According to Wikipedia, home automation or domotics is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house.
To shed more light, it simply means having some or all your home gadgets and appliances controlled automatically.
Features such as the temperature, lighting, visual systems can be controlled by this automated system, as well as the home security which includes the alarm system and access control.
These home devices are connected to a central hub, otherwise, known as the gateway, where they are monitored and controlled.
The control system can be a tablet, desktop, mobile phone, wall-mounted terminal, or web interface that can be accessed even when one is not in or around the smart house.
It is crucial to know that the exchange of data and command between these home devices and the gateway is mostly via the internet.
Together, they make up an integral part of the IoT-internet of things (technologies exchanging data over the internet).
How does it work?
Home automation works via the connection of devices to the internet through different mediums like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and the rest of them.
In the control system, commands are sent out using a voice assistant (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.), or apps designed for the smart house.
Not all home devices can be activated or commanded using the home automated system, only home gadgets and appliances embedded with software, sensors, and other technological parts for connecting and exchanging data over the internet, can be involved in home automation.
Home automation works in three ways;
Monitoring: Using an app, one can remotely get visuals or video feeds of his house from a mounted smart security camera. These smart cameras can as well be an added feature to some of the home devices e.g. an automated lamp with a camera as an extra feature.
Controlling: Here, the user can send out commands to his automated home to get results within the range of the capabilities of the smart house. This could be adjusting the temperature, deeming the lights, switching on the electric fireplace, closing the blinds, and more.
Automation: Smart home users can set up these automated devices to trigger one another. For instance, a user can decide to set a timer that’ll control certain devices at specific times. He might decide to have his coffee brewing, open the drapes, start his vacuum cleaner all at once using a single timer. Again, this user might decide to have his alarm go off when there is a security breach or fire outbreak.
Home Automation System Components
These are parts of a home automated system from whence monitoring, controlling, and automation are actualized. They include,
The internet: this is a very crucial part of the system. Some commands, data exchanges, and other connections can be made possible when there is access to the internet. This doesn’t mean that the home automation works solely with the internet, timers, alarms and a few others can work without internet access but that is just about it, and it is set up manually. But, in cases where users need a third party e,g Alexa to carry out commands, an internet connection is needed.
Remote Control: this comes in form of mobile applications and voice assistants. With the mobile application, a user can control his devices in actual time, be it adjusting the thermostat or unlocking the front door. The user can also make schedules, customize device settings to suit his taste at that particular time or within a time frame. Most reviews on apps for these automated devices have confirmed their compatibility with a majority of tablets and mobile devices.
Voice assistant is the perky part of home automation. With a voice assistant, voice commands are possible. Whether you want to switch on the dishwasher, turn off the fridge, switch on the tv, even switch to another tv channel and many more can be carried out using a third party. This third party can be one of the three voice assistants, Siri, Alexa, Google assistant. They are automated voices designed to push through command via the internet to all devices connected to the control center.
Control Medium (protocol): this is the medium of connection between the devices and the internet, majorly known as the control protocol. They include Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, etc. Wi-Fi is the most widely used command protocol. It makes use of normal internet services and does not require a hub. Unfortunately, web surfing can be slowed down when multiple devices are connected at once.
Z-Wave is a wireless device that can be a substitute when users decide not to get involved with their Wi-Fi. The Z-Wave functions on low power of 908.42 Mhz and it is commonly used in the U.S and Canada.
Zigbee is quite similar to Z-Wave. It is a network mesh that allows IoT devices connect together. We also have the Thread which works on an IP address open standard. With Thread, IoT devices can connect to one another and to the cloud.
Bluetooth also allows users to control their IoT devices. The Bluetooth however, can be used offline.
Note, for advanced smart houses, the use of Z-Wave and ZigBee has been recommended.
Surely, home automation is a great innovation in the technology world that has made living more conducive and a whole lot comfortable for its users, but, as the saying goes, nothing comes without a price.
Pros and Cons of Home Automation
Comfort: When you come back from work all tired from the day’s stress, you wouldn’t need to start going about switching things, rather, mere commands can get things done for you. Home automation can help you avoid many home hazards due to certain mistakes like leaving the heater on. You won’t have to go the extra mile to get things done.
Remote Access: You’d have access to many parts of your house even when you’re not on-site. You can also monitor your kids using the automated security camera from wherever you are. Break-ins and fire outbreaks can be quickly attended to. Intruders, be it a human being, or an animal can be detected quickly and reported to the proper authorities.
Energy Efficiency: Surely, at times, when you leave the house, you might forget to turn off the lights, thermostat, tv, leaving them blasting for hours, thereby wasting energy, but by automating your house, these wastages can be brought to a minimum simply by scheduling power on and off.
High Cost: these IoT devices are pretty much expensive, more than their non-internet counterparts with the same function. This is because they have been programmed to have multiple customized settings to satisfy the needs of its user. Not only that, for you to make use of voice assistants, you would need constant access to the internet which will be refreshed whenever it’s exhausted. With this said, you should know that whoever would want his home automated should be someone having a steady source of income.
Security issues: Your home can be hacked. Yes, anything concerning the internet can be compromised. When this happens, your devices such as security cameras, laptops, or any other thing targeted by the hacker will be tampered with. They might even go as far as locking you out of your house. Sadly, more than a few cases have been reported. Of course, this issue is mostly for devices with internet access. Security measures though can be taken to prevent this from happening, e.g, the two-factor authentication.
New Tech: Home automation is relatively a new technology. This means that you will experience some bugs, like internet connection failure, or misinterpretation of commands by voice assistants, and more.
Well, there you have it, I believe this piece has gone a long way to answer most of your questions on home automation and how it works.
As a new user, you should know that automation cannot be achieved in a day, it is done over time, and with many IoT devices developed every day, there is no limit to what can be automated.