functions of smart refrigerators vary. They can tell you how often they are accessed and will alert you if the door is open, letting you know what products you need to buy, and some models even have a monitor that can play TV. The smart refrigerator can have one of the functions, a combination of them, or all the functions. Some refrigerators display this information directly from the device, but some refrigerators send all the information to the app. Most refrigerators that are compatible with apps will also run diagnostic programs to make sure everything runs smoothly. There are many options depending on your needs.
- Smart oven
The smart oven allows you to control your control anywhere. There is even a smart oven that can be controlled via Alexa. Some apps also allow you to find recipes and wait in line for the required time and temperature, but usually, you still need to press the “start” button. Most smart ovens can at least allow you to control the timer and run diagnostic programs for you.
- Smart Dishwasher
The apps that the smart dishwasher runs are very similar to smart ovens and apps-compatible smart refrigerators. Because it is produced by the same company (LG, GE, Whirlpool, etc.). With these apps, you can check the status of laundry, receive a notification when loading is complete, and stop/start loading. Similar to ovens and refrigerators, most apps will also run diagnostics on your device if necessary.
- Smart Laundry
Washing clothes is not necessarily a chore in the kitchen, but because these applications are the same as the previous appliances, they are suitable. These smart washing machines and dryers are like dishwashers. You can start/stop/pause the loading, check the status, receive notifications when the loading is complete, and run diagnostics from the smart device.
- Smart Dishes
You can buy smart dishes and forks, monitor your calorie intake, and connect to an app to help you keep track of what you eat. But you probably shouldn’t put them in your smart dishwasher.
- Smart Slow Cooker
Control your smart cooker from your phone or tablet. You can check the temperature, change the setting, turn it on and off. It makes the simplest cooking equipment more convenient.
- Smart Coffee Pot
Most coffee pots can set a timer, and start to brew coffee when you want to brew coffee. The smart pot can make coffee through your phone, so whenever you want coffee, you can start making coffee.
- Smart trash can
Most smart trash cans are touch-free and can control odours. There is a smart can with an integrated barcode scanner. When you throw away food, you scan the barcode and the trash can will add it to the shopping list on your smart device.
Amazon’s button allows you to create a button, any household product you can order from Amazon. The buttons can be placed anywhere, so in theory, you can put the Tide Pod buttons in your laundry room, so that when your Tide Pod is running out, you just need to press the buttons and rearrange them. Many companies are seeking to develop similar smart buttons.
In smart homes, even the most basic necessities can be improved. Smart bathroom technology will make your bathroom more than just a room you must use.
Smart toilets provide basic functions such as touch-free flushing, sensors for opening/closing the lid, automatic bowl cleaning, and deodorant. They also have some more luxurious features, such as built-in bidets, heated seats, and so on.
- Enhanced Vanity
Imagine you are brushing your teeth and watching TV in the mirror. You can do this by enhancing vanity. You can even have a smart mirror with touch lighting and a fog-free surface. However, the mirror is not the only part that enhances vanity. You can also invest in a heated towel drawer to enjoy a spa-like experience every day.
- Smart Shower
The smart shower has multiple functions. They can be opened from your comfortable bed before you wake up, they preserve your perfect shower settings, and some even have a TV in them.
Privacy window: Smart privacy window can be installed, or it can be as simple as putting a movie on the window. They can change from an ordinary window to an opaque window, and no one can see it through a remote or smart device. Many privacy windows can also prevent harmful ultraviolet rays and act as insulators to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Having a baby is one of the most meaningful and stressful experiences in life. Thanks to the smart nursery, babies are safer than ever, and parents can relax a little bit.
- Video Monitor
The baby monitor has been completely changed, and now cameras can be easily merged. Now, you are not just listening to your babies, you can check them visually from any room. Most displays are connected to your phone through an app, but some just have a corresponding display and can be easily moved from one room to another.
- Smart Rocking
There are several smart cradles with different functions on the market. At least, they can swing at different speeds and can be controlled by smart devices. Many babies can also make white noise to soothe the baby or have a baby swaddling inside to imitate the uterus.
- Smart health monitor
There are many different baby monitors that can monitor their breathing, heartbeat, exercise, and sometimes even their body temperature. Many are wearable, and some are made into smart baby mattresses and blankets. These monitors not only help prevent sudden infant death, but also track diaper changes, sleeping habits, etc., and then send these data to apps on smart devices.
- Smart Easy-to-change Tables
Whether it’s a smart bed frame that acts as a baby workbench, a smart hub, or an easy-to-change table mat that measures your baby’s weight to ensure correct feeding, these products are changing the parenting game.
The smartphone can perceive the baby’s sleep stage, and comfort the baby through sound, movement and light. There are several devices on the same line that use light, colour, and sound to coax your child to sleep.
Many parents use sensors around the child’s nursery or bedroom to get extra attention. When the sensors are triggered, they will send an alert to your smart device. They can be placed not only at external entry points but also inside so that you will be alerted when someone enters or even walks around the room. A climate sensor is another wise choice to ensure that your baby room is always the perfect temperature for your baby.
Smart pet care
With smart pet technology, taking care of your pet baby is easier than ever. The best thing about these gadgets is that they make life easier for you and your pet. Leave them alone at home during the day, feel less guilty, and enjoy the time with them more.
- Video surveillance
When you are not at home, use a video monitor to check your pet. A pet monitor specifically for pets does more than just let you watch your pet. Many are two-way so that your pet can see and hear you, and some even allow you to distribute candies.
- Self-cleaning cat litter box
With the self-cleaning cat litter box, the cat litter box can be automatically cleaned, disinfected, dried and filled, making it easier to care for the cat. They even disguised the ascending box as a cabinet, so that they were really out of sight and out of mind.
- Smart foot pads
Many pet owners have good furniture, but they don’t necessarily want to make their pets furry. Smart mats use various technologies to give your pet a harmless warning and stay away from prohibited rooms and furniture. These are especially helpful for training new pets or retraining old stubborn pets.
- Smart pet door
The smart pet door has a smart key that can be hung on the pet’s collar. They only let animals with keys come in and out so that no unwanted animals will show up in your home. You can also lock the door when you don’t want your pet to go out.
- Smart feeder
Smart feeder automatically distributes food and water for your pet. Using an app on your phone, you can arrange to feed and control the number of fur babies.
Here are some other smarter choices for your home automation.
- Smart Fan
A smart fan, like a thermostat, can be controlled through an application on the phone, set a schedule, or set to be aware when needed.
- Smart floors
Heated floors seem to be a luxury, but temperature-controlled floors that can be automatically controlled by smart devices are more popular. Currently, there are not many products used to automatically heat the floor, but many smart thermostats can also be programmed to control the floor.
- Smart shadow
Smart shadow can rise or close from your phone or other devices. Many people can also set a schedule so that they can greet you with the sun at the same time every morning.
- Automatic sprinkler system
With the automatic sprinkler system controlled by the application, it is much easier to have a beautiful lawn. Plan when your sprinklers will start up, which sprinklers are in use, and pay attention to maintenance needs.
- Smart swimming pool
If you have a swimming pool, you know how much maintenance they need. The Smart Pool app can remotely measure the chemicals in the pool, allowing you to automate certain cleaning procedures and schedule the repair of the pool.
- Smart bed
Use smart mattresses to control the position, softness, and even warmth of the bed. Have a snoring partner? Lift their bed from your phone and the problem is solved. Some mattresses have additional benefits, such as massage settings, built-in alarm clocks and built-in sleep monitoring, which can send information about your sleep habits to help you get the best possible sleep.
3. How to Control Your Smart Home
The hub can control all different smart home devices. As more and more people start DIY smart home projects, new and improved hubs are hitting the market.
Many hubs have their own applications to present to you all the devices that are compatible with their hub. These hubs are small, do not have any decorations, and are quite affordable. If you are looking for a more visually attractive option, the “panel hub” has a very smooth appearance. They are more common in centrally controlled home automation systems, but there are also some suitable for application-based devices.
The most popular and highly recommended hub is the smart speaker. Most smart home devices are compatible with smart speakers, and those incompatible devices are working hard to change this status quo. Not only is it more convenient to tell your speakers to turn on the lights, but it really makes your house feel smarter. It’s like having a digital butler.
4. Smart Home Security
Whether you want to protect your home, business, camp or holiday home, home automation security is a great idea. In the United States, a burglary occurs every 15 seconds, with an average loss of $223. Installing a security system can greatly reduce the chance of burglary, but only 17% of households have a security system installed.
It is predicted that 1/36 of the properties will be divided this year. These security measures can prevent your property from becoming another statistic.
- Video Surveillance
monitor the property on your smart device 24/7. Worried about false alarms? An app-based security system allows you to confirm the alarm yourself by accessing video clips on your smart device from any camera on the scene.
Sensors are most commonly used on doors and windows and can be used as potential entrances into your home. App-based sensors can send alarms to your smart device to remind someone of using one of your entrances.
- Smart Lock
Did you know that most thieves come in from an unlocked door or window? No matter where you are, use the smart lock of your smart device to lock the door, or just double check to make sure you have a smart Lock.
- Alarm system
If the worst happens, your home or company is broken into, you can set a loud alarm. Most systems can also be set to automatically alert the authorities.
- Fire, CO and flood sensors
Theft is not the only threat to your home or business. Fire, gas and water can also cause serious damage. Smart fire/carbon monoxide detectors provide an in-app mute function, and if they are triggered, they will send a notification to your phone. They also look better than ordinary detectors. The working principle of the flood sensor is similar to their similar detectors, but obviously, it is located closer to the ground.
5. Home Automation for Healthcare
According to the National Nursing Federation, 9.3 million Americans find themselves caring for elderly parents. Home care can be very expensive, and living facilities for the elderly can deprive your loved one of their independence.
Home automation can provide an affordable alternative to give you peace of mind and make your loved ones independent. According to your needs, the number of monitoring will be less or more. Some popular options for home automation medical care are:
- Medical Alert Button
Most of us have seen “I fell and can’t get up” advertisements. The medical alarm button is lightweight and waterproof, so your lover can wear it on his neck, wrist, or even carry it with him. This button is connected to an internal communication system, and pressing this system will call the medical monitoring centre. If needed, the person in the call centre can remind you or provide emergency services to the patient. Some buttons can even sense the wearer’s fall and automatically alert the call centre.
- Video Surveillance
Video surveillance allows you to conveniently view your loved ones on smart devices. With video surveillance, you can gain inner peace and know that your loved one is safe at home.
- Activity Tracking
There are several different ways to monitor the activities of your loved ones. The medicine dispenser will remind you when your loved one has or has not taken the daily dose. Connecting to the refrigerator through a sensor can remind you of how much water your loved one has eaten or lost. You can also monitor other household appliances to ensure that the stove is not turned on or the faucet is not turned on.
- Safety for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia
Most people with Alzheimer’s and dementia leave their homes or living facilities. When this happens, it is a terrible experience for you and them. The home security system can help ensure that this does not happen, and it will notify you on your smartphone when someone leaves or enters the house.
6. Is home automation safe?
No technology is 100% safe, and home automation is no exception. Here are some things to remember when investing in home automation.
When it comes to smart homes, you really have to consider the fact that such close connections give companies the opportunity to collect your data. The culprit will be your smart speaker. Many people have been driving smart speakers, which means they have been listening. They learn from every sentence you say, partly to better meet your needs, but also to sell you more products. For example, if you ask Alexa how to repair a washing machine, don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of washing machine ads next time you go online.
At the same time, this type of invasion is not a smart person, unique or even an AI assistant Alexa or Siri. This happens when you like something on Facebook, search for something on Google, and make purchases with a debit or credit card. Our current contact information makes everything more convenient, not only for ourselves but also for companies that are trying to sell products to us. As long as you feel no problem, you can enjoy the benefits of the smart home.
- Network security
Network security is a very important issue, but many people do not pay enough attention to it. The market for Internet of Things (IoT) devices has been growing and evolving, but the security of these devices sometimes have vulnerabilities. As a consumer, you need to know how to protect yourself in case developers can’t protect yourself. The first step in doing so is to understand the situation.
Read them carefully before you buy the equipment. Understand the security threats you may face, and what responsibilities a developer has when it comes to protecting your interests. Network security is another important part of ensuring the network security of smart homes. Starting with password encryption is the most important part of network security. You should use strong passwords and change them frequently.
The password recommendations for any touchpad alarm system are the same. When choosing a password, the most random password is the most secure. Even if it is unique to you, if your password is based on any personal information, it is likely that a dedicated thief will find it. The next step is to ensure that your computers, tablets, and mobile phones are protected by firewalls and anti-virus software, and you are always updating your operating system.
Finally, if there are any problems with the equipment dealer’s product, it is important that they can contact you. If you buy directly from a distributor (such as Nest, Phillips, etc.), this is not a problem, but if you go through a third party (such as Target, Best Buy, etc.), you should register your device online. The reason it is important to keep in touch with these companies is that they can contact you if they have a security breach, conduct a recall, or change important content of the product.
- Power Failure
Whether a power failure affects your home automation system really depends on the system. Any system that operates over the Internet will shut down in the event of a power outage. Home security and medical alarm systems have backup batteries for use in the event of a power outage. They can be operated over the phone line, but if the phone line is also broken, these systems will also go down. Any system that operates via mobile phone radio is safe under any circumstances, as long as it stores enough backup power.
- Unresponsive Victims
One issue that people often worry about is what will happen if the person wearing the medical alert button is unresponsive or cannot communicate in a medical emergency. Most medical alert button providers will establish emergency plans for these situations and you or your loved ones, but if they don’t, it is always a good idea to present it before purchasing the service.