You may find it hard to believe, but the concepts and plans for modern smart home automation have actually been in existence since the 1950’s. Sci-fi authors have envisioned a bright future in which practically every household would be powered by smart devices and appliances. A number of historians believe that the smart home automation movement has its roots in the ECHO IV Home Computer.
The ECHO IV home automation computer was created by Jim Sutherland in 1966. It was capable of automating tasks like regulating room temperature, generating grocery lists, calculating a monthly household budget, and automatically turning on appliances to perform daily tasks and shutting them off afterwards. However, it required 20 sq. ft of space and 3,000 W to run. With advancements such as the miniaturisation of computers, wireless technologies, smart phones, AI and machine learning, we’ve certainly come a long way since then.
Important Considerations Before Getting Started
Before you start building your own home automation system, consider asking yourself these questions:
- Do you want to automate your entire house?
- Which areas do you want to automate?
- What is your budget?
- Which features would provide the most convenience and safety for your household?
- Do you want remote access to surveillance, locks, air conditioning, etc.?
Whether you’re a landlord, homeowner, or tenant, it’s also helpful to check out customer reviews on each individual home automation device online to help you make informed decisions for each purchase.
Where to Begin
We recommend you begin building your smart home automation system with a voice-controlled personal assistant device. Here are the popular options on the market:
The Amazon Alexa personal assistant is available on Amazon Echo devices and enables you to control different systems for home automation purposes. It can control devices in your smart home, deliver the news, search for information, check the weather, order online, and much more. Currently, it offers the best compatibility with devices and appliances in a typical smart home setup. Some Echo devices offer Zigbee support, enabling you to interact directly with smart home devices, and without the need for a hub or separate apps.
Google Home provides largely the same features as the Amazon Alexa, though it still has some catching up to do in terms of the number of devices it supports. On the other hand, it’s more responsive, and gives you more accurate information. It can even process 2 commands simultaneously. Naturally, it’s also a great choice if you use quite a number of Google-branded devices at home.
Siri is a personal assistant designed for Apple devices that integrates seamlessly with devices that are compatible with Apple’s smart home automation software, HomeKit. Due to strict regulation by Apple, the number of compatible devices are limited, in contrast to Google and Alexa. But if you mainly use Apple products at home, setting up Siri with HomeKit may be the ideal smart home solution for you.
Home Automation Technologies
These home automation security systems allow you to set up and remotely control your door locks or check on your house via security cameras while you’re at work. Here are some devices you can use to protect your home:
- Security Cameras. Ordinarily, these require installation by a professional, but some devices on the market offer wireless capabilities
- Motion Detectors. These devices notify you when there is movement in your house. You can set up various actions that will be triggered to respond to such an activity
- Smart Doorbells. This is a type of doorbell that is connected to the internet. It notifies homeowners whenever someone rings their doorbell, and allows them to see who it is through the built-in video camera. It can also be configured to activate and start recording when motion is detected in front of your door
- Smoke Detectors. You’ll want to get one that has sensors for both carbon monoxide and smoke. The interconnectivity features trigger other alarms in your house (in addition to sending you notifications) when smoke is detected, providing enhanced protection
- Water Sensors. They’re used to monitor an area for the presence of water. They can be configured to send notifications to you via an app when water is detected, helping you to prevent costly damage from leaks. You can also set them up to shut off the main valve in the event of a leak
Smart Home Lighting
This is one of the first technologies homeowners look into when setting up home automation. It’s a great way to save on your electric bills, as you’ll be able to shut off your lights remotely, through the use of sensors, or according to a schedule. Currently, you can choose from 3 options:
- Smart Bulbs. For people new to home automation, this appears to be the most ideal option. It enables you to remotely control your lights through Wi-Fi, Z-Wave or Zigbee
- Smart Plugs. These are a cost-effective way to instantly turn ordinary bulbs (and other devices) into smart devices. With a smart plug, you can turn your lights and other appliances on and off via mobile or through voice commands, if you’ve set up an assistant like Google Assistant or Alexa
- Smart Switches. These are a complete replacement for traditional built-in switches. They enable you to control your home lighting remotely through an app. If you don’t have any experience with installing the wiring required, we recommend hiring an electrician to handle that for you
This an essential home automation device that enables you to control your household’s air conditioning and heating remotely. The latest models employ motion sensors to determine whether you’re at home. The device then automatically adjusts the climate of your environment to your liking, and switches off the air conditioning or heating after you’ve left. This translates into energy savings, and the device will even inform you when an air filter needs to be swapped out with a replacement.
We hope this introduction to smart home automation has been useful to you and has inspired you to take the first steps toward building your very own smart home. Do a bit of research, invest in 1 or 2 of the devices we mentioned to get the ball rolling, and then gradually add more features over time.
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