What Is Home Automation?
Home automation is when you use different smart home devices and smart home protocols to automate and remotely control various aspects of your home. It lets you spend less time flipping switches or pressing buttons because things just work (mostly) on their own.
Using home automation doesn’t mean you’ll never have to do anything manually around your home again. But the most common home automation routines, including those for smart lights, smart locks, and smart outlets, can make your life a little easier.
What does home automation do?
Home automation, as we know it today, focuses on several key features:
- HVAC systems
- Home security equipment
- Electrical outlets
- Smoke/Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors
Technically, any device that can connect to a larger smart home network (or even just Wi-Fi) could count as home automation. Anything from a smart light bulb to a smart refrigerator can contribute to your home automation system.
These various devices “automate” your home by following rules you set for them. Instead of having to turn lights on manually with a light switch, you can set your lights to come on automatically at 7 a.m. when you wake up. Instead of having to remember to lock your front door every day when you leave, you can set your smart door lock to lock automatically every day at 8:30 a.m.
How does home automation work?
Home automation works through three main functions:
- Remote control
Schedules are simple routines you create yourself. For example, you can have your lights turn on at a certain time or set your security cameras to start recording when the sun goes down.
These routines can be complex, where you have multiple smart devices perform different functions together. For example, you can have the radio turn on the morning news, the lights slowly brighten, and the coffee maker turn on at a certain time each day as part of a “good morning” routine.
Self-learning capabilities put the “smart” in smart devices. Self-learning is a step up from scheduling and makes your smart home feel actually smarter.
For example, with self-learning systems, you go from setting schedules for your thermostat to having your thermostat set the schedules itself because it’s learned when you are and aren’t home.
Most of these devices rely on the location of your smartphone and perform actions accordingly.
Remote control is the most basic aspect of home automation. It lets you control your smart home devices even when you’re not right by the system control panel.
Whether you’re across the country or across the room, you can use an app on your smartphone, tablet, or a portal on your web browser to control functions of different smart objects in your house.
Prime examples of this include door locks and light bulbs. Smart locks and bulbs let you lock and unlock doors, open garage doors, and turn lights on and off with just the tap of a button in an app. If you get to work and realize you forgot to lock the front door or turn off the living room lights, no problem. Just open your mobile app and control them from there.
This type of control can extend to include security systems, which you can arm, disarm, and monitor from anywhere in the world—as long as you have an internet connection.
How to set up home automation
First of all, you need to decide which smart home protocol you want to use. The most popular protocol is Z-Wave, but you can also choose Zigbee, Wi-Fi, or Thread.
The protocol you choose will determine which smart home devices you can add on to your system and how you control them. You can also use multiple protocols if you have a hub that can support them (such as Samsung SmartThings).
One of the easiest ways to get started with home automation is through a home security system. Many home security systems, like Vivint, ADT, and Abode, include home automation support. You can add in smart devices and control them through a mobile app.
If you don’t want to sign on for a whole system, you can still make smart devices work together through a smart home hub (like Samsung SmartThings) or a service like IFTTT.