Smart Home Automation Technology 101

Technology; Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly technology savvy, there are a ton of affordable, easy-to-use, smart devices you setup up and start using right out of the box. Things like smart bulbs, smart locks and smart thermostats – stuff you use and interact with daily – are the best starter devices for learning how smart home technology can work for you. If you’re a home automation newbie, here’s a short list of smart products to consider: Smart bulbs: Smart lighting like the Philips Hue bulb can be programmed to turn on and off automatically or on command. Compatible motion and contact sensors will make them even smarter and help save energy. Smart plugs: You can enable ordinary, everyday items to be automated and smarter when plugged in – think lamps, space heaters, etc. Voice assistants: With simple voice commands – like “Ok Google” or “Hey Alexa” – you can get answers to questions, control your smart devices, play music, order pizza, and more with your Google Home or Alexa smart speaker. Smart thermostats: Save money, energy, and keep your home the perfect temperature, whether you’re home or away. Some, like the Nest thermostat, even possess the smarts to learn your preferences over time and adjust themselves accordingly. Smart Cameras: Feel secure in knowing you can always keep an eye on things from anywhere  also send you phone alerts or an email if they see or hear something alarming. Smart Bundles & Starter Kits: All-in-one bundles are available with compatible devices designed to connect and work together seamlessly. Smart brands like Wink, Samsung SmartThings and others also offer kits that typically include a hub plus one of two devices.

Understanding Device Compatibility & Protocols

What’s compatible with your devices? Figuring out which devices and gadgets will work together has gotten a lot easier too: In the store, check for the “Works With” compatibility info on the packaging of most major smart brand products Smart brand websites provide a complete list of things that you can connect Knowing a little about how your smart stuff communicates can also help you choose the right devices for your setup. Zigbee and Z-Wave are the two major wireless “languages” that most smart devices and hubs use to talk to one another. For speedier interactions, both employ a mesh networking technology that allows devices on the same your home network to relay instructions back and forth to each other. Z-Wave The most popular and widely used home automation protocol Offers easiest setup and the broadest range of device compatibility Runs on a 908.42MHz frequency, less prone to interference from other devices Requires a smart hub to send signals and control devices Zigbee An open standard wireless protocol used by thousands of smart devices Offers excellent range and speedy communication between devices Low power consumption; battery operated devices can run for years on a single set Runs on a 908.42MHz frequency INSTEON Dual-band, mesh networking protocol; communicate via radio frequency or over power lines Optimized exclusively for home automation and control • Compatible with older X10 devices Operates on 902 to 924 Mhz frequency band Wi-Fi No hub is needed to control Wi-Fi connected devices Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands Wi-Fi consumes lots of power; not ideal for battery powered devices Bluetooth Short-range communications technology, limited to about 32 feet (10 meters) Can automatically detect and connect up to 8 different devices at once each Ideal for connecting and streaming data between nearby devices like connected speakers, headphones and wearables

Smart Hubs, Voice Assistants & Apps


Why You Need a Smart Hub If you want to create a true automated home experience, a smart hub is essential. The hub is the brain center of an automated home system, connecting all your wired devices, facilitating communications between them, and enabling control of them remotely from a single access point. Here’s a brief rundown of the most popular smart hubs and smart products they’re compatible with: Wink 2 If you’re a new user looking for a home automation hub system that’s easy to setup and connect your favorite devices, this one checks all the boxes. You can use the Wink app, Amazon Echo, or Apple’s Siri to control all your connected devices. Wink 2 starter kits also offer you a nearly fail-safe way to jump-start you home automation experience. Supports Bluetooth LE, ZigBee, Z-Wave & most smart home protocols. Works with: Amazon Alexa, Nest, Philips Hue, Schlage, Ring and much more SmartThings Setup and connection with your favorite devices is relatively simple with everything you’ll need comes right in the box. You can put your automation plans in high gear with a variety of different SmartThings starter kits. Advanced users will enjoy the support of an active developer community for third-party integrations to use with the hub. Supports Z-Wave, ZigBee, and most smart home protocols. Works with: Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Nest, Philips Hue, Schlage and much more Homekit Apple’s app-based home automation platform. From the Home app, you can control all your Homekit compatible devices and accessories using an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, or with Siri voice commands. Homekit does not require a physical hub, but if you want to take advantage of the Home app automation features, you’ll need a fourth-generation Apple TV, an iPad running iOS 10, or the HomePod smart speaker assistant. Works with: Ecobee 3, Kwikset, Lutron, Philips Hue and more Alexa Amazon Echo smart speaker is better known as simply Alexa, which is Amazon’s voice control system. Just say “Hey Alexa,” and you control your connected devices from almost anywhere within earshot. And, while it’s not yet ready to replace a well-programmed smart hub, Alexa possesses many skills you can call on to manage your smart home, answer questions, play music, and shop for things. Works with: Nest, Philips Hue, Ecobee 3, Wink, Samsung SmartThings and more Google Home Powered by the Google Assistant voice-recognition system, Google Home is an all-in-one Wi-Fi speaker, digital assistant and smart-home controller. In provides seamless integration with Google services like Gmail, Calendar or Keep, and leverages Google’s industry leading search and voice-control expertise to provide more contextual information when answering your questions. Works with: Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue, Nest, Belkin WeMo and more Nest It’s not just a smart thermostat. The Nest app is really smart and has robust hub capabilities that allow it to automate and control dozens of products, including lighting, door locks, smart plugs and more.

Home Networking Tips

Wi-Fi Routers, Extenders, and Mesh Networking Kits In a typical home, wireless signals have to travel through walls, floors as well as bounce off surfaces like metal or concrete to reach their destination. Wi-Fi routers, extenders, and mesh networking kits can be used to create additional access points in areas of your home where Wi-Fi connectivity may be weak. Here are a few more tips to help you get better performance from your smart home network: Position your hub for a clear line-of-sight path to devices (when possible), or with no more than one floor or wall between them. Keep your hub a few feet away from large metal objects to prevent signal loss • Orient the hub’s antenna towards the center of the house to allow the electromagnetic signal to travel in all directions Space devices as far apart as possible to reduce the chance of interference The more devices – the stronger the network. Smart plugs, outlets, and motion sensors can act as repeaters to help relay messages back and forth from devices to the Hub.

Top Smart Home Entertainment Devices

In the final analysis, the application of home theater is intended to provide the consumer with an entertainment option that is suitable for watching TV and movies at home with a little extra excitement than you normally get just watching a plain-old TV by itself. In fact, for many, going to the local cinema is a distant memory, as it is less expensive and more comfortable to stay at home. Also, with the ever decreasing time between theatrical and broadcast to home video and streaming release, waiting a couple of extra months to watch that big blockbuster movie or TV show is not necessarily a big deal, as long as you avoid spoilers from those that have already seen that content. In addition, for TV shows, there is the fun of “binge watching” – instead of watching to see the next episode, you can watch several during one viewing period. By borrowing from both the image and sound technology of the movie theater and adapting it to the home environment,TV and audio manufacturers have provided the consumer the ability to actually approximate the movie theater experience at home, based on the equipment and content access options chosen.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting incorporates many technologies so that either indoor or outdoor lights will work automatically under certain conditions. Different smart lighting networks do different things, but some of the more popular solutions feature smart lights that are capable of instantly switching on when someone enters a room or changing colour when something occurs, for example. Imagine your house has 50 lights, and each light is normally controlled by the flick of a switch. Smart lighting eliminates the need for you to get up and flick that switch. The network does all the work for you, automatically, though you can still program the lights to respond as you wish. Smart lights often feature sensors too, so they can identify people and things like when they need light, as well as how much they may need.