Edited: June 11,2018
I plan on writing some articles on the Internet of Things space. This will be the first in a series of articles which explain all sorts of Internet of things technologies and solutions. This first article will tackle the smart home.
I so many people talking about the Internet of things and they ALWAYS talk about deploying it in reverse order. This is scary because performing an Internet of things installation in the wrong manner can lead to tremendous waste of time, resources, and create a system that lacks incompatibility within itself.
First off the Internet of things is not like deploying your IP based network but once you understand the fundamentals of both it really is just another network deployment except the network is much more contextual and provides more value in certain instances.
The Smart Home Process:
Where do you start? Most people look online or visit a local technology store and find something cool that catches their eye. This could be ALEXA, a Ring device, Nest or some other shiny object. This is how a lot of people start their first smart home project. People do not think that each device has its own device cloud meaning its own app. No one likes to have a million apps installed to manage different parts of the house. By going down the "start with a device approach" you may have many different apps to control the devices and the devices themselves may not interact with each other. Don't feel bad if you have already done this as I have seen very seasoned technologist do the same thing.
To build any IP based network you start with planning, wiring, and then you know that IP will be the protocol. This is simply not the case with the smart home Internet of things networks.
With Smart Homes, you need to define your electrical needs, wiring needs, wireless needs and then your Internet of things protocol. Electricians may be needs for certain types of devices.
For WIFI the best I have seen for smart home deployments is EERO https://eero.com and it offers the best bang and coverage for the buck.
The three main protocols for Smart Home Internet of things are as follows: The protocol is what the smart devices use to communicate with each other.
- ZIGBEE – Requires compatible devices (Low Power Mesh) (Requires Hub)
ZigBee is an IEEE 802.15.4-based specification for a suite of high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks with small, low-power digital radios. The technology defined by the ZigBee specification is intended to be simpler and less expensive than other wireless personal area networks (WPANs), such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Applications include wireless light switches, electrical meters with in-home-displays, traffic management systems, and other consumer and industrial equipment that requires short-range low-rate wireless data transfer. Its low power consumption limits transmission distances to 10–100 meters line-of-sight, depending on power output and environmental characteristics. ZigBee devices can transmit data over long distances by passing data through a mesh network of intermediate devices to reach more distant ones. ZigBee is typically used in low data rate applications that require long battery life and secure networking (ZigBee networks are secured by 128-bit symmetric encryption keys.) ZigBee has a defined rate of 250 kbit/s, best suited for intermittent data transmissions from a sensor or input device.
2. ZWAVE - Requires compatible devices (Low Power Mesh) (Requires Hub)
Z-Wave is a wireless communications protocol used primarily for home automation. It is oriented to the residential control and automation market and is intended to provide a simple and reliable method to wirelessly control lighting, HVAC, security systems, home cinema, automated window treatments, swimming pool and spa controls, and garage and home access controls. Like other protocols and systems aimed at the home and office automation market, a Z-Wave automation system can be controlled via the Internet, with a Z-Wave gateway or central control device serving as both the Z-Wave hub controller and portal to the outside.
Platforms: (Allows devices to communicate securely) (Only required with specific products)
- Apple Home Kit – Requires coprocessor for encryption on hardware.
HomeKit is a database similar to HealthKit and PassKit that allows developers to make software that discovers, configures, communicates with and controls devices for home automation. Actions can be grouped together and can be initiated using Siri, either from home or Apple TV. There is also the option for manufacturers of existing equipment to make gateways that connect equipment using their protocols to HomeKit, which includes equipment manufactured by Insteon As the products talking to HomeKit directly need to be certified with Apple's MFi Program and currently require an encryption co-processor, it is likely new devices will be needed to open HomeKit.
The Hub – A Hub allows you to communicate and control many devices through a central control panel so you don’t have to open 10 apps for 10 different device groups.
1.Smart Things: Home Automation Hub (Limited in device management QTY) SmartThings' primary products include a free SmartThings app, a SmartThings Hub, as well as various sensors and smart devices. The SmartThings native mobile application allows users to control, automate, and monitor their home environment via a mobile device. The application is configured to fit each user's needs. The app's SmartSetup area, accessible from the app's dashboard, facilitates the process of adding new devices. Customers can use the app to connect multiple devices at once or follow a dedicated path to configure one device at a time.
The hub connects directly to a home's internet router and is compatible with communication protocols such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, and IP-accessible devices. It serves to connect sensors and devices to one another and to the cloud, allowing them to communicate with the SmartThings native app.
Some SmartThings compatible devices include, among others:
- Motion sensors
- Presence sensors
- Moisture sensors
- Electrical outlets
- Garage door openers
2.Control 4: Home Automation Hub (large in device management QTY)
Control4’s home automation systems have been likened to an operating system for the home. The company develops a branded line of products and services to control home lighting, multi-room audio, and HVAC systems that utilize communication protocols such as ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave. Control4 also supports more than 8,000 devices from third-party manufacturers, including the Nest smart home thermostat, CoolMasterNet for seamless integration with VRF & Split HVACs, Sonos music system, and products from Sony and Sub-Zero. For example, with Control4, a homeowner could control “the ventilation in his garage, the music streaming to speakers in multiple rooms of his home, every light, the TV, the thermostat, even the Blu-Ray player in the guest house” from an iOS device.
So here is a simple model of how you should a look at a smart home project.
- Wiring, Electrical, House Size, Wireless coverage needed.
- High-level discovery of your needs/requirements
- Select Hub and protocol standard based on your needs/requirements
- Ensure you size the right hub based on your device count expectations.
- Devices have to be deployed/connected in a hub-out method to build the strongest mesh possible. This means start from the hub and add the devices tied to it, then go from there.
If you follow this methodology your devices will work together and your smart home experience will be a positive one.
Organizations that contribute to this field:
- www.nexigen.com is the leader in Greater Cincinnati technology solutions.
- www.smarthomehq.net is the leader in smart home technology deployments and services.
- www.smartlink.city is the leader in Smart City technologies and services.
Jon Salisbury – Chief Technology Officer @ Nexigen
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