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Smart Home Guide

What is Home Automation?

Home automation utilises the best of modern technology to make everyday items smart.

Practically anything in your home can be controlled and automated for your convenience. You can see who’s at the door with a camera, and let them in with a smart door lock. You can have the lights dim when it’s sunny, and brighten when it’s cloudy. You can get an automatic text when the kids get home from school, or when the basement is getting worryingly moist. Best of all, these capabilities are easily added to any home, are easy to operate, and easy on your budget. Once you’ve added control and automation to your own home, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it!

How to get started:

There are numerous home control and automation options available to you, ranging from simple all-in-one devices to powerful, open systems that can command an entire home.

There are two main approaches to home automation:

  1. One of them concentrates on a single task and device (like a remote-controllable thermostat), or a small group of devices (like your home lighting fixtures), and uses a proprietary (single-brand) technology that only works with those devices. These “point control” solutions are great if you only need to solve a specific task. Because many of these point systems are proprietary, devices from different brands may not work together.
  2. The other approach to home automation uses a “standards-based” control system. These can start off as control over a single device (like a thermostat), or can expand to control many different devices such as door locks, security cameras, and smart electrical outlets—using a technology that can work interchangeably between brands.

Just remember to make sure that when you buy home automation products that they can communicate – whether they use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a dedicated technology like ZWave.

The best way to get started is to understand what your options are and then match the possibilities to your own particular needs:


Control your home

Plugs

Plug-in modules integrate with your existing power sockets and are handy little devices for connecting ancillary items to your system. For example, add your bedside table lamp or floor lamp to your network of connected lighting devices - you can now dim the connected load and potentially automate it based upon motion, time, or schedule. There are also plug-in modules available that aren't designed to dim a light. Rather, they simply click a device on or off, like a table fan on your desk or a small appliance.

These plug in devices are a great start in home automation as you can connect non-smart devices into them to learn how to automate your home.

Click here to browse our smart plug products.

Lighting

Want your lights to turn on every night at sunset? Want to use your cell phone to control the lights while on vacation, or have them automated in a vacation mode for a lived-in appearance? Want to save money by turning things off when you're away? You don't have to spend a fortune to automate your home's lighting, you can install dedicated smart light bulbs into your home, or use the plug in modules we talked about previously to control your lamps.

Click here to see our smart lighting guide, or browse our smart lighting products.

Heating

Smart thermostats offer many benefits over standard thermostats that can only be adjusted manually by the thermostat on the wall or by programming a schedule. The problem with manual thermostats are that your daily activity may not follow the schedule you program, a smart thermostat learns your activity and responds accordingly.

This means:

• Energy Savings: Connectivity allows you to adjust temperature from remote locations increasing potential to reduce cooling and heating energy use.
• Peace of mind: Always know what is going on at home and receive alerts if the temperature is out of range.
• Maximum comfort: Come home to a comfortable home by adjusting the thermostat from work.

Click here to see our smart thermostats guide, or browse our smart thermostats products.

Cleaning

Keep your home and garden spotless with smart cleaners and smart lawnmowers. Following the success of automated cleaners, there are now plenty of choices for smart cleaners that can mop, hoover and polish floors (and mow your lawn!). These devices plot a map of your home and based on your set schedule will automatically clean around until they complete their circuit or run low on battery – then they return to their base to recharge!

Click here to browse our smart cleaning products.

Cooking

You can connect up your individual kitchen appliances to your smart home. Smart kettles and coffee machines can be activated on a schedule or from your phone and won’t turn on unless they have enough water and coffee to make the perfect cup, and smart fridges and cookers store recipes and can help you become a master chef in no time.


Control your safety

Cameras

If you can't be present to keep an eye on your home, business, or vacation property, the next best thing is a state-of-the-art network camera that can stream real-time video to the networked device of your choice.

Unlike typical security cameras, IP-network/cloud cameras don’t require a closed circuit TV system or special cabling to work. Instead, they connect to your home’s existing network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, just like a laptop or tablet. These are not web cameras as IP/cloud cameras are capable of connecting to your home network and do not require a computer to operate or access. In addition, these cameras can be placed anywhere in the home where wireless signal is available for additional placement flexibility. Once connected, they stream live video you can access from any connected computer. The most flexible systems even let you view feeds through a web browser, smartphone or tablet for on-the-go viewing.

Click here to see our smart cameras guide, or browse our smart camera products.

Locks

Smart locks attach to your doors and can allow you to access your locks remotely from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. These capabilities may include checking the status of a lock to tell if it’s locked or unlocked, engaging the deadbolt or lever to lock or unlock your door remotely, or getting notifications when specific individuals enter your home. Many connected home door locks allow you to assign unique user codes so that you can receive notifications when the lock is used and by who.

Additionally, the smart locks allow your door to wirelessly interact with a variety of other connected products in your home, such as thermostats, lighting controls, sensors, and cameras that when working together increase the overall lifestyle benefits of your home automation system.

Click here to see our smart locks guide, or browse our smart lock products.

Fire alarms and Detectors

Unlike traditional alarms, smart fire and monoxide detectors can send you a phone alert just before they activate meaning you can disarm false alarms, or even call the fire service when your alarm activates away from home. Smart alarms can tell you which region of your home is causing the alert, and can act as a sensor for other smart products.

Click here to browse our smart fire alarm products.


Control your entertainment

Music

Bluetooth speakers easily let you take your tunes from room to room or on-the-go. Wi-Fi speakers are larger and louder, and they're also part of a multiroom system: you can keep adding Wi-Fi speakers to play the same music throughout your house, or even to play different songs in every room. If sound quality is important, keep in mind that larger speakers generally have better sound, and that larger rooms will need bigger sound. Most compact Bluetooth speakers aren't intended for high-quality, room-filling sound.

For many, a Bluetooth speaker will get the job done while also offering portability when you want to take your music with you. These speakers use rechargeable batteries and stream music by pairing with your Bluetooth-enabled phone, tablet or computer. This means any music you have on these devices, whether you store your music in a digital library or stream music from an online music service like Spotify, can be played on a Bluetooth speaker. Just be sure to keep your device near the speaker to prevent any drop-outs.

Click here to see our smart audio guide.

TV

The Internet has changed everything when it comes to entertainment. Nowadays, most of us enjoy a variety of content online, including a vast array of movies and television shows, thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube, and others. Thankfully, this no longer means watching on a small laptop screen or setting up chairs around the family computer (although that's certainly an option). There are several ways to bring movies and TV right into your living room, whether it’s a smart TV, Blu-ray player, or a dedicated streaming device.

Click here to see our smart entertainment guide.