What Is Home Automation and How Does It Work?

Scott Repasky
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What Is Home Automation?

Home automation is when you have control over household electronics and appliances through your smartphones. It gives you the chance to turn on and off things like air conditioners, lights, and even your coffee maker from anywhere in the world. It even allows you to create custom schedules so your home can be in perfect shape when you walk in every day.

Home automation is possible because of a wide array of different technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, in-wall displays, smart phones, and tablets. It was once the domain of only the rich but is now something just about anyone can afford.

Here's a quick rundown of those technologies and how they all work together to create a smart home:

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi technology allows your smart devices to connect to and communicate with each other over a local Wi-Fi network. Many smart devices require a Wi-Fi signal to tap into during the setup process, with some requiring a continuous internet connection to function. The most common way to provide a signal around the house is to use a wireless router.

Internet of Things vs. Home Automation

How Does Home Automation Work?

Most home automation systems work by using a connection from your phone to your home. You can control whatever device you are connecting to your home automation system from your phone. Whatever you are connecting, should be one of two things:

Programmable

For anything that is not programmable, you can usually connect the device directly to the home automation device. This could be on a plug in or into the wall itself.

Programmable devices that can be connected to your system include lights, heaters, air conditioners, fans, alarms, window shades, door locks, appliances, entertainment systems, garage door, pool pumps and so much more. Pretty much whatever you can control from a switch on your wall can be connected to the home automation system.

Some devices actually require two separate connections. One connection goes into the device itself and the other can go directly to your home automation system.

Open and Programmable

Devices that are open and programmable are devices that have an operating software that can be found online. These devices can be connected directly to your system without buying anything.

You can literally choose anything from the internet and open it up yourself. Manufacturers that have devices without a connection, usually have instructions available at their website.

The real fun starts when you open a device yourself.

Home Automation System Components

In order to perform home automation, an electronic device must gather information, process it, and then send a control command to either another electronic device or to a mechanical device. This is accomplished using one or more computers (hubs), one or more sensors (inputs), and one or more actuators (outputs).

A hub is a device that links to other devices in your home and typically has a lot of communication capability. Hubs are the brains of a home automation system. A sensor is a device that detects something and then sends a signal back to the hub. An actuator is a device that takes a signal from the hub and then performs some action based on the defined signal.

Let�s look at a very simple home automation example. You decide to control the lights in your home using your computer. To begin home automation, you install a hub in your home. The hub might be made up of one or more computers, and each computer has a power button. The hub reads the state of the power button and then determines whether the computer is on or off.

Then, a sensor device is added to your home. The sensor has a button on it that is connected to a switch. When the sensor is pointed at the ceiling light in your dining room, the sensor can tell if the light is on or off.

Remote Control

Suppose you want to turn your living room lights on from the mall – would you rather drive back home and do it manually or just need to press a button? The same applies to your air conditioner, TV and even heaters and thermostats. Imagine the hassle of monitoring and controlling these appliances remotely. Automation had come to the rescue. No more labor.

By home automation, you can easily control your appliances from any location. Just buy a home control unit and a few sensors and you can control multiple appliances from a single panel. Home automation includes lighting and climate control, video surveillance, energy conservation, safety and security systems. It can be a single component or an entire integrated system.

The best thing about home automation is that you can control multiple appliances with a single command. Hence, you can control your lights, AC, window shades and even the music player in your living room, in a jiffy. Instead of getting up from your chair and flipping switches as per your convenience, just use your cell phone or computer and do it.

Cloud Computing with Home Automation

These days, technology has made life easier in many ways. You can manage your finances, shop online, pay your bills online, read the news, or chat with friends and family with just a few clicks. It’s hard to imagine what life was like without all these technological conveniences. While the internet is usually the foundation of an automated home, many wireless systems use cloud computing to store and send information and even commands to your home.

Cloud computing is the creation of a network of servers, or computers, that host your information in an internet-based location. It allows you to access your information anywhere as long as you can get an internet connection. These cloud services can be accessed from a computer, netbook, mobile phone, or tablet. It’s easy to use from multiple devices, and it’s a great way to get the main applications and key pieces of information from one computer into the other. Most cloud computing services offer tons of storage space for data too.

Control Protocols

If you’re building a smart home, the first step is deciding on one of the many home automation protocols available. Among the many protocols, we can make a comparison table, but to really understand how you might use one over the other, each protocol’s strength and weaknesses must be understood. We’ll look at the protocols side by side.

Home Automation Protocols Comparison

Authenticating a command in a Simple Switch environment would be one of those issues. I hope it helps to see which protocol does what.

Pros and Cons of Home Automation

With a focus on lighting and climate control, smarter homes have been made possible through technology. Nowadays, you can plant a seed in an automated garden and let the temperature and water time itself!

It’s easy to be overwhelmed and taken in by the popularity of home automation, but there are some advantages and disadvantages to it. Only after weighing both of these will you be able to determine if home automation fits your needs.

Can Be Fragile

Interested in exploring home automation and don’t know where to start? Here is a chart to help you decide which areas of your home to start automating first, based on its presence in your current home, and how much effort/money you’re willing to spend implementing it.

How To Set Up Home Automation

Home automation is essentially the technological application and integration of various mechanical, electronic, and computerized devices that operate or monitor a home’s functions. Home automation, for instance, can be achieved through the use of a remote control, a handheld device, software or a voice-activated system.

The entire purpose of home automation is convenience and efficiency. It is also a life-enhancing evolution, especially for the disabled and the elderly. It allows for an improved response time by providing immediate control of devices and monitoring – from anywhere in the world – of a home’s security, energy consumption, air quality, lighting and temperature.

One of the most exciting and innovative features of home automation is centralized, remote control of household devices and systems, and the software is robust and highly developed. Most home automation systems are connected to the internet, which enables wireless networking via mobile devices and voice activation via your landline telephone or VoIP system.

Unlike a control that is located in one place, home automation control can be programmed in one spot and controlled from anywhere in a home. For example, you can lock all the doors, turn down the temperature and turn on the security lights from your iPhone. You can also play music throughout your whole house with just a single button click.

Home Automation Buying Guide

The good news for home automation is the technology that powers it has never been better and its price has never been lower. In fact, the components needed to automate any part of your home can be bought much more affordably today, compared to even five years ago. The bad news for buyers is there are countless manufacturers touting their home automation products, all looking to make a small fortune on your hard-earned dollars, and the technology is so new that it can be difficult to know where to begin and what you need.

HOME AUTOMATION BASICS

Home automation refers to any smart home solution that can be managed remotely via a smart phone, home computer, or other remote access device. The key word in all of this is “smart.” Any home automation solution should incorporate an automation software system into your home network, and then add smart switches into your electrical system.

Home automation technology was initially built around telephone network wiring. The earliest professionally installed home automation systems were simple phone connections used to operate lights and timers. The technology was then built into the phone lines, and it was possible for a single control device, such as a phone, to turn lights and appliances on and off by simply calling the phone number of the device from any telephonic device connected to a phone line.

Internet of Things Devices

The internet of things (IoT) is about connecting devices, such as alarm systems, tablets, smart thermostats, lights, cameras, appliances, and other systems to the internet. While you can find ways to use the internet of things to connect your exterior lights or perhaps monitor video security, this is not what home automation is all about.

Home automation on the other hand is about connecting all of the appliances, smart gadgets, and automation systems in your home to the internet. So you can control them all using your smartphone. Over time, home automation has continued to grow and improve and you can now control just about anything you want, and you can set it up so that it works for you and is easy to use.

Today you can set up systems like lighting control, security, music, and security surveillance, and home appliances so that everything works together seamlessly to give you a seamlessly connected home.

IoT Features

There are three main IoT features of home automation: remote connectivity, remote operation and monitoring. Some other features are environmental sensing, predictive maintenance, data collection, and enhanced operation. Refer to Table 1 for a comparison of the main features of home automation.

Remote connectivity and remote operation are the IoT applications of home automation, which make it possible to operate and control the home remotely. The operation can be done on a smartphone, tablet or any other devices with a network connection.

Remote connectivity enables users to control the home devices remotely across the Internet or the mobile network. With remote connectivity, users can monitor the home from anywhere or at any time to get information on home devices or to control home devices.

Remote control is only one type of control of home devices. The second type of control for home devices is Web/APP control, and it is very similar to remote control. Once the home devices are connected to the Internet, users can access them through an app, and they can monitor and control the home devices wherever they are.

Environmental sensing is another feature of home automation. Leveraging the environment sensing feature to control the home offers great convenience. With this feature, detection of deviation in the property is possible, and then action will be taken immediately.

Is Home Automation Secure? Tips for Securing IoT Devices

Home Automation Resources

Conclusion

The most popular home automation products today, called hub devices, connect with other home automation products and allow you to control and monitor them with a single remote or controller. Combination home security systems are the most popular home automation product and can be controlled with a smartphone. You can also remotely control other products, like garage door openers, irrigation systems, and heating systems. You can even connect lights to your smart phone to create a custom home lighting system. Many people have found home automation products help make their lives easier and fun.

Another way of thinking about home automation is as an ideal solution for seniors. This can be especially true if older people already find technology difficult. Smart home automation with easy-to-use systems can help senior citizens stay safe, warm and comfortable in their homes longer.

Now you should have a better idea whether home automation products for the home are right for you. It’s a good idea to check current system prices and compare them to familiar consumer products like smartphones. You may be surprised at how affordable home automation products can really be.