What is a Smart Home?
A smart home is the connection of several devices like lights, switches, thermostats, appliances, and doorbells to a network for monitoring and controlling the devices. When connected to the web, it enables operation through apps on your smart phone or a smart speaker like an Echo Dot. Such a system is sometimes referred to as the internet of things. Many of these apps and devices enable home automation such as automatically turning lights on at dusk, or unlocking your front door. You can have a lot of fun with “If This, Then That” or IFTTT automation!
The Smart Home Hub
The smart home starts with a wireless home network that the devices can connect to. For many devices, this requires nothing more than a WiFi network that most of us have already in our homes. However, WiFi is a high-band width and high-power network. For many things like switches, that only need to be sent on/off or dimmer settings, WiFi is overkill.
Wireless networks have been developed that are specifically designed for smart home devices. These include networks like Z-wave and Zigbee protocols. To use devices with these protocols, you will need a hub. The smart home hub works just like a WiFi router, but it only communicates with smart devices using these special protocols. The hub also plugs into a router via an ethernet cable, to control connected devices through the web and apps.
Smart home hubs are cheap, highly reliable, and easy to set up. Companies like Google and Amazon have caught on to the smart home craze, and started including smart home hubs built into their smart speakers, like the Echo Plus and Google Home.
Smart Home Devices
There are numerous smart home devices available to connect to your smart home. Check out some of the articles on smart home devices and the products page. Also be sure to check out the recipes for simple step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish smart home tasks. These resources will give you a good overview of where to start.