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What is a Smarthome?

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LaSmarthomes.comSmart Home is the term commonly used to define a residence that uses a central device to automate parts of the residence. The most popular uses are control of lights, heating & cooling, and audio visual equipment or home theaters. Previously, home automation home could be an expensive undertaking but off the shelf technologies available today from manufacturers like ZWave, Insteon and X10 are making it easier and easier to add more features and security around the house.  One of the most powerful aspects of a smart home is not only the comfort and convenience from having 1 button on a remote dim the lights, close the blinds and turn on the television; but the additional peace of mind it affords by being able to remotely monitor it, or monitor power usage and live a more green lifestyle.

 

 

SmartHome Components

  • Home Controllers or 'Central Brain' - Can be a complex as a full computer or as simple as a small device that plugs into a wall socket.
  • Sensors - Everything from temperature to electrical to air quality.
  • Home Automation Hardware - Items like modules that plug into lights or appliances that allow them to be controlled remotely
  • Security - Analog and Ip cameras that allow local and remote monitoring and notifications.
  • Media - Centralized media that allows for whole house distribution, be it audio, video or centralized NAS storage.

Simplify Home Life

A large benefit of home automation is that it can automate a lot of simple functions at the touch of a button. For example, a scenario such as I'm Home could be triggered by pressing one button on a Keychain Remote from your vehicle as you approach the driveway. The Home Controller receives the Keychain Remote command triggering a scenario which is preprogrammed and stored in the home controller. The clock in the controller knows that it is 8 pm and past sunset in your geographical location so it starts the scenario by sequentially turning on the lighting in the driveway, garage entry, walkway, hallway, and kitchen. It then disarms the security system, opens the garage door, unlocks the interior garage entry door, adjusts the thermostat(s) to a preset home position, and turns on the whole-house audio system. The home controller processor is essentially the silent digital assistant in the home . Different controllers provide different levels of features, but they are all designed to initiate sequential automatic operation of the home systems, in response to "one button" commands from a system controller, based on the situation and or time.

Smarthomes can also play a large role in  power management as well, ensuring electricity sucking devices around the home aren't on long than they need to be, operating fans to move air automatically instead of using a/c, opening and closing blinds to minimize heat gains in the home and more. There are so many ways that a smarthome can help you live  more green lifestyle while at the same time automating repetitive tasks that can be hard to keep track of.

 

How It All Works

The different parts of the system all connect back to a central controller. This controller can be computer running software, dealing with many functions or it can be a simple push button pad. The power of a smarthome system revolves around it being as big or as small as you decide. There isnt a size requirement to get started, nor is professional installation required. If you can plug in a lamp, you can make your home smarter.

So what talks to the controller?

With technologies like Insteon, ZWave and X10, little devices called modules talk to the controller and vice versa. There are other types of devices that can talk to the controller which we will mention in a moment. Modules communicate in a few ways:

Wireless Existing Power Lines Ethernet
  • Wireless lan
  • RF Radio
  • Infra-red in the case of A/V components
Uses existing electrical wires in the home to talk back and forth between the controller and the module to control the device.
  • Specialized Devices like the Global Cache GC-100.
  • VOIP phones and accessories.

Certain technologies utilize a mix of these different communication methods.

 
Insteon X10 ZWave
  • Wireless RF
  • Power line
  • Ethernet
  • Wireless Lan
  • Infra-Red
  • Wireless RF
  • Power line
  • Infra-Red
  • Wireless RF

These technologies are the foundation of a home automation system. They provide components that cover every aspect of a home automation system, including software for smartphones and web enabled devices. And due to the open nature of their design, they are easily incorporated into full fledge smarthome platforms. We discuss the different platforms here, but suffice to say that becoming familiar with them will save you a lot of time and money if you decide to give your home some intelligence.

While these technologies are availible off the shelf, there are also systems from Control 4, Crestron and HomeLogic that provide dealer support and installation. Both options now include accesories like software for mobile phones and touch screen devices.
As you can see, a smarthome can be quite the encompassing system. While there are many options, the best way to avoid being overwhelmed is to think about how you live in your home and what features are the most important to you. A fully enabled smarthome system is akin to a digital butler, anticipating your needs and taking care of menial tasks allowing you to enjoy your free time more fully.
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