An Introductory Guide to Smart Homes

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Digitalization was just a concept a few years ago but now it has creeped into every walk of life and has positively affected the lives of millions of people all around the world. Every industry has been overtaken by digital systems be it the transport system, manufacturing units, banking sector or any other industry. Digitalization has also influenced lives at home and as a result, smart homes have gained popularity and many people are moving towards them.

Are you looking for a quick and simple guide to smart homes? If yes, then you are in the right place. This blog post will take you through the nitty-gritty of smart homes so that you can get a clear answer to all the questions floating in your mind right now.

What Is a Smart Home?

Let’s start by understanding what a smart home really is. It is a house which not only provides you with a safe space to live but also has its appliances and devices connected to a network which can be easily managed by the people living in it. A smart home can be controlled digitally i.e. through an app or using the internet for example, if you are living in a smart home and you forget to switch off your bedroom lights while leaving the house, you don’t need to panic. While you are out and cannot go back home, you can switch off the lights using the smart home management app in your phone.

What Is the Difference Between a Smart Home and Home Automation?

The concept of smart homes sounds very simple, right? If a smart home offers controlling your home appliances through an app, then what is home automation? Is there a difference between a smart home and home automation?

Home automation is the interconnectivity of all the devices inside a house, which allows them to adjust automatically according to the people living inside the house. For instance, if a person leaves their room every day at 8 in the morning, the home automation system will switch off the rooms cooling system and lights every day without the need of manually switching them off. The difference between smart home and home automation is that the latter adjusts the house according to your liking. Both terms are closely related with a thin line of “automation” separating them.  

Smart Home and IoT

The idea of Internet of Things (IoT) has gained recognition over the past few years because it is a very useful concept that adds a touch of luxury to the busy lives of the people living in this modern era. Where everyone is lost in the hustle bustle of this life, IoT eases lives by relieving a part of their household worries.

IoT involves smart decision making and machine learning capabilities which allow devices inside your house to take decisions by communicating with each other and observing the circumstances of every situation. For instance, if a person comes home feeling very tired after a long and hectic day at work, his IoT based smart home will take every possible action to provide comfort to the person and make him feel relaxed. An example could be that the smart home plays the person’s favorite music while dimming the lights a bit, to create a relaxing atmosphere inside the house.

IoT has several applications in different areas but its application in home automation and smart homes is something to look forward to. It keeps on getting better day-by-day  as researchers all around the world are working on this technology.

Key Functionalities of a Smart Home

Now that you know what a smart home is, let’s delve into the key functionalities of a smart home so that you can know how it feels to live in a smart home. We will consider each system of the house separately and discuss how smart homes can add value to these already existing functions of a household.

Indoor and Outdoor Lighting

Lighting plays an important role in house décor and adds value to the overall feel of the house. It also contributes in changing the mood of the house, for instance, if there is a party inside the house, you will notice flashy lights of different colors whereas if a dinner date is being hosted inside the house, dim yellowish lights would create the right romantic atmosphere inside the house.

A smart home ensures that all your lighting needs are met accurately. Whether you are hosting a Christmas dinner or a formal lunch, your smart home will know exactly how to handle the situation. Moreover, smart homes are able to automatically turn lights on when someone enters a room and subsequently switch them off when the room is empty. Similarly, outdoor lights are automatically switched on at night time and dim away as the sun rises.  

Home Security  

Home security systems are very important because they protect you from unfortunate events such as burglaries and fire incidents. Smart homes use different sensors to detect burglars entering your premises and they immediately take action by alerting the owners and activating locks on doors and windows. Some advanced systems may also alert the police so that they arrive on time.

Similarly, in case of a fire, smart homes are able to take quick action because they are equipped with the right smoke detectors and fire sensors. As soon as they sense a fire, they alert the owners and also attempt to put the fire off through sprinklers and fire extinguishers. They may also alert the fire department in case the fire gets out of control.

Another way smart homes can add to the security of your house is by automatically locking doors and closing windows in case you forgot to do so while leaving the house. The smart home management system will also notify you by dropping a message on your smartphone.

HVAC System

Your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) needs are also taken care of by smart homes. Whether you have an underfloor heating system or a regular heat pump, or you have a wall mounted air conditioner, every HVAC appliance can be controlled by the smart home management system. All you need to do is use a programmable thermostat to set the temperatures you need at different times of the day and voila! All your indoor heating and cooling problems will be sorted in no time. You wouldn’t have to worry about setting the right temperature when you enter the house after work because your smart home will take care of it.

Energy Management

If you wish to keep your electricity and water wastage as low as possible, then a smart home is what you need. Smart water taps can monitor your water consumption and they only turn on when they sense movement. Similarly, the electricity consumption is monitored by the smart home management system and it also helps you reduce it by turning off appliances that are running unnecessarily.

Home Entertainment

Home entertainment includes video games, TV, movies, series, music and other multimedia options. With smart TVs, you can watch your favorite series and movies through streaming websites as well as YouTube right on your TV screen. Furthermore, you can control your screen through voice commands which means you won’t need to press any buttons on your remote. Moreover, with speakers placed in different parts of your house, you can enjoy music while taking a shower and follow cooking recipes in your kitchen.

Controlling your Smart Home

A smart home system can control your house in multiple ways but how are smart homes themselves controlled? What are the protocols and communication standards involved in the process?

Popular wireless communication protocols used by smart homes are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Thread and Z-Wave. On the other hand, wired systems usually use ethernet cables or KNX to communicate. For one-way communication such as remote controls, infrared communication is the best technique.

In wireless communication, Bluetooth is preferred for short distance communication such as communicating between two devices whereas for longer distance communication, Wi-Fi is most preferable because of its high speeds. Other protocols are application specific and can sometimes be used in the absence of Wi-Fi signals.

The main components of a smart home can be grouped as follows:

Sensors

Sensors allow the home automation system to take inputs from the surroundings and use them to manage the smart home system. They include temperature sensors, light sensors, pressure sensors and many others. A very basic example is the use of temperature sensors. They are used to record the room temperature and the temperature outside the house, to maintain an indoor temperature that you are comfortable with by activating the heating or cooling systems.

Controllers

Controllers allow different systems to communicate with each other and also manage how the user interacts with the home automation system.

Cables

Cables are used for the interconnection of devices within the smart home so they can effectively communicate with each other.

Cameras

Security systems are incomplete without cameras because they provide evidence in case of theft and some modern smart cameras detect suspicious activity through specialized algorithms and alert the residents so they can take necessary precautions.

Voice Assistant

Voice assistants are useful if you wish to enable voice commands to control your smart home. They have built in speakers and microphone which are perfect for communication. Some very popular voice assistants are Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby.

Benefits of Wireless and Wired Systems

Wired and wireless systems are usually used in contrast to facilitate smart homes. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages but generally, wired systems are used where a stable approach is required, they are usually installed in new homes. Whereas if people are planning to shift to a new house and don’t want a thorough renovation works implied by laying the cables, they prefer installing wireless systems.

Key Products Offered

If you are looking for high-quality smart home accessories such as switches, lighting, plugs and smart watches which are compatible with the popular voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant, then SONOFF is your best bet! They have a range of smart switches, smart plugs, smart wall plugs, smart lighting and smart home security products.

You can also use their products to build your own DIY smart home. Click here to visit their website and check out their amazing range of home automation products.

Benefits of A Smart Home

If you are thinking of building your own smart home or wish to install smart devices in certain areas of your house then you need to know what benefits does a smart home offer.

Increased Security

When you are living in a smart home, everything present in your premises is connected to a network and it is constantly monitored by the smart home management system. If something goes wrong inside your house, you will be immediately notified either through the app or through a text message. So, even if you are on a vacation, you can always monitor your house from almost anywhere in the world.

Time Saving

With a smart home you don’t need to spend time in doing basic chores such as setting the temperature inside the house or switching off lights. Your smart home managaemnt system will take care of everything.

Cost Reduction

Smart homes are the best at cutting costs by avoiding wastage of energy. They only turn on lights and other appliances when needed. For instance, if you leave the house empty, the smart home system will switch off all the lights, making sure no electricity is wasted.

Increasing Green Footprint

As you are saving electricity you are increasing your green footprint and playing your part in conserving non-renewable energy, ultimately saving the planet Earth. Moreover, smart homes also pay attention to saving water hence, you will also play your part in saving water for our future generations.

Ease of Use

Smart homes make your life easy by taking care of a number of tasks that otherwise, you would have to deal with. If you have been working tirelessly at your workplace and feel completely knocked out while coming back home, your smart home will take care of you by providing you with a pleasant environment. Furthermore, you can also heat your dinner in the microwave through your smartphone while you are on your way home. The option of remote accessibility is what makes the idea of living in a smart home irresistible!

Ready to Build Your Own Smart Home?

Now that you know what smart homes are and how they function, you can make the decision of choosing a smart home over a traditional one. We are sure you will opt for a smart home because of its attractive features and amazing benefits. 

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