Top 5 Questions About Wireless Home Automation

Wireless home automation now has a foothold in technology-driven America. Homeowners are more likely than ever before to have at least one automated device, and nearly every household is expected to embrace the automation revolution at some point in the next decade. That means there will be a lot of consumers installing DIY systems – whether piecemeal or fully integrated – in the years to come.

Home automation is not especially complicated for people who understand wi-fi networks and electronics. For everyone else, setting up a system can present some challenges. Below are the top five questions wireless home automation novices ask when they start looking for a system in earnest. Knowing the answers to these questions certainly makes a difference in purchasing decisions.smart home security

1. How are wireless devices powered?

Wireless home automation devices are designated as such because they communicate wirelessly over a wi-fi network. That does not necessarily mean devices are powered without wires. They can be, but they don’t necessarily have to be. This is an important difference that consumers need to consider when making a purchase.

Manufacturers make devices that run on household power, batteries, or a combination of both. Obviously, the third choice is best for property owners looking for redundancy. Having devices that can plug into standard electrical outlets and use battery backup in the event of a power failure is optimal.

2. What is the range of wireless devices?

Consumers need to know the range of their wireless devices in order to design a package that gives them maximum coverage. Unfortunately, there are no industry standards we can rely on. Manufacturers all design and build their equipment as they see fit. That said, the rule of thumb is to assume an average range of about 100 feet. Consumers should obviously read specifications before purchasing individual devices or complete systems.

3. How do devices communicate?

Wireless home automation is based on communicating across a local wi-fi network. Any home with a wi-fi router and a broadband internet connection should be able to use wireless devices without a problem. All devices in a system connect locally through the wi-fi network; the home’s internet connection serves as a communication channel outside the home.

Some systems rely on cellular signals for external communications instead of, or in addition to, an internet connection. These are an excellent choice for people who do not have broadband internet or who want redundancy in case their internet connection goes out.

4. Is home automation more than just thermostats and lighting?

Home automation absolutely goes above and beyond just lighting and thermostats. Virtually any electrically-powered device can be controlled automatically, at least in terms of turning it on and off. People automate their exterior lighting, landscaping features, blinds, and more.

5. Are home automation systems scalable?

In theory, home automation is designed to be scalable. But that depends on the components that make up the system. A prepackaged system offered by a single provider is more easily scaled because that provider chooses equipment known to work with its systems. A piecemeal system built by the consumer may be more difficult to scale.

Home automation is expanding and growing across America. If you are not yet on board, you likely will sooner or later. So know this: the more you know and understand about home automation before you purchase, the easier it will be for you to make a wise purchase decision. Before you buy, make sure you shop around and ask plenty of questions. You should have no trouble finding devices or a complete system to meet your needs.

What Will a Truly Smart Home Eventually Look Like?

The way we talk about smart homes and home automation these days, you would think homes are almost as autonomous as the driverless cars being developed by automakers and tech giants. In reality, neither those autonomous cars nor our smart homes really live up to the terms assigned to them. We have come a long way over the last 10 to 20 years. Yet our smart homes are not really smart. That leads home automation enthusiasts to the inevitable question: what will a truly smart home eventually look like?

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Right now,we are content to call a home smart if it possesses enough technologies to do things such as program thermostats and control lighting with multiple scenes. Such capabilities are more than welcome while home automation technology is still in its infancy. But is programming a thermostat with a smartphone really automation? Only in the sense that once a thermostat is programmed it can be left alone to work by itself. The same goes for setting up lighting scenes. But where we are headed in the future will redefine both automation and smarts.

Voice Command Response

To make a home truly smart, it needs the capability of programming itself. Otherwise, smarts are limited to software programs that simply do as they are commanded. In the smart home of the future, home automation will be all about voice commands and how systems respond to them. Take lighting, for example.

Under the current state of home automation, a homeowner can program lighting according to various scenes, one of which might be turning off all lights in the house at one time. The homeowner pulls out his smartphone as he’s walking out the door, taps the screen to invoke the scene, and closes the door behind him while all the lights go out. That is awesome technology. But what if he could walk out the door and simply say, “I’m leaving”, and have the system turn off the lights, automatically adjust the thermostat, arm the security system, and check to make sure electronic door locks are activated?

That’s where we are headed. That is the whole point behind technology companies focusing on creating home automation hubs that can connect with virtually any device and can be operated with standard voice commands. We are certainly not there yet, but we are on the way.

Learning Capabilities

The future of home automation also rests in artificial intelligence smart enough to learn the habits of property owners. For instance, some thermostats have the capability of ‘learning’ based on a combination of pre-set programming and adjustments a homeowner might make during the normal course of the week. After several weeks of collecting and analyzing information, these devices are capable of self-adjusting to a certain degree. Still, they are limited.

The future smart home with genuine learning capabilities will include home automation devices that need very little input to learn. They will be able to adapt to whatever lifestyle changes occur with little more than a few voice commands; they will be able to adjust on-the-fly just like a human butler or housekeeper would.

A truly smart home is one that will be able to adapt to the consumer’s lifestyle with as little input as possible. So in terms of where we are going with smart homes, what we have today is not really as smart or autonomous as we would like. But it is a start. Today’s home automation is laying the groundwork for a very exciting future that will truly revolutionize how we live our homes.

Home Automation and Raspberry Pi

Would you be surprised to learn that techno-geeks tend to be the early adopters of home automation technology? Probably not. The technologically-minded among us are known to push the envelope in all things geek related. So it is also no surprise that where you find geeks and home automation together, you also find something known as Raspberry Pi. Just Google the two phrases, and you will see what we mean.

The image "Tiny OLED monitor, attached to a popular single board computer, showing a computer graphics image of a furry cat.

All across the internet, there are tons of tutorials explaining how to integrate home automation with Raspberry Pi. The question on the minds of nearly everyone who is not a techno-geek is, “what is Raspberry Pi?”

Without getting into all the gory details, Raspberry Pi is a series of single-board computers developed in the UK by a foundation that decided to start producing the machines in order to teach basic computer science to young people. It turns out the foundation found a way toproduce these computers relatively cheaply using affordable components and a free open source operating system developed in-house from a Debian base.

Now several generations advanced, the Raspberry Pi is about the size of a credit card in terms of length and width. Obviously, the various components soldered to the board make it significantly thicker than a credit card, but the overall package is extremely small.

Raspberry Pi and Home Automation

Now that you know the basics of Raspberry Pilet us talk about integrating it with home automation. The beauty of this little device is the software that powers it. Debian is an open source GNU-Linux distribution that can be modified as the user sees fit. Raspbian is the in-house operating system the foundation created using Debian as a base. But now you can also use Ubuntu Linux, Windows 10 IOT Core, and RISC OS instead of Raspbian.

Integrating Raspberry Pi with home automation is a matter of getting the little computer up and running and connected to your wi-fi network. Then you put the apps for your associated devices on the computer the same way you would install software on a laptop or desktop. You can then use Raspberry Pi as the hub for all of your automated devices.

Having said all that, this is all easier said than done. This is why techno-geeks are the ones most likely to embark on such projects. Using Raspberry Pi as a home automation hub is certainly not as simple as purchasing a prepackaged home automation system with a hub included.

A prepackaged system comes with software and apps that have already been designed to work together. This is not the case when you use Raspberry Pi. Someone who wants to go the Raspberry Pi route would have to make sure he or she purchases devices with software that will work in whatever operating system has been chosen.

A Great Weekend Project

If you are into the techno-geek lifestyle and looking for something to do on the weekends, building the basics of a home automation system using Raspberry Pi might be just what you’re after. You can log on to the Raspberry Pi website to find local retailers selling the systems; then just find some hardware and software to use with it.

In a single weekend, you might be able to get your system working with something as simple as thermostats or lighting control. And once one component is hooked up and working correctly, you can start adding additional components until you have a complete system. It’s a great way to spend your leisure time and create a DIY home automation system at the same time.

Smart Doorbell: What to Know Before You Buy

The age of wireless home security now makes it possible to install a smart doorbell that gives homeowners the capability of knowing who is at the door before ever opening it. There are a few smart doorbell products now on the market, each one attempting to dominate an area of home security that has not yet been exploited.

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If you are planning to purchase a smart doorbell, you are not alone. However, do not simply jump in without knowing what you are buying. Smart doorbells are just like anything in the home security and automation industry. Some models offer more features than others; some are just not worth the price paid.

Below is a list of things you need to know before you purchase. Weigh the options and features of each doorbell against how much you want to spend for the technology.

Doorbell Integration

Property owners with traditional doorbells already installed will find that smart versions come in one of two varieties. They either integrate with the existing hardwired doorbell or they have their own chime that works independently. This isreally a matter of preference. If you already have an existing doorbellthat you are especially fond of,you may want to purchase a smart unit that can integrate with it.

Doorbell Power

A smart doorbell is, by design, a wireless device that communicates with a centrally-located home security and automation panel. But that does not necessarily mean it is wirelessly powered. You can purchase units that run directly on your home’s electrical system, others that are powered entirely by battery, and still others that utilize both power options. Should you choose a hardwired doorbell, you can disconnect an existing doorbell from its power source and hook up the smart doorbell in its place.

Video Capabilities

The strength of the smart doorbell is its video capabilities. By embedding a video camera and audio system, manufacturers enable their customers to see and communicate safely with whoever is at the door. When the doorbell rings, it sends a notification to the consumer’s smartphone. The individual can then bring up an associated app that includes a live video feed.

The reason for mentioning this is clear: make sure you purchase a smart doorbell with a decent video camera and relatively good resolution. If you cannot clearly see the person standing at your door, there is no point in having a smart doorbell.

Night Vision Capabilities

The best devices on the market include night vision technology so that you can still see who’s at the door after the sun goes down. This is a feature well worth paying for.

Motion Sensing

Another great feature is motion-sensing technology that turns on a smart doorbell’s video camera even if the doorbell is not rung. Homeowners can see if people are lurking around the front door, perhaps trying to determine if anyone is home or not. A smart doorbell with motion-sensing capability essentially gives the homeowner a video camera to keep an eye on the exterior of the home.

Recording Capability

Lastly, having a smart doorbell with software capable of recording video is very helpful. Any video recording could be used as evidence in the event of a break-in or some other unfortunate event. Video recording capability is not essential, but it is worth having if you can spend the money on it.

The smart doorbell now makes it possible for you to know who is at the door, whether you are home or not. But do your homework and shop around. Do not settle for the first unit you see.