How Home Automation Works
You already have home automation, you just don’t know it! Your lights, heating and cooling are all linked to timers that automate them, even your pet feeder is some kind of automation. Before we dig deeper into the whys and hows of home automation technology and applications, we should take a look at what they can do for us.
It was only recently that home automation was made possible due to the invention of connected devices. These days, you can control your lights with a click of a button even when you’re away.
There are so many different types of home automation products now and they all work in different ways. We’ll take a look at what home automation is and how home automation works so you can decide whether it’s for you or not.
What Is Home Automation?
Home automation refers to the way you control and program smart products around your house through an app or central hub on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Some activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your whim, are simple and relatively inexpensive. Others, like advanced surveillance cameras, may require a more serious investment of time and money.
Home automation comes in many forms. For example, wireless light switches are one way to automate your home’s lighting system. These switches can be placed anywhere you want throughout the house—no rewiring required.
Home automation has been around for decades in various guises, but with the rise of smart home technology, it’s finally becoming mainstream. Smart home devices have proliferated in recent years, from security cameras to smart speakers, thermostats and lighting systems.
While these gadgets can be controlled remotely via mobile app or voice commands through smart speakers such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, home automation takes things further. Using sensors throughout the house and other technologies (such as infrared), home automation allows you to program specific tasks that occur when you’re not there (e.g., turning off lights and locking doors at night).
How Does Home Automation Work?
Home automation systems generally consist of one or more “hubs” or “controllers”, a communications protocol, and compatible peripherals. Hubs sometimes also provide a user interface for local control of the home, but the user interfaces for most home automations systems are typically accessed through an app on your phone or tablet.
A smart home hub is not required for your devices to communicate with each other, but it is the central brain that connects everything together and allows you to control all of your smart devices from one app. Smart hubs also provide add-on services like voice assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant) and security services like professional monitoring.
Some hubs use Wi-Fi to connect to devices directly (without a cloud service), which can make for faster response times and lower latency in some cases. Others rely on Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) or ZigBee technologies to do the same thing. If you’re interested in building a DIY home automation system, we recommend starting with a Z-Wave or ZigBee hub as they have the most mature ecosystems of compatible products. Many of our favorite hub options come with support for both protocols built right in.
Home automation works on three levels:
- Monitoring: Monitoring is an important feature of home automation. The survellience of the house can be done through the use of sensors, cameras and mobile devices. The monitoring and controlling of the house can be done from any distance. Remote access to the house can also be granted to only trusted people. Home appliances can also be monitored for their power consumption. This will help in controlling the power consumption and keeping a track of all expenses.
- Control: The control is based on speech recognition technology which allows the user to interact with the system through voice commands. This feature allows the user to do anything from controlling the temperature in a room to turning off lights at night by simply speaking into a microphone.
- Automation: Finally, Automation is a technology by which a process or procedure is performed without human assistance. Automation or automatic control is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications and vehicles with minimal or reduced human intervention.
Home Automation System Components
While some home automation systems require hubs, some mobile applications connect directly to a router, which connects directly to an IoT device. Of course, it’s preferable when there’s no hub, as that’s just an added cost on top of the cost of the IoT device itself.
The hallmark of home automation is remote control, which is done through either a mobile application or through a voice assistant.
- Mobile Application: The mobile application is the main interface to interact with the system. It can be installed on both Android and iOS platforms. Once the application is installed, user is required to create an account. Then, in order to interact with the system, user will need to log in to his/her account. The application has a list of all the rooms that are connected to the system. For each room, there is a list of all appliances that are connected to it. Each appliance can be turned on or off using this application. User can also request for current status of appliances from the system using this application
- Voice Assistants: Voice assistants are the latest trend in home automation. They allow you to control other devices in your home using only your voice, and they integrate with other smart products to provide a seamless experience. Most IoT devices work with one of three voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
- Amazon Alexa: The most popular home assistant, Alexa works with many other devices and is available on many different smart devices, such as speakers and thermostats. Alexa is the voice assistant we see integrated into the highest number of smart home devices from companies like SimpliSafe, Ring Alarm and Vivint.
- Google Assistant: Google Assistant is slowly growing in popularity and works with many different products like Nest thermostats and Google Home speakers.
- Siri: Apple’s personal assistant is available on all iOS devices, like the iPhone or iPad. You can also use Siri through Apple’s HomePod speaker.
Cloud Computing with Home Automation
The new technology in home automation is cloud computing. Cloud computing means that house residents are able to share data and applications through a remote server that is accessible via the internet.
This technology is an important innovation in the field of home automation because it allows people to use their mobile devices as controllers for the lights, doors, windows, and other appliances and security features of their homes. The applications for this technology are endless when combined with home automation.
One major benefit of cloud computing with home automation is energy efficiency. A person can turn on the air conditioning from his phone before he gets home so it will be cool upon arrival. He can turn off lights by using his phone or tablet computer if he remembers as he leaves work that he left them on. Mobile devices can also be used to control heating systems, dimming and adjusting lighting levels, and even turning off televisions or computers that have been left on.
Another benefit is safety and security. Many people forget to lock their doors or garage doors when they leave the house. With the help of cloud computing, they can check that these doors are secure at any time they wish while they are away from the house with a simple tap on a screen. They can also unlock these doors remotely in
The way that IoT devices connect to the Internet and each other is their control protocol; if IoT devices are people, think of the protocol as their common languages. Like on Earth, there are a few different languages, or protocols, that devices can speak, including:
- WiFi: Many people have been led to believe that the Internet of Things (IoT) will mean “the end of Wi-Fi.” This is not true; IoT is simply a collection of connected objects. In order for these objects to be truly useful, they must send information to the cloud where it can be analyzed and leveraged by applications. Typical home today has many smart devices and appliances, from TVs, set-top boxes, game consoles, and home theaters to security systems, thermostats, lighting control and more.
Some of these devices are controlled via Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance has a task group that is developing a specification to enable direct Wi-Fi communications between devices using multicast technology.
- Z-Wave: You don’t on’t want to mess with your home’s WiFi. Z-Wave is a wireless home automation protocol, designed to be used for home control applications.
It is targeted for use in residential and light commercial environments. The technology uses a low-power RF radio embedded or retrofit into electronics devices and systems, such as lighting, home access control, entertainment systems and household appliances. Z-Wave brings many benefits to everyday life including remote home monitoring, home healthcare, safety and security, and energy conservation.
- ZigBee: Similar to Z-Wave, ZigBee is a wireless protocol used by many home automation manufacturers. It supports low-power devices that are used in a mesh network, meaning they can pass data between each other rather than needing to communicate with a central hub.
- Bluetooth: Finally, Bluetooth is a short range wireless protocol for connecting devices together. It’s the most widely available wireless protocol, and it’s been around for a long time. Bluetooth is great for home automation because it’s already in phones and tablets and laptops, so you don’t necessarily have to buy any additional hardware.