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A Complete Guide to Smart Home Automation

Smart Home is one of the buzzwords in the last decade, but what exactly does it mean? A Smart Home refers to a home where certain electrical & electronic appliances are connected to the Internet, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These could be everything from light bulbs that turn on to your voice command to smart security cameras that give you live feed of your home on a mobile application.

Possibilities with a smart home are many; voice control through Artificial intelligence-powered voice assistants such as Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Samsung Bixby, automating actions, such as having your window shades open to the morning sun & turning on the water heater to prepare your bath while playing your favourite music. With geo-based automation, your home can know when you are away or coming back home and change your thermostat reading to save energy. A smart home makes your life effortless & convenient and helps you focus on doing things that you love such as reading a book to your little one, learning a new language or working on a passion project.

What is a Smart Home?

In short, a smart home is any home with electrical or electronic devices that can be controlled remotely using smart devices or respond to the pre-set conditions like time-based schedules, geo-based triggers, or sensors output.

What is Smart Home?

IoT or smart devices can also be controlled using voice commands. With wireless smart home devices, getting your home automated is not an expensive affair. A single room or a complete condo; you can customize the system to your requirements with wireless devices.

With a diverse array of devices ranging from smart lights to security systems; from motion sensors to video doorbells, there are very few appliances without a connected device counterpart.

Smart Home Connectivity

IoT devices can connect to the Internet in a few different ways, with Wi-Fi being the most common and Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth and Thread being the others. While all of them produce and enable wireless connections, the difference lies in how they connect to the Internet. They differ in the types of radio waves, range, speed, frequency, data rate, and cost.


Smart Lights color and brightness selection using Wozart App

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is the most popular connectivity protocol inside a home with nearly every home already having it. While Wi-Fi offers good data throughput and relatively good range, it consumes a lot of power compared to other protocols. It provides long-distance and wide-area coverage.

Bluetooth

It is as popular as Wi-Fi. Most consumers are familiar with Bluetooth as it is built-in almost all smartphones in the market. Bluetooth makes secure connections to nearby devices (maximum of 20ft away). Its most common application is wireless connectivity to speakers, headsets. It is also used in car stereo systems, keyboards, and gaming consoles, and in smart home security.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a proprietary wireless communications protocol that lets IoT devices connect over a mesh network using low-energy radio waves. It uses the unlicensed radio band near 900 MHz frequency. The band varies from region to region, so a Z-wave device that works in the USA will not work in India.

Zigbee

Zigbee is primarily designed to create personal area networks for home automation devices. It is low -power, low data rate, and close-proximity protocol. It operates at 2.4 GHz radio frequency of the ISM radio bands.

The problem with Zigbee and Z-Wave is that their signals aren’t directly compatible with a mainstream computing device, like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. So bulbs and other smart devices need to communicate with a hub that is connected to your home Wi-Fi network via an Ethernet cable plugged into the Wi-Fi router.


Thread


Thread is low-power mesh network protocol that makes your devivces directly addressable over the internet using IPv6. Each Thread device can extend the range of the mesh network, making it ideal for homes with a large number of connected devices. A Thread Border Router is needed on the network to enable remote communication.

Intelligent Assistants

Voice control of home appliances is possible because of artificial intelligence assistants or voice assistants, which developers integrate into IoT products. Apple launched Siri in 2011 and debuted in the smart speaker category in 2018 with HomePod. Though Alexa is a late entrant after Google Assistant and Siri but with its integrations and the range of smart speakers Amazon has launched, it has become the most popular assistant inside the home.

Smart Speakers: Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Homepod

With the right hardware, you’ll be able to turn your connected devices on and off using your voice, as well as make other adjustments, whether that’s dimming lights, setting the temperature down five degrees, or changing the program on the television. Today not all smart home devices are compatible with every assistant. Though it might change in the future, it is better to choose all the smart home devices working with your favourite assistant for consistency.

Siri

Siri comes on all iOS devices and also part of Apple HomeKit. There aren’t many connected devices that work with Siri but quality products are being added to the list all the time. HomeKit itself is a framework of Apple that the product developers need to comply with to get access and make their devices work with all Apple products.

Alexa

Amazon Alexa, also known as Alexa, is an AI virtual assistant developed by Amazon. Alexa is available on the most number of smart speakers today. Alexa works on Amazon brand of Echo products and host of other smart speakers. In addition to playing your favourite music, reading news it also can switch on and off your lights and appliances. Google Assistant

If you are using an android device, you might already be aware of Google Assistant. Just say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” to activate the voice assistant.

All Android smartphones come with a built-in Google Assistant, that can pretty much do everything you want it to do, play music, get news updates, take calls, sends messages, control smart home gadgets.

The major factor behind the popularity of Google Assistant is that it is the default assistant of Android devices that comprise the majority of the smartphone market. Google Assistant is available with Google Home and Nest Home smart speakers. Many third-party sound system and television companies are working on integrating Google Assistant into their devices.

Home Automation

A smart home is more convenient if it controls itself. Having to go into ten different apps all day, just to turn on your lamps might get annoying, which is where home automation comes in. Whether it’s by putting your devices on schedules or by having them trigger sensors, you can set up your smart home to work for you, not against you. For instance, you can have your lights turn off when the room is empty and change the temperature of the room to your preference as you walk into a room. With such automation, IoT devices can be intelligent in their functioning that makes smart homes so convenient.

What can Smart Home do?

Unlike regular products, that aren’t connected to the Internet, smart devices have many capabilities and are all controllable through an app.


Home automation using smart devices

Remote control: With IoT enabled smart home automation, you will be able to control, monitor your devices away from home. This comes in handy when you forgot to turn off your air conditioning unit or make sure your doors are locked before you left home.

Notifications: You’ll receive notifications on your mobile app of any events that happen with your smart device. Notifications mainly apply to security cameras, systems, and door locks. You get notified, the second someone opens your front door or walks in front of your video doorbell. Notifications are especially useful when it comes to the security and safety of your home.

Voice commands: Most smart devices work with at least one of the voice assistants, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri or Bixby. You’ll be able to command your home appliances using voice alone, so it is important to make sure that all the devices in your home, work with the same voice assistant for convenience.

Geo-fencing: Geofence is a feature more useful with smart locks, thermostats and lights. The automation system uses the GPS from your phone and controls your device so that it locks or unlocks based on your location. For example, you could have your door automatically unlock when you’re within a certain distance, or have the air conditioner dip in temperature when you’re near.

Schedules: This one is pretty obvious. Many devices can be set onto schedules so that you don’t have to control them manually every day. For example, if you know that you always sleep on weekdays at ten PM, you can have your home lights turn off and call it a night.

Scenes: Scenes are a set of appliances that you’ve grouped, to easily access them all at once. You can create different scenes for lighting; like reading time, bedtime, house parties, etc. As the lights are already customized for colour and brightness, you can activate the scene with a simple voice command or tap on the mobile app and set the right ambience.

Smart home integrations: Without integrations between devices of different manufacturers, your options for building a smart home are very limited. Many smart home devices work with devices from other brands through smart home ecosystems or platforms. For example, August Smart Lock, a door lock system, works with Wozart Switch Controllers, so you can have your lights turn off and the door locked just by activating a good night scene. If a product carries "Works with Apple HomeKit" on its packaging, it means it works with any other product that’s integrated with HomeKit, which makes integrating devices from different brands simpler than ever. An advantage of being OS-level integrated with HomeKit is that it enables control of appliances from your device's lock screen, without the need to unlock your phone/tablet, open an app and wait for it to open. Also, the response time is a fraction of a second, make the experience more magical.

All HomeKit Compatible devices

Sunrise and sunset mode: Mainly applying to smart bulbs and window shades, sunrise and sunset mode has connected devices turn on and off at the beginning and end of the day, syncing with nature. Waking up to natural light is a pleasant experience

Activity log: An activity log is simply a list of the IoT devices activity, like at what time the door was locked or unlocked, when were the lights turned on and more. This is very useful for smart locks and security systems, in particular, but may not be as necessary for appliances and other devices.

Energy monitoring: With energy monitoring, you know how much energy is consumed by each of your appliances at home. It is more accurate when used with heavy electrical appliances like geysers, microwaves, and ACs.

Smart homes make your life easier by automating actions. Having the coffee maker prepare coffee by the time you wake up, or automatic light intensity regulation based on the time of the day, or simply get notified the second your kids come home. With literally thousands of devices available, the possibilities are endless.

Get started with Smart Home

What makes the smart home even more enticing is its availability across budgets. Smart home technology is evolving incessantly, each day, to come up with more comfortable and reasonable options for homeowners. Smart Homes are no longer a “luxury-budget" exclusive.


Woman controlling smart lights from smartphone

Smart Light Bulbs

With dimmable LED bulbs, you can adjust over 16 million different colours and intensity of the light. Smart lights can be turned on or off using voice commands, app interface, and also be set on schedules so that they power off and on to sunrise and sunset. You can create scenes, groups of bulbs that you’ve adjusted for brightness and colours to your liking and easily access them later.

Philips Hue is probably the most recognizable lighting brand and offers different smart lighting to choose from. It has 16 million different colour options and is also dimmable, so you can create the exact lighting you want in your home. You’ll also be able to set your lighting onto schedules, group multiple customized bulbs into scenes for easy access, and even sync your lighting with the sunrise and sunset, if you want! Or, hook it up with the GPS on your phone so your lights turn off automatically when you leave the house and vice versa.

Retrofit switches

If you're just getting started with your smart home, retrofit switch automation devices are perfect for you. Retrofit smart switches are installed inside any standard wall switchboard and turn the connected appliance or lights smart. Once configured, you will be able to turn appliances on or off, create schedules based on time, geo-location, or sensor outputs.

Smart Plugs

They can turn any appliance plugged into the socket to a smart & connected device. You’ll be able to turn the connected appliance on or off using your voice as well as create schedules and scenes. Smart plugs are mostly used to automate heavy-power appliances like water and space heaters.

Smart Security Cameras

What good are security cameras if you can’t see their footage? With smart security cameras, you’ll be able to check-in and view live feed anytime, anywhere from your mobile application. They also come with person detection so you’ll only be notified with 3-sec videos when it detects a person and not an animal. Some more advanced cameras have facial recognition, allowing you to get more personalized notifications.

Smart Thermostats

Aside from being able to control your home’s temperature remotely and set it onto schedules, many smart thermostats also sense movement and occupancy, meaning they’ll adjust based on your location inside the home and away. You can also set up geofences with some smart thermostats, meaning they’ll adjust based on your location using the GPS in your mobile device.

Smart Speakers

With the increased usage of voice search and voice assistants, smart speakers are poised to become the centre of smart home systems. You’ll be able to play music, hear to news, audiobooks, and podcasts. Smart speakers also let you control connected devices hands-free.

Though there are not many options available today but of those that are available; the maximum number of smart speakers are with Alexa built-in. Amazon’s own Echo series has almost 13 variants at different prices ranging from ₹3,999 to ₹16,999. Google Home & Nest smart speakers and displays are available from ₹3,999 to ₹8,999.


Apple’s only smart speaker, the HomePod Mini is priced at ₹9,999. It is the most expensive smart speaker but offers high-quality sound and bass that can fill a medium-sized room. It has six microphones for receiving audio input from any part of the space. It is compatible with HomeKit devices and can be paired with other HomePods too.

Smart Locks

Smart locks are super useful. Aside from being able to control them remotely, users will also be able to create passcodes for specific periods to let people in when they’re not home. This is particularly handy if you have help or a friend needs to be let in in a way much safer than hiding a key under the mat. You’ll be able to see your lock’s activity, the door lock can be opened with voice commands and also comes with the auto-unlock feature to open the door hands-free when you are the door.