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Smart Home Automation

Smart Home Automation was a term that no-one understood just a few years ago, and the idea of putting together a home automation system was enough to make people's eyes glaze over in confusion.

However today the Smart Home it is attracting all kinds of press and interest from all of the major electronics players from big box stores to alarm installers and custom home automation companies. This new paradigm shift has gone a long way to helping people understand that we're not just takling about geeky tech toys of the future, but rather a way of life.

The Smart Home concept is that you can control and/or monitor your lights, appliances and security system from your smart phone, tablet or simply using your voice! As home automation technology advances, automation systems get more powerful yet easier to use.

Top 10 Smart Home Automation Applications

Smart Home Technology

The most popular smart home technologies today for do it yourself home automation are ZWave, WiFi, Zigbee and Insteon. Yes, there are others like UPB, X10, Radio RA, etc but for the average person, at an affordable price, Zwave, WIFI, Zigbee and Insteon offer the best bang for the buck overall and have support from a number of major vendors.

Insteon Automation


Insteon Automation

Insteon devices are primarily designed and manufactured by Insteon - a SmartLabs company. Insteon combines both AC powerline communications as well as RF/wireless to create a very strong and stable 'mesh network'. Most devices act as repeaters automatically so the more you add, the strong the system becomes. In wall keypads have a great look and feel as do wall switches and dimmers and they're very easy to program. Insteon can actually be used without any automation hub so it makes a good choice for scene lighting and to solve wiring problems. Insteon has their own simple to use automation hub. Or for those who expect more, the ISY994 home controller is a very powerful choice at a reasonable price. There is also an ISY994 model with built in ZWave support offering the best of two worlds.

ZWave is entirely RF/wireless and is supported by a huge number of technology companies including GE, Linear, Leviton, Cooper, Weiser and Yale. Plus it is well supported by most alarm companies like Interlogix, DSC, Honeywell, Alarm.co and more. ZWave requires a 'primary controller' to set up the system. This is either an alarm system, smart home hub or USB interface for computer based systems. ZWave is very well respected an has proven to be reliable. ZWave is a wireless mesh network so as more devices are added, the network tends to become more robust. If you simply want some scene lighting, like a button on the wall to turn some lights on to pre-set levels, turn on or off a bunch of lights easily from a central location, Insteon might be a better choice as it offers in-wall keypads, wireless remotes, switches and dimmers that can be linked together WITHOUT any smart home hub, providing a luxury feel and easy of use at a very reasonable price point. If you're looking for more - email alerts, remote control, security integration - then ZWave is a great choice as it offers the most devices and manufacturer support.

ZWave Automation


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ZWave is entirely RF/wireless and is supported by a huge number of technology companies including GE, Linear, Leviton, Cooper, Weiser and Yale. Plus it is well supported by most alarm companies like Interlogix, DSC, Honeywell, Alarm.co and more. ZWave requires a 'primary controller' to set up the system. This is either an alarm system, smart home hub or USB interface for computer based systems. ZWave is very well respected an has proven to be reliable. ZWave is a wireless mesh network so as more devices are added, the network tends to become more robust. If you simply want some scene lighting, like a button on the wall to turn some lights on to pre-set levels, turn on or off a bunch of lights easily from a central location, Insteon might be a better choice as it offers in-wall keypads, wireless remotes, switches and dimmers that can be linked together WITHOUT any smart home hub, providing a luxury feel and easy of use at a very reasonable price point. If you're looking for more - email alerts, remote control, security integration - then ZWave is a great choice as it offers the most devices and manufacturer support.

WiFi Automation


Insteon Automation

Starting in late 2018 we've seen an increase in WiFi smart home devices. Instead of using a proprietary technology like ZWave or Insteon, these devices link to the home's WiFi network for communication. The benefit is that WiFi is already in most homes and it's a technology anyone can implement. There are some caveats - make sure your home has a strong and reliable WiFi network or your home automation system will be a nightmare. Also WiFi is not particularly battery friendly so there is much better support for AC powered WiFi devices. Originally only basic plug in modules and wall switches were available with WiFi technology but we're seeing an increase in support for other devices like locks starting in 2019. While WiFi is a standard - don't assume all WiFi devices will talk together. If you're looking for more than basic on/off times and control with your smart phone you'll want to use a home automation hub and in that case you need to confirm that the hub supports a wide range of WiFi devices.

Smart Home Hubs

The home automation hub helps bring disparate devices and systems together, all under the control of a single app. Schedule on/off times, set up triggers like turning on lights when a door opens, locking the door when you leave, etc. based on a smart phone app, geolocation or bluetooth tagging. Generally speaking a hub is needed for any sort of advanced automation beyond simple timers. These are the mos popular hubs we're currently offering:

The Insteon Hub V2 is for Insteon devices and also works with NEST thermostats. It provides basic on/off scheduling, scene building and control, remote access and email or SMS alerts based on a sensor or switch trigger. There are apps for iOS and Android devices. It works with IFTTT and Stringify for cloud integration and trigggers with numerous other devices. The Hub's basic programming is stored on the hub but it's very cloud centric and requires the clod for updates and programming.

Insteon Hub


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The Insteon Hub V2 is for Insteon devices and also works with NEST thermostats. It provides basic on/off scheduling, scene building and control, remote access and email or SMS alerts based on a sensor or switch trigger. There are apps for iOS and Android devices. It works with IFTTT and Stringify for cloud integration and trigggers with numerous other devices. The Hub's basic programming is stored on the hub but it's very cloud centric and requires the clod for updates and programming.

Universal Devices ISY994


Insteon Automation

This is the switch army knife of Insteon controllers. It supports simple control, remote access and email alerts but it goes way beyond that. It can be used to set up and link your entire Insteon system whether it's 1 or 150 devices. It helps the user build scenes for elegant lighting and it offers advanced timrs and scheduling with as many events as you need in the day or week. The ISY994 supports advanced conditional logic (if/then/else programming) that lets the user be more creative. For example, turn on the foyer lights when the front door opens, only if it's dark or after 7pm. The ISY994 can be expanded to also support Zwave devices, to control network based devices, and can integrate with Elk M1 Gold alarm systems.

Vera is a very well respected smart home hub that is primarily designed to work with Zwave and network/WiFi devices. With over 1000 Zwave devices supported out of the box this is a very powerful system. Vera supports single devices, scenes, timers, triggers and even advanced programming. Functionality can be expanded by adding free software 'plug-ins' to let it talk to alarm systems, WIFI thermostats and almost anything you can think of. Vera can send email or text alerts, and can tie security and other systems to your lights. It's inexpensive and very powerful. Vera Edge supports Zwave. Vera Plus supports Zwave, ZWave Plus and Zigbee. Vera Secure offers the features of plus as well as supporting 2Gig security sensors. Vera Secure can use ZWave or 2Gig sensors to build an alarm system with arming and disarming and remote alerts. Vera controllers store their programming locally but they do need the cloud for initial set up.

VeraEdge, Vera Plus, VeraSecure


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Vera is a very well respected smart home hub that is primarily designed to work with Zwave and network/WiFi devices. With over 1000 Zwave devices supported out of the box this is a very powerful system. Vera supports single devices, scenes, timers, triggers and even advanced programming. Functionality can be expanded by adding free software 'plug-ins' to let it talk to alarm systems, WIFI thermostats and almost anything you can think of. Vera can send email or text alerts, and can tie security and other systems to your lights. It's inexpensive and very powerful. Vera Edge supports Zwave. Vera Plus supports Zwave, ZWave Plus and Zigbee. Vera Secure offers the features of plus as well as supporting 2Gig security sensors. Vera Secure can use ZWave or 2Gig sensors to build an alarm system with arming and disarming and remote alerts. Vera controllers store their programming locally but they do need the cloud for initial set up.

Homeseer and Hometroller


Insteon Automation

Homeseer software was voted #1 by TopTenReviews and is primarily designed around Zwave, with some free and mostly paid software plug-ins to allow integration with alarm systems, other technologies like Insteon, even AV equipment. The Hometroller series combines a self contained mini computer (hardware box) that runs Homeseer inside. It is higher on the 'techie' scale but very powerful. Homeseer has also developed many of their own branded devices with enhanced features. It's a powerful system worth considering. Homeseer/Hometroller has all the programming stored locally so the system is not dependant on a working cloud.

Fibaro's Homecenter and Homecenter Lite are fantastic home automation systems with excellent support for ZWave as well as select network devices. Fibaro's iOS apps are some of the prettiest I've seen. The Homecenter Lite is available for anyone to use while the Homecenter pro product is for professional installers only. In addition to making their own smart home systems, Fibaro also has a wide range of ZWave devices including sensors and some really neat control devices like the Fibaro Button and the Swipe gesture based controller. They also have RGBW controllers for LED lighting and a new 'Smart Implant' Zwave device that can be used with external sensors and offers two built in outputs. Fibaro is a slick system worth checking out particularly for the custom installer. These systems store all of the programming in the hub and don't rely on the cloud for triggers and events.

Fibaro Homecenter


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Fibaro's Homecenter and Homecenter Lite are fantastic home automation systems with excellent support for ZWave as well as select network devices. Fibaro's iOS apps are some of the prettiest I've seen. The Homecenter Lite is available for anyone to use while the Homecenter pro product is for professional installers only. In addition to making their own smart home systems, Fibaro also has a wide range of ZWave devices including sensors and some really neat control devices like the Fibaro Button and the Swipe gesture based controller. They also have RGBW controllers for LED lighting and a new 'Smart Implant' Zwave device that can be used with external sensors and offers two built in outputs. Fibaro is a slick system worth checking out particularly for the custom installer. These systems store all of the programming in the hub and don't rely on the cloud for triggers and events.

SmartThings


Insteon Automation

The SmartThings V3 Hub is very simple to install and use. All set up is done using the iOS or Android apps, as is the daily operation and control. SmartThings works with their own 'Things' as well as supporting a wide range of ZWave and Zigbee devices as well as network based products. As a SmartThings company, you'll see integration with Samsung's smart TVs and appliances as well. SmartThings does run some routines locally but many of the triggers, events and devices use the SmartThings cloud so they work only as long as the Internet connection is up. All of the above smart home hubs require ZERO monthly fees. This is key to keeping costs down and actually being able to save money by automating your home or business. Paying monthly fees really eats in to any saving afforded by the technology.

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