September 21, 2023

Home automation is the process of making smart devices work together to make your home more energy efficient, safe and convenient. The technology involves combining a central control unit with a network of connected smart devices that are accessible via the internet or other network connection, such as your smartphone. Full-scale systems can cost thousands of dollars, but even a DIY system that simply connects to your router and includes one smart device is a good way to get started.

Smart home automation uses a combination of scheduling and voice-based assistants to allow homeowners to control their smart devices from a single location or device, including through their mobile phone or tablet. These systems can help save money and increase efficiency by automatically adjusting devices according to your routine. They can also reduce the amount of time you spend on tasks such as checking your smoke detector or setting the thermostat.

The first step to home automation is figuring out what you want your system to do for you. You can do this with a basic checklist, or by reviewing your home and lifestyle and deciding what features will add the most value. It’s important to consider how much you want to spend, as the initial investment will determine which smart devices you can add later.

A smart hub is the heart of any smart home automation system. Those that feature built-in support for the major home automation protocols—ZigBee, ZigBee Pro, Z-Wave, and HomeKit—are able to connect devices from multiple different brands to form a seamless ecosystem. These smart hubs include products such as the Amazon Echo, Google Assistant and Samsung SmartThings.

You can set up a smart home without a hub, but it will require a lot more manual work, jumping between apps to control each individual device. A hub will also simplify your setup and allow you to create automations—also known as “routines”—that link multiple devices together. For example, you can set your alarm to wake you up with the radio turning on and the lights gradually brightening as part of a morning routine. You can also automate things like turning on the coffee pot, ordering a car wash and calling the dog walker through voice commands with Alexa or by using the Google Assistant app.

In addition to scheduled programmability, many smart home devices offer self-learning capabilities that can help them learn your habits and perform certain functions on their own. For instance, you can set up your smart thermostat to detect when you’re away from home and turn off the heat or adjust the temperature accordingly. You can also program a smart light bulb to sense when you enter a room and adjust brightness, or set it to shut off after a specified period of time if you haven’t used it in awhile.

A number of smart home systems are based on the Apple ecosystem, with integration into Apple TV, HomeKit and iOS devices. Others are based on the Amazon Echo ecosystem with voice assistance, and still others operate on the Google Assistant platform, with integration into Android devices. Another popular option is IFTTT, a service that lets you connect devices with simple “if this, then that” scripts—similar to what’s possible on a Raspberry Pi.

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