Things to consider if you want a smart home

July 31, 2017 Jack Warner, Tech Enthusiast

Imagine that you’ve almost reached your office only to remember that you forgot to lock your front door. You can either call your neighbor to lock the door or drive all the way back home to do it yourself. Does this sound familiar? Don't worry, you are not alone! Most of us have experienced this situation at some point.

Technology is changing the way you can respond to such emergencies. With the growth of automation and development in the Internet of Things (IoT), you can make your home smarter, more energy-efficient, and easily accessible, even from remote locations. So, the next time you want to check on your dog or lock the windows, all you need to do is use your smart phone. However, home automation requires thorough planning.

Universal connectivity is a problem

To work in sync, all devices in your home must speak the same language. Unfortunately, when it comes to home automation, that’s a problem. Most short-range issues can be handled via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Longer range requirements need to use cellular technologies including NB-IoT/CAT-M, or low-power wide-area (LPWA) technologies such as LoRA, Sigfox, or Ingenu.

However, as each brand comes with its own communication protocols, one doesn’t necessarily communicate with another. For example, even though both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth operate at 2.4 GHz, they don’t speak to each other. Hence, your Bluetooth-based door lock won’t talk to your Wi-Fi router. Consulting a professional IoT integrator can significantly placate this problem — but not always. So, be ready to replace your old devices with the ones that are compatible.

Smarten your home, but don't go overboard 

The market is overflowing with extravagant IoT solutions and plenty of smart devices that make your day-to-day life easier. However, you must determine the extent to which you’ll use your automated system before going on a shopping spree. For example, is a linear actuator-supported home automation system truly needed for closing or opening your window curtains or is installing smart locks enough to secure your home? If your only concern is leaving your doors unlocked, you need not go for complete door and window automation.

Another example of going overboard with automation is choosing the wrong appliances to automate. If you can integrate your old air conditioner or thermostat with an integrated home automation system, why spend unnecessarily on a smart AC or thermostat? Ask yourself what you want to simplify and how frequently you’re going to use it before making a purchase.

An automated home could be hackable

When it comes to home automation, cyber security is a big concern. In fact, hackers everywhere are finding new security flaws in home automation systems. If not addressed appropriately, these security loopholes have the potential to bring down your entire IoT network, including your cloud-based applications. Hackers can easily disable alarms, cameras, or locking systems, and gain unrestricted access to your property.

To avoid such security risks, make sure the products have the ability to encrypt network communications, provide regular security updates, and come with password protection. Isolate your home-automation system from your primary network, as this will block direct access to sensitive information if someone hacks into your system. Avoid using public networks to access IoT devices from your smartphone, laptop, or tablet. Install the latest firewall and antivirus to provide extra layers of security.

 

Wires can be a handful

You may be wondering why you need loads of wiring if you’re going to use Wi-Fi to connect the smart appliances. Though several smart devices are battery-powered, most heavy-duty appliances aren’t. In short, you’ll need power outlets to plug in these devices. And if your WiFi has limited reach, you may have to rearrange some of the appliances to bring them inside the communication range.

You may not need a complete wiring overhaul, but may still need to invest considerable time and money to address this issue. Plus, you may also have to work around the strata rules, property laws, or the tenant agreement. In short, if you don’t plan properly, the wiring could be a mess.

Jack Warner is a tech enthusiast with a special love for IoT and it's use in automation.

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