what is smart home

Consider Your Smart Home to be Your Helpful Roommate!

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We all love the concept of a home that answers your questions or maybe does your errands or tasks for you. And we all met the first edition of a smart home with Jarvis in Iron Man movies. Our smart homes are maybe not that smart… But just for now!

“Smart home” stands for using automated processes and remote-controlled, monitored, accessed devices to improve life quality and easiness in the home.

SMART LIGHT BULBS


Smart Lights and Switches

Smart Light Bulbs

Smart lights are the most impressive way to tell others that you own at least a smart-looking home.  You can use smart light bulbs to turn old lights into app-controlled dimmable soft and comfy lights. 

smart light bulb

Smart Light Strips

Smart light strips are likewise a good choice when you want to create scenery lighting. After the pandemic, we all are living with our headphones. Gaming or meeting online can cause you to miss your delivery guy because you couldn’t hear the doorbell. You can create a scenario for that. When the doorbell rings, your smart light strips can turn red and flash.

smart light strip

Smart Switches

When you want a practical solution for your home’s conventional lights, smart switches are the key. All you must do is change the switch to a smart switch. Then you can control your normal lighting features with scenarios such as “Turning off the lights when you lock the main entrance door”

Smart switches are easier to apply and use but there is slightly less fun than controlling smart lights.

smart light switch

Smart Plugs / Power Strips

Smart plugs or power strips have the same crucial role in a home as switches. You can create a plot with your everyday “dumb” electrical devices. Some of them have a built-in ammeter that you can track the electrical consumption from an app. 

Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip from Kasa
Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip from Kasa

Smart Sensors

Smart Climate Control Sensors

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are the devices that control your home’s ventilation, air conditioning, and heating. Most of them have a built-in thermometer to show the temperature of the room. Some devices have external sensors to track and control each room individually through an app.

Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat from Honeywell
Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat from Honeywell
Smart Vents

Smart vents can be seen as another version of smart thermostats. Smart vents are also tracking the room temperature but additionally, they also track the weather outside through sensors. When the conditions are favorable; smart vents add natural cooling to your home.

Smart Vent by Flair
Smart Vent by Flair

Smart Position Sensors

You can see these kinds of sensors as “Door Magnet Sensors” or “Window Sensors”. The principle is to get an alarm when the sensor can’t see its other half (magnet). It is handy when you are out of the home and wondering if you leave the window open or not. 

Smart Door Sensor by Sehomy
Smart Door Sensor by Sehomy

Smart Motion Sensors

Photocell and motion sensors are the most smartening factors for a home in my opinion. Scenarios are limitless. You can turn the lights on when your entrance hall motion sensor is activated. Or maybe you can turn on the lights on your front porch when any motion is detected. This way you don’t need to try to find your keys in the dark…

Smart Motion Sensor by Aeotec
Smart Motion Sensor by Aeotec

Smart Light Sensors

Smart light sensors are often used in lighting automation plots. You can easily relate these light sensors to your smartphones. When the day is sunny, your phone is increasing its brightness level for you to see the screen. When the day is cloudy, the light sensor is giving an alarm to your scenario, so you can dim up your lights.

Smart Sensor, Night Lamp with Built-in Dusk to Dawn Sensor by Uigos
Smart Sensor, Night Lamp with Built-in Dusk to Dawn Sensor by Uigos

Smart Humidity Sensors

Not knowing a home’s climate can cause low or high levels of moisture. The ideal moisture level in a home is %65. Less moisture can cause dry skin and coughs. On the other hand, high levels of moisture can cause mold to grow in the walls. To feel and control the room temperature correctly, humidity is one of the crucial factors.

Smart Gateway Room Temperature Humidity Sensor by Govee
Smart Gateway Room Temperature Humidity Sensor by Govee

Smart Security Sensors

Smart Smoke Alarm

In 2019 there were nearly 355,000 residential fires in the US and roughly half of them were caused by cooking. We all burnt some of our food because of ringing phones or doorbells. Smoke sensors are very convenient for these kinds of worst-case scenarios. Highly recommended if you have a kid around. You can create a scenario where you can switch off the valve of the gas and text you “ There might be a fire in the kitchen” when the smoke detector is triggered.

Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector by Google Nest
Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector by Google Nest

You can find more information about the installation of smoke sensors in this post.

After all these statistics we have a right to be a bit anxious about leaving kids alone at home.

importance of a sensor in smart home

US Fire Administration 2019 Fire Statistics

Smart CO (Carbon Monoxide) Sensor

One of the detectors that should be installed in every room is carbon monoxide. It is recommended to use these detectors so that the toxic gases produced after the combustion reaction do not harm people. Common effects are headache, drowsiness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. It is possible to increase the security of your home with compatible smart detectors.

Smart Water Dripping & Leaking Sensors

When I go on vacation, a phone call about my house leaking is my biggest nightmare as an apartment dweller. The leak from the tub that we missed due to the ringing of the phone or the bell and continues to flow is also one of the house horrors. To prevent these nightmares from happening, these sensors are your knight in shiny armor. These sensors should be installed in places where leakage can occur. Those are capable of notifying via the application after detecting the leakage.

Smart Home Water Leak Detector by Eve
Smart Home Water Leak Detector by Eve

Smart Locks

Smart Fingerprint Locks

Biometric door locks have started to be used by some to replace traditional door locks. It does not open the door to unauthorized people by scanning fingerprints with thermal and optical scanners. But don’t forget to take the power outage into consideration. For this reason, products that are battery-powered or can be opened with a keypad are more popular. Keep that in mind.

Smart Lock Biometric Door Lock by GeekTale
Smart Lock Biometric Door Lock by GeekTale

Smart Keypads – Temporary Codes

Wouldn’t you like to have a pin code on your door like everything else for example smartphones, WiFi? No one wants to carry dozens of keys in their pocket anymore. For this reason, smart keypad locks attract attention. Of course, you have to share your pin with your gardener or babysitter. So it would be more logical to choose keypad locks with temporary codes in order not to change pins every time.

Security Smart Lock TouchScreen Keypad by Eufy
Smart Lock TouchScreen Keypad by Eufy

Hands-Free

Have you seen the keys of Tesla? You can’t see it because now there is only an electronic card instead of a key. Now imagine this on your front door with a little extra feature such as WiFi control and self-opening. Yes, that’s hands-free door locks. There are too many scenarios you can write such as when your doorbell camera detects one of the house members, it can open itself.

Smart Security and Smart Cameras

Smart Surveillance Cameras

On YouTube, we see videos of people trying to fight a burglar who broke into their homes. Security is no longer a luxury in this period when the items in our house are getting more and more valuable. In this case, surveillance cameras have the biggest role. You might think what good would it be to get the camera smart. In this case, scenarios such as sounding sirens, or turning on the lights, or locking the doors can be written for deterrence.

Smart Indoor Security Camera Blink Mini
Smart Indoor Security Camera Blink Mini

Smart Video Doorbells

We all feel sorry for our deliveries stolen after they were left on our doorstep. In this case, a doorbell with a camera on it and a simple area scan feature will do wonders. A bell that sounds “Camera is recording” after it recognizes someone is in front of the doorbell will ensure that all Amazon Packages stay safe and sound. I should also mention that some doorbells have a monthly subscription fee. Some models whose batteries last a very long time are convenient for those who don’t want to break some walls for wiring.

Smart Video Doorbell by Ring
Smart Video Doorbell by Ring

Other Smart Home Gadgets

Smart Automatic Watering Systems/Sprinkler-Irrigation System Controllers

In this world where everything becomes automatic, we expect garden irrigation systems and sprinkler systems to be automatic. And they are. They have become systems that work according to the humidity of the air, not on a clock-based basis like classical irrigation systems.

Smart Sprinkler Controller by Rachio
Smart Sprinkler Controller by Rachio

Smart Vacuum Robots

Robot vacuums, which are the first smart products that many of us buy for our homes, continue to advance in technology. It is possible to see robot vacuums in a wide range of price scales according to the extra features they have. These extra features can be a laser-based area scanner (LIDAR), camera, built-in speaker, mopping, and self-emptying bins.

Smart Vacuum by Roomba
Smart Vacuum by Roomba

Smart Kitchen Appliances

Talking to your phone and asking your coffee machine to prepare coffee for you or asking the Microwave to heat the food you previously put in the Microwave for you before you come home became everyday things. The number of scenarios is so high that we are now starting to look at the fun factor. Who wouldn’t want a kitchen as smart as the dog that brings beer when the owner asks for it?

Smart Oven by Cosori
Smart Oven by Cosori

Smart Garage Door Openers

Nothing bothers me more than getting out of the car to close the garage door after getting the car out of the garage. Smart garage door openers have now become so that you can monitor the garage door and surroundings with an application, tell you whether the door is open or closed, or remotely control it and create a calendar. Of course, it is possible to communicate this product with other Smart products in your home and to write a scenario together. 

Geeni Smart Garage Door Opener
Geeni Smart Garage Door Opener

Smart Curtain Controllers

Imagine that the curtain in your bedroom opens and closes according to the daylight or the alarms you set on your phone. This system works with very small electric motors that draw curtains for you. I’m also looking forward to the curtains that hang themselves after washing. 

SwitchBot Curtain Smart Electric Motor
SwitchBot Curtain Smart Electric Motor

Smart Consumption Trackers

Having smart electrical appliances at home that do all the work for you naturally increases consumption. However, to leave the world livable for future generations, electricity is not the only energy type that needs to be tracked, but we also need to monitor our natural gas and water consumption. 

Smart Plug & Power Meter by Eve
Smart Plug & Power Meter by Eve

In the meantime, it has been observed that these consumption monitoring devices can detect abnormal consumptions and predict malfunctions after obtaining average consumption statistics. Don’t forget to pay attention to the “Your oven consumes more electricity than normal” warning if you see it on your phone one day.

Smart Pet Products

Pet feeders continue to be among the most sought-after products among smart home products. In addition to pet feeders, self-cleaning cat litter boxes, pet cameras, GPS-based pet tracking devices, and pet water fountains are among the popular pet products. Although I do not know if it would be correct to evaluate it in this category, the door sensor for your chicken coop can also be shown among the applications.

Arf Pets Smart Automatic Pet Feeder
Arf Pets Smart Automatic Pet Feeder

Connectivity


Smart Ecosystems / Voice Assistants

Ecosystems are virtual environments created with smart equipment that can simply communicate with each other and give commands with the help of a voice assistant. When choosing your smart products, the compatibility of your voice assistant with the equipment you will buy is important. These cloud-based voice services are available on so many devices.

The biggest virtual/voice assistants which dominated the market are:

  • Amazon Alexa
  • Apple HomeKit
  • Google Assistant
  • Samsung SmartThings
  • HomeAssistant
smart home platforms

Apps / Smart Home Platforms 

IFTTT(If This Then That)

It is an application that brings together many different equipment and applications and allows them to talk to each other. IFTTT calls these services through the app and lets you do things you can’t do just by connecting the services. This application has different membership types, the standard version is free but the Pro version demands a very small amount per month.

IFTTT

Many brands have created applications that try to communicate their Smart Home products with each other and with other smart home products on the market.

Control4

This brand, which offers a full-fledged Smart Home service, can provide its application, controllers, and design services. Again, Control4 systems can work with many brands and applications.

Control 4

Insteon

Insteon is a one-of-a-kind technology that allows you to control your smart home products over both wireless and power lines. This feature allows Insteon to communicate with more smart home products than any other wireless technology. 

insteon

Advantages

  • Suitable for use in large buildings and homes as it has the greatest coverage.
  • It is very easy to use smart home equipment in its network.
  • Since it uses both radio frequency(RF) and power lines, it has a stronger connection than all other single-band protocols.
  • It is very easy to identify equipment to the network as it uses power lines. Just powering on the device is enough.
  • Comparably offers greater security than the other protocols.

Disadvantages

  • The high data rate applications (e.g. HD Video Streaming) are not suitable for this technology.

Other Apps

Apart from the IFTTT, there are some applications like Control4  that usually market their products and also have an app to communicate with their own and other smart home products.

  • Yonomi
  • Smart Life by Tuya
  • Brilliant
  • Lutron

Among these applications, some of them can operate with the IFTTT application as well. Thus, it increases the number of scenarios incredibly.

Protocols

Protocols are the rules that determine the frequency of communication between devices. It is possible to communicate Smart products in your home in 5 different ways. In the catalogs of the devices you want to buy, it is written which communication protocols they can work with. Let me talk about the advantages and disadvantages of these protocols.

Zigbee

One of the most widely used protocols is Zigbee. This protocol has low power consumption and a low data rate. The area covered by this protocol is around 33 ft (10 meters). You may need to use a Router for your devices more than 30 feet away. 

zigbee

Advantages

  • Setting up is very simple. 
  • The data rate is low because it does not use a central controller. Data is evenly distributed throughout the network.
  • Adding/removing equipment is easy.

Disadvantages

  • Not as secure as wi-fi-based systems.
  • Vulnerable to unauthorized attacks.
  • Suitable for indoor application only, as the coverage is limited.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is also a wireless system (RF-Radio Frequency) with low power consumption and low data rate. It offers coverage of up to 100 feet (30 meters) indoors and 350 feet (100 meters) outdoors. Due to its technology, the network grows over devices that support Z-Wave, not over routers.

zwave

Advantages

  • Great for battery-powered devices as their energy consumption is very low.
  • It can easily work together with other smart home products.
  • Affordable technology allows you to set up the smart home system at much less cost.
  • Uses AES-128 type encryption to provide users with a secure wireless network

Disadvantages

  • To provide security in the wireless network, it is necessary to have some knowledge about this technology.
  • Data communication speed is slower than Zigbee. For this reason, it is suitable to be used for monitoring and control purposes.

WiFi

We all know what WiFi is. But do you know what WiFi stands for? Wireless Fidelity! It is the technology we all use which is basically emitting data to radio frequency signals vice versa. In this system, access points (AP) and routers are also used to expand the coverage area.

wifi

Advantages

  • Very simple to install and requires no technical knowledge.
  • Has price advantages because the technology is very common.
  • The latest versions have very fast and powerful data transfer features.

Disadvantages

  • As the number of computers or equipment increases, the data transfer rate decreases.
  • Must be within range of the Access Point and receiving a strong signal to operate with full functionality without interruption. (min 100 feet / 30 meters, max 300 feet / 100 meters coverage range)
  • Higher power consumption than alternatives.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is comparatively the more secure technology than any of the above. This is the shortest range technology compared to its alternatives. (30 feet / 10 meters)

bluetooth

Advantages

  • It does not get or create interference from/to other wireless devices.
  • Power consumption is very low, easily upgradeable
  • Especially used for voice and data transfer.
  • So common therefore so cheap.

Disadvantages

  • Suitable for very short-range communication.
  • As we all experienced before it tends to disconnect…

Matter

Matter is a cool new way to make your smart home devices talk to each other, no matter who made them. It uses the internet to send messages between devices, so you don’t need a bunch of different hubs. You can also use your phone or your voice to control them, whether you have Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, or SmartThings.

matter protocol

Advantages

  • You can mix and match devices from different brands and they will still work together.
  • You can set up and use your devices easily, with just a scan of a QR code.
  • You can trust that your devices are safe and secure, because they use strong encryption and verification.
  • You can choose from a lot of device types, like lights, locks, thermostats, blinds, sensors, and TVs.

Disadvantages

  • It is still pretty new and not many devices have it yet.
  • Your devices need to pass a test by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which might take some time and money.
  • It might not work with some older or outdated devices that don’t use the internet.

Smart Hubs / Gateways / Bridges

As we mentioned above, there are many protocols and there are many devices that communicate through these. With today’s technology, it is still not possible to manage a house with a single protocol. So what does this hub do? It collects your devices communicating with different protocols in one center, as the name suggests. In addition, it prevents your devices that communicate with Bluetooth or WiFi from weighing on your wireless network. It is possible to see these products in the market under these three names: Smart Home Hubs, Smart Home Gateways, and Smart Home Bridges.

Sounds very nice, doesn’t it? These devices have only a few handicaps. It’s not cheap to bring all the technologies together, so these devices can be a bit pricey. In addition, using all your devices through a single system or a single application may cause problems if you do not have a strong enough cyber-security. While it is possible to see many alternatives in the market, the most commonly used ones are as follows.

  • SmartThings
  • Wink Hub
  • HomePod
  • Hubitat
  • Home Assistant Z-Wave/ZigBee
  • Logitech (Harmony Hub)

I recommend that you pay attention to the devices you want to use together and their protocols when choosing the hub. In addition to this, the ease of the application or the ease of creating a scenario should be one of your selection criteria. Some voice assistants have built-in hubs. You can also consider this when you decide to make a purchase. 

Network / Internet

We are all aware that the necessary infrastructure for all Smart Home products we mentioned is the network. The power of the internet becomes much more important in structures that do not use hubs. The size of your house or the outdoor type of devices you will use may require some additions to your network infrastructure.  For this reason, I will try to explain a few important keywords below that you need to know for your home’s network infrastructure.

Routers

While smart home routers increase the area of your internet, some of them also can be used as smart home hubs. In the selection criteria of routers, first comes the price, then the compatibility with your internet speed and your internet service provider(ISP). Especially, if you are going to use a modem and router as a combination, we need to make sure that the modem of your internet service provider and the router you decide to buy is compatible. Supporting new wireless protocols is also a big plus.

Repeaters and Extenders

These two products actually serve to strengthen the wi-fi signal. So what are the differences? Repeaters strengthen the wi-fi signal by connecting to the existing network wirelessly and broadcasting it again. Extenders, on the other hand, connect to the router and create a new WiFi network.

PoE (Power over Ethernet)

You will see PoE in the datasheet of some devices you are looking at. It is a protocol that transmits both data and power to the devices in the Network over the same cable. This significantly reduces installation and maintenance costs. Especially well suited for camera setups.

Converters

Although there are many types of this, I would like to explain it through an example. I want you to think about your TV or A/C remote works over Infrared Radiation (IR) technology, have you ever thought about how to use it from your own Smart Home app? A converter that converts Wi-Fi to IR, which you will put in a corner of the room that sees the air conditioner or television, does just that.

Surge Protector and Suppressors

It is necessary to consider the intervention of nature for all the systems and infrastructures you want to establish. I think at this point you should consider putting a surge protector or a surge suppressor on the electrical infrastructure you feed your devices. The electronic cards inside these devices contain sensitive components. We don’t want a bolt of lightning to fry them.

Tools


Voice Assistants/Speakers

Of course, the most flashy members of a smart home are voice assistants and speakers that respond to your silly requests. At this point, there is huge competition in the market. There must be a reason why people choose different voice assistants, although none of them are lacking in terms of features. The user’s request about design, price, and purpose of the use is the factor that differentiates the demand here. Although there are many alternatives, the products that dominate the market are below:

  • Amazon Echo Dot
  • Google Home/Nest
  • Apple Siri HomePod

Visual Assistants/Tablets

There are many products that can be used when you need visual support for the control of your smart home or when you need an interface to video chat with others. Below are the most important examples of devices that visually do what the voice assistant does

  • Amazon Echo Show
  • Google Nest Hub
  • Brilliant Control
  • Atmos Control

TL;DR / Summary

Although there are more than enough topics to talk about, I think I have explained all the terminology. Although the scenarios and combinations that can be made with Smart Home products are unlimited, I am aware that our imagination is limited to our budget. For this reason, I suggest you start with products and scenarios that can be a big step in your smart home transformation journey. Smart lighting and camera doorbells will be enough to keep your enthusiasm up in the first place. 

Your house getting smarter and smarter won’t be a problem as long as you don’t name the home network as “Skynet”.

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Philosophy: We want to make sure that our readers can use smart home products with maximum efficiency. Our ultimate desire in this blog is to ensure our readers use smart home gadgets to make their lives easier, more accessible, and safer.

Batu of CondoChance Team

BSc. Electrical Engineer & MBA
10+ years of industrial experience as an Electrical Engineer

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