A smart home is a collective term used to describe household
electronic devices that have connectivity to the internet to allow control via
a centralised control device.
There are 5 main parts to a Smart Home setup. Some houses
may have all of these or just one or two. But most smart home setups start with
a smart speaker and expand from there.
So you might know what a smart home is but what is in a smart home?
Smart Speakers and Control Devices
Control devices are devices you use to control your smart
home. They can be anything from a simple switch to a voice operated smart
speaker like a Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple HomePod. It can even be your
phone. These devices are the ones that you will use to control your smart home
and give your devices commands. Other Control devices are things like smart light
Hubs are usually propriatory devices that connect other
devices to your wifi network. The purpose of these devices is to simplify the
installation of a lage number of smaller devcies but also to allow very low power
devices to communicate with the network in a much more power effective way as
wifi is linited in this capacity.
Here is an example of a device like this is the Samsung SmartThings Hub.
An optional part of a Smart Home setup is Logic, there are
many ways of doing this. Many smart home apps and systems will have some forms
of logic such as turning your lights on or off at specific times or turning on
the air conditioner when the temperature gets to hot.
Google and others have taken this a bit further with programmable
lists of functions. Goolge have ‘routines’ that allow you to trigger a whole
list of functions simply by telling the unit that you are going to bed for
Then there are the more advanced Logic services like IFTTT (If This Then That) a service that allows
you to link all kinds of different services together and have then trigger each
other in many creative and interesting ways. For example, turning your lights
red when your mother-in-law is calling.
The logic really is where the power of smart home is released.
With the ability to trigger devices all over your home to do complex actions
with any kinds of triggers you want there are almost limitless options to what
you can achieve with smart home devices.
Sensors are things like window sensors, sensors, door, rain,
temperature, humidity, motion, Light, UV, and vibration sensors. All these sensors
can be used simply to display this information, or you can ask your smart home
device for it. Otherwise you can use this data to trigger actions and processes
with logic in an app or via IFTTT.
Devices are things like lights, smart power adapters, door
locks, air conditioner controllers, security cameras, smart TV’s, robotic vacuum
cleaners, robotic lawnmowers and others. These devices are usually the ones
that you will be controlling via the apps and your smart speaker. You will mainly
be turning these devices on and off or telling them to perform a specific
In addition to these devices that have a single function as
an input or output device there are many that act as two or 3 of the above categories
at the same time. Like the Air Conditioner thermostats, these thermostats usually
have the ability to sense the temperature while controlling the air conditioner
unit. Others like the Google Home Hub are almost all of them at once. Being a
device that takes inputs from you, it’s also a sensor and output device and can
also perform logic function via the google home app.
Interoperability and compatibility
One more point you will need to be aware of is the compatibility
of devices and sensors with your smart home system. Currently there are 3 main smart home speakers that allow voice control, Google, Amazon and Apple. Any device you buy will need to be compatible with the voice controller that you select. Some companies like Samsung SmartThings also have support for all three. SmartThings is also creating an open ecosystem where other manufacturers can have their devices integrated together to allow for a seamless experience.
To get started we would suggest buying either a Google Smart
home or an Amazon Alexa. This will allow you to start discovering what a smart
home is and how it all works.