Smart Homes have been talked about for a while!
Home technology is rapidly expanding and some major players in the form of Apple, Amazon and Google are developing smart home products. It is now possible to control your heating, lighting, security devices like webcams and door locks from your smartphone from anywhere in the world!
However, to answer the question, in my view, a smart home is a home with digitally connected devices that can be automated in order to work together and controlled by a simple device such as a tablet, smartphone or smart speaker!
Therefore, the smart home devices need to be integrated to create a single system. In simple terms these different devices need to be able to play nicely with one another.
The foundation for a smart home is the network.
Without a secure and reliable network throughout the house it will be difficult to develop a fully connected smart home.
The home network will have a variety of wired and wireless devices connected and configured to work together. To produce a fast, reliable and secure home network I would suggest that those devices that rarely move location, such as smartTV’s, desktop computers, network printers, network speakers, should be connected by CAT 5e Ethernet cabling.
The devices that move around the home from room to room, such as laptops, tablets, portable speakers, smartphones etc. should connect to the network via WiFi (e.g. a wireless connection).
This will help to even out the load on the router which will be able to route some data along the wired system and some data through a secure WiFi signal.
More detailed information about planning building and configuring a home network is covered in another article.
Be carefully not to buy just a load of random smart devices
Once you have created a good network you can layer in the smart devices. However, you may end up having to control each device with a different app if you don’t buy smart.
I would suggest a good place to start your smart home journey is lighting. With certain products you can create a blaze of colour in your rooms. Smart lighting can be controlled with sensors and when you open a door the lights will turn on. (you will programme the daylight hours so the system will know which times to turn them on and which times not to bother!)
You can also use specially design switches to control a number of lights with one button press, you can also change the colour temperature and dim or brighten them. You can even control your smart lights by voice command if you add in a smart speaker from either Amazon, Apple or Google.
Another popular smart device to add to your comfort system is a smart heating thermostat, once installed you’ll be able to control your central heating and hot water, depending on your system, with your smartphone. You never need to arrive home from work to a dark cold house.
What about Smart Security
There are now a number of smart products that will help to keep your home secure. You can install external and internal webcams so you can monitor any activity in and around you home whilst you are away. You can even keep an eye on your pets whilst you are at work.
There are window and door sensors that are easy to fit to your windows and internal and or external doors. How many you install depends on what you want to monitor. These sensors can send alerts to your smartphone to let you know a door or window has been opened.
Another popular device that can help with safety are smart plugs. These plugs plug in to an electrical socket and you plug your appliance, like for example hair straighteners in to the smart plug. You can control these plugs remotely turning them on and off. Therefore, if you have left for work and are unsure if you turned the ‘straighteners’ off you can check on your smartphone.
When you have gotten to this level of smart sophistication, with lighting, heating, security and smart TV’s and smart speakers you can enter the world of home automation! For example – with a voice command to Amazon’s Alexa such as “film night” – Alexa can turn on your smart TV, set the heating to a nice comfortable temperature, change the lights to a soft amber glow, set your sound bar and lock the external doors, how cool is that?
However, I think the icing on the ‘smart home cake’ is having a robotic hoover clean the carpets whilst sitting on the patio with a Gin & Tonic whilst watching the robotic lawn mower cut the grass – now that is what I call a lifestyle change.
A digitally connected smart home summarised
I created the diagram below to depict a layered approach to creating a digital Smart Home.
The foundation layer is the home network. This layer consist the router, network switches, power line adapters, WiFi extenders, Ethernet cables, NAS Drives, network printers, etc. This base layer provides the connection to the internet and the ‘plumbing and wires’ to your static devices dotted around your home as well as a connection to your central in-home data store.
The integration layer contains all the devices you use around the home and maybe outside the home to access your home network and the ‘internet’ (the network outside your home). The typical devices in this layer will be smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart speakers and smart TV’s.
The ‘icing on the cake’ layer is the top layer of smart devices that will control your comfort – lighting, heating and window blinds, your security – webcams, door locks, window and door sensors, smart plugs etc and those that change your lifestyle such as robotic carpet cleaners and lawn mowers.
Putting all these layers together so everything works nicely together and performs as one single system will take some planning and will be the subject of further blogs.
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