What is Home Automation?

Smart home or home automation as it is commonly referred to as is the automatic control of electronic devices in your home from your lights to your AC and speakers. Pretty much anything that uses power in your home can be automated to a degree. 

Typically, in the past home automation has been a clunky large complicated system of extra wiring, large control panels, and a price tag outside of the scope of works. However, it is now 2021, and with the rise of wireless devices and the introduction of new protocols, we have a whole new way to automate homes. No extra wires are needed, a system that can completely and cleanly retrofit right onto your existing wiring.

With home automation, devices can perform actions on one another so you won’t have to use voice assistants or apps to manage them individually. Putting your lights on a schedule so they turn off at night when you normally go to sleep or adjusting your thermostat so the A/C turns up about an hour before you get home so you don’t have a stuffy house when you get home from work, are two examples. Automating your home can make life easier, plus reduce energy costs.

What are control protocols?

Control protocols describe how IoT devices connect to the Internet and each other. If IoT devices were people, think of these protocols as their common languages. There are more than a few different languages that IoT devices can speak. We will look at the three common ones found in wireless home automation in New Zealand. 

  • WiFi: Wi-Fi is by far the most common control protocol; as a result, you can connect your IoT device to your ISP’s regular Internet. Although this does not require an additional hub, note that it will slow down your web browsing speeds, especially if you have lots of different IoT devices set up at once.
  • Zigbee: There are a variety of mesh networks and universal languages that let IoT devices communicate with each other, including Zigbee.
  • Bluetooth: Lastly, Bluetooth is another mesh network technology used for controlling and monitoring IoT devices and automating systems.

WiFi-connected devices were for a long time the “go-to” and still will be sufficient, but what happens when your internet drops out? No more lights? This is where protocols like ZigBee come into play. Although they are a wireless network similar to your Wi-Fi and connect to your internet, they are not actually on the Wi-Fi protocol. 

What is Zigbee

Zigbee is not a product, it is a wireless communication protocol used to connect smart devices to a home network, such as lights, plugs, and locks. Remote controls, such as those from IKEA’s Tradfri remote, can be used with this home network as-is. While it won’t be very smart, everything will be connected and you won’t need to get up to change a light switch. Zigbee networks can also be linked to hubs like alexa and google. In this case, alexa serves as a “bridge” to the Internet, providing cloud tools, apps, and (remote) control from your phone.

The Zigbee protocol is similar to Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, but differs from them. Almost all of them create relatively secure networks, which you can (mostly) control with your phone or computer. There are pros and cons to Zigbee. As a user, the biggest difference is the types of devices that can be controlled by Zigbee, which supports smart lighting and smart plugs more than any other protocol