What is Home Automation?
Home automation is automating your home through various types of automation products. They could be any type of smart products. These products help make your home more easy to manage and allow you to have time to do other things.
What Technology should I use?
X-10 is an old and unreliable. It’s not based on a mesh network and you cannot confirm that a device has received a message. The range is also much less because it’s not a mesh network. The security of these devices is also very poor as there is no encryption available for the signal. Any X-10 device can send a signal request to it to turn it on or off.
Wifi only home automation products are just hitting the market now but once power consumption has been addressed it has a big chance of being our only type of smart product. Most of these devices have a stand alone app and aren’t easy to integrate into your home automation hubs. That said, there are lots that have made this transition more easy and more will come all the time.
Bluetooth products need a hub anyway and also don’t boost the signal when you add more devices we will focus on Z-Wave and ZigBee.
Z-Wave VS Zigbee
We have always favoured Z-Wave over Zigbee for the following reasons:
- There are more Z-Wave products available to purchase.
- Zigbee products appear to be more expensive because of number 1.
They both do pretty much the same thing and are quite reliable and both strengthen the network with every device that is included in its network.
Now that you’ve read through the article comparing the different types of home automation hubs you can decide what types of smart tasks you’d like to perform in your house.
- Smart Home Automation Tasks
- Types of Devices
- How do I set it up?
- Create your First Scene
- Start getting more advanced
- Turn on lights remotely from your phone.
- Turn on lights based on a trigger (motion sensor).
- Create a scene based on a schedule.
- Create lighting based scenes that create a mood at a certain time or when something happens (a motion sensor trips).
Medium Difficulty Tasks
- Unlock the door when I approach.
- Associate a lightswitch to multiple lights.
- Unlock the power of IFTTT.
- Get all your infrared (IR) products integrated with your system.
- Integrate some Tasker tasks with your system.
- Voice control with the web and your home.
- Have your led IR lights change color based on something happening.
- Integrate your Google Calendar with warnings where YOU are.
- Get an iBeacon system going in your house.
- Create a map of your house and all the lights in it.
- Have your house respond to your current activity and nutritional needs.
- Get your house to talk back to you when things happen.
- Unlock the power of Zapier with JSON and KimonoLabs.com
Types of Smart Products
There are a ton of different types of smart products to choose from. Below is a list of products that you can buy in the smart product category that will help you make your house more intelligent.
- Lighting (Strips or Bulbs)
- Switches and Dimmers
- Music (per room or whole house)
- Door Locks
- Motion Sensors
- Wall Controllers
- Garage Door Controllers
- Smoke Detectors
- Windows PCs
- Mac OS
- Apple Phones
- Aquariums (a self-cleaning one)
- Media Center (Video)
- Video Cameras
- Air Conditioning
- Opening Windows
So now that you’ve purchased the devices you need to start automating you need to learn how to control them.
Most of the major hubs are very intuitive to figure out how to begin and have a lot of tutorials on how to get started.
1. Setup a Z-Wave Network
Lets say you have a bunch of Z-wave devices around your house that you want to use. First you would bring your master device (the hub) around with you and put it in to ADD mode. For users that are going with the USB stick route you can bring that around with you and then you would put each device into the ADD mode as well that you want it to control.
Make sure you always add your z-wave devices to the MASTER controller first. If you pair it with a wall remote first you’re going to have to redo it. You need to make sure they are all paired with a MASTER. The wall controllers or remotes act as SECONDARY devices (see manual).
Create a Scene
Now that you’ve paired your device you can go into the main control panel on the computer via the website. If you don’t know where to look see your manual. Once you’re there you’ll see options to start setting up scenes. With USB sticks you’ll have to install your software and then create a new scene within the application you’re choosing to use.
Now that you’ve created your first scene and got your feet wet you can move on to more difficult tasks.
There are so many to choose from but keep learning and you won’t stop improving your house. There are always new products coming out and new things to do.
SmartThings VS Wink VS Vera VS Insteon VS Aeon USB Stick VS Tasker
Below is a comparison of the current major players in the home automation world. Since this is just getting competitive now the prices are still somewhat high. Prices will drop with the more entrants into this game. Ideally you have a box that isn’t dependant on a server but if price is an issue than you can try a different route (such as a USB stick or Tasker). Things to look for: Open API’s, Apps, Plugins, Z-wave, Wifi, Zigbee, Google Now or HomeKit Integration (iOS), Android Wear and iOS ‘Watch’ apps. Technologies: Z-wave is the technology you should be looking for as it has the biggest product catalog support and it’s extremely secure. BLE may be the future but right now the current future isn’t as developed as it should be. Zigbee is great but you are limited in the type of products you can purchase. WiFi only hubs such as a Tab 3 can be used to control your Philips Hue lights but there are far more Z-wave products to purchase.
Update Oct 18th, 2015:
There has been a lot of changes in the past year and the items below reflect the changes.
Above is V1 and the price is very low to reflect the older technology inside. It’s a great start if you’re looking for something cheap to get into the smart home technology.
- Open Platform
- Samsung purchased in 2014
- Works with X10, Zwave, BLE (V2 only)
- No monthy fees
- Easy visual builder
- Battery backup V2
- Need to open app and ‘clunk’ around to turn things on.
- Last time I checked they didn’t have a dimmer option. It was just turning lights on and off
Version two of the Smartthings hub have added bluetooth, an battery as a backup incase the power goes out, better processor and more RAM. It improves the speed of actions and provides a more reliable connection to your smart home. It also supports more video cameras (not just DropCam).
Here is a comparison image between V1 and V2: [/plan][plan title=”Vera Edge” featured=”true” price=”$99″ color=”teal-lite”]
- Newest Model (Late 2014-2015 Design)
- Best API and Plugins
- Biggest community
- Decent Apps
- Integration with Tasker
- Easy setup
- Great support
- Good design
We replace the VeraLite with the Vera Edge as it is a newer model with possible device connections (can connect up to 220 devices), more video camera controllers, latest gen technology.
We purchased this model and had some issues but their support team quickly rectified the issue and got it working. [/plan][plan title=”Insteon Hub” price=”$99-150″]
- SmartLinc has an API
- Apple, Android
- Been around for a long time
- X10 Compatible
- Can find cheap products on craigslist
- Not Z-Wave device compatible
- Not ZigBee device compatible
Why not the new Smart Hub PRO and a HomeKit Solution?
HomeKit isn’t ready yet for home automation; everything on your network has to be HomeKit compatible for Siri to see it. I wouldn’t recommend it yet and there are far better solutions (see Beecon voice technology) to control your system from your voice.[/plan][plan title=”USB Stick S.S. 2 ($35) or Gen 5 ($49)” price=”$35-50″]
- Need a windows PC to host software like InControl
- Cheap solution to integrate Z-Wave
- Lots of flexibility
- Integration with EventGhost
- Apple and Android Apps you can use
There is also a Generation 5 device (2015) like the one below
This model allows for all Aeon gen 5 products like their new LED’s. It will hopefully provide a more reliable connection than their Series 2 stick as well. [/plan][plan title=”Tasker with Wifi Solutions” price=”4.99″]
- Too many features to list with a ton of plugins
- Great app
- Cheapest Solution
- Software Based
- NO Z-wave or Zigbee
- Easy to learn
- Tons of tutorials
- Great for WiFi Only devices
- Need to be willing to learn
- The most flexibility
- Can be integrated with all these other hubs
- Can use Philips Hue (lights), Lockitron, or any other BLE connected device and skip the Z-Wave system products.
Sample GET request with Tasker[/plan][plan title=”Wink Connected Hub (NOTE!!!! Wink went bankrupt)” featured=”true” price=”49.99″]
- Lowest Price (they have also gone belly up and I dont recommend this solution)
- Great Technologies: WiFi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron, Android Wear
- Good API
- Poor documentation (No setup)
- Spotty Z-Wave Support for all devices. Click the above link and browse through the reviews. They aren’t all pretty.
- Decent apps
- Once they improve on the integration with all Z-Wave products you will have a clear winner
- All of these products do pretty much the same thing
- They mostly all support WiFi, Z-Wave or ZigBee
- The Wink Connected hub that controls BLE, WiFi, Z-Wave, ZigBee is clearly the one that has the greatest potential. They just need to improve their firmware to work with all devices.
I personally like the Vera solution as it has enough features for the advanced techie but enough tutorials and help to support a mid to moderate newbie. There are a ton of plugins available and can easily integrate with Tasker. I do like the fact that it has it’s own hardware versus a USB stick as having a server running all the time isn’t very ‘green’. This is a long race so expect a few new players to enter the game and surprise us. We will keep you posted. Let us know what other