Before we start our Smart Home Project, let´s understand the basic components of a Smart Home. I promise to keep it short so we can start building right away. Regardless the technology that we decide to use, it is important for us to understand a few ideas:
Components of a Smart Home Project
The Smart Home Controller or Hub
We can think of the controller as our own brain. Using our brain we can process information from our senses, reach conclusions and take actions accordingly. It is the tool that basically holds everything together and allows us to achieve wonderful things. The controller is the headquarters of our Smart House. It communicates with other devices at home to get information and tells them to do things, like turn on the heating for example. The controller will also be able to present the information to you so you can see what is going on from everywhere else in the world.
They are the correspondents of the controller, placed in different locations across the house, they gather information about things like temperature, humidity or light level and send it back to the controller. Having this information allows the system to make decisions based on some rules that we have configured, for example, turning on the lights when it is dark. The sensors are like our own senses but for the house. When we smell gas, we call the gas company or the fire department. When our home automation senses gas, it can trigger an alarm or call our cell phone to let us know. In this way, when we get home our apartment is still in one piece.
The actuators are the devices that can take an action and carry out tasks that are useful to us, like turning on the heating when we are freezing to death or send us a text message when somebody gets home.
We use them to interact with the controller. The interfaces allow us to access the information gathered by the system and present it to us in a nice way. We can also use them to send commands, like turn on the kitchen light. There is a number of ways we can communicate with our Smart Home, like dashboards or smartphone apps. The coolest one though is by using a speaker like Alexa. You can ask Alexa to play the latest tv show without leaving your warm and fuzzy couch. We will go over all those things in the next posts.
So…How do I start?
One of the most frequent mistakes people make when starting their Smart Home Project is building the house from the roof down. We show up at the store and buy a bunch of devices without having a clear picture of how do they interact with each other. Down the road, you realize that you have spent a fortune on gadgets that, although work just fine on its own, don’t work as a team to make your life easier. At the end of the day, that is the only thing that matters.
Does this mean you should hire a strategy consulting firm to create a PowerPoint before you start your project? Probably not…but a bit of thinking upfront doesn’t harm.
The graphic in the post gives you an idea of the five basic steps to build the core functionality of your smart house, once you have that, the possibilities are endless and you can scale it to do pretty much anything you need. It doesn’t matter if you have a Do It Yourself approach or you want to go with one of the big names on the market, like SmartThings. Those five steps will still serve you as a guideline.
The first project that I want to tackle in the blog is the Do It Yourself and do it on a budget kind of approach. Some of the posts might be a bit too technical, but if that isn’t your cup of tea no worries, I will try to cover more user-friendly devices that can deliver the same functionality in the future. Stay tuned!
Here are a few things you will be able to do once the core functionality is in place:
Dim the lights in the living room when the movie is about to start.
Turn on the lights when you get home at night.
Heat up the house 30 minutes before you wake up and have the coffee ready to start the day.
What do you think? Is it time to make your house smarter?