Home automation is one of the most popular trends in tech and DIY right now.
Enjoy the convenience benefits, increased home security, energy savings and increased value of your home by installing a home automation system.
By turning your home into a “smart home”, you can manage all your devices and technology with one system. But how do you choose the right one for you and your family? Here are our five things to consider when choosing a home automation system.
So there you have it, our vision for the smart home. It boils down to: be smart, be secure, and make it easy for us to adjust.
Factors in choosing smart devices for your home
1. Easy to Use
This really shouldn’t have to be on the list because we think every home automation system should be simple to use – there is no reason to have a complicated system, but they are out there.
You should never have to invite a technician to your home to install or tweak your system. The system is far too complex if it takes a specialist to install or modify.
Quick install of your smart device
You should also be able to install a new component and program it within a couple of hours. Ideally, it should take less than an hour, but when it comes to home improvement, things always take longer. The product manufacturer has failed if you have to spend an entire Saturday installing and configuring a light switch.
One app is all you need
Finally, controlling the system must be simple. One app should be all you need to operate your home. You shouldn’t have to open one app to adjust the lights and another to adjust the thermostat. The control app should also provide a full view of your home from the control panel – one glance should tell you the lights are on, the garage door is down, and the temperature is set to 72 degrees.
To put it simply, your smart home should just work. It shouldn’t be a hobby that you are always having to tweak.
Universal device from any manufacturer
The ideal system will allow you to choose from a wide variety of components from whichever manufacturer you prefer.
This is a challenge with the range of proprietary communications protocols on the market, but it is achievable.
Think about it, you can use an iPhone to call a landline or an Android phone. You can send a text file from your Mac at home to your Windows PC at the office. Smart home systems should be no different.
This will require IOT (Internet of things) standards to be established and agreed to by the various manufacturers and programmers, but it is doable.
3. Expandable, Upgradable, and Backwards Compatible
Most smart home hubs can control 200 or more devices – many are theoretically unlimited. However, systems controlled by Bluetooth or WiFi do have limits to the distance they can transmit commands to. Large homes should be just as easy to expand as small apartments.
Systems should also be able to expand into other products in the future. We don’t know what is coming down the road in the future. Systems should be able to adjust in the future by offering new features and products. This leads us to the next point, which is upgradability, since new products may require new control software.
In most cases, upgrades to a system should be done via software updates sent over the internet. Much like cell phone upgrades, home automation upgrades should be done quickly and easily. This means the hubs must be designed with enough power to allow new software to run without becoming sluggish.
Uprading will eventually require a new hub to account for new technologies so new hubs must be backwards compatible. A new hub should not require you to install 12 new switches in your home.
Last, but most definitely not least is security. Our smart homes must be secure – just as secure as our cell phones and online banking. Security is challenging, especially since we also want ultimate flexibility and universality. However, device manufacturers cannot skimp on security just to add another gimmicky feature. Security first, features later – we can’t stress this enough.
5. Smart, but not Gimmicky
Of course, smart homes should be smart. However, they aren’t currently as smart as they should be. Yes, your Nest Learning Thermostat is quite smart in that it can learn your temperature preferences, it keeps track of your energy use, and sends you a report on how you are doing. However, thermostats are one of the few product groups that has this level of intelligence. We need all of our devices to track power consumption and to ask you if something seems odd. Wouldn’t it be great if your oven sent an alert to your phone after it has been left on an hour longer than the timer you set?
Right now, a lot of devices (especially lighting) are gimmicky. Do you really want your lights to turn purple? Do you really need to turn your lights off by voice command if you are standing right next to the switch? We know that “the smarts” will develop and overtake the gimmick, but we can’t wait for that to happen.