Navigating the wide world of home automation software can be confusing. Knowing which software you need for what and how it all works is a daunting task. Luckily, you don’t need to have an in-depth understanding in order to use it—unless you’re an engineer or computer technician.
For the everyday user of home automation products, you just need to know enough to make sure you make smart decisions. Learn more about home automation protocols, how it all works, and which home automation systems you might want to consider for your own home.
What Are Home Automation Protocols?
All electronic systems run on protocols. These are sets of rules and guidelines for communicating between devices. It’s sort of like an electronic language so that different devices can talk to each other.
By that same logic, then, devices that speak different languages (run on different protocols) cannot communicate with each other because they don’t understand each other.
How Do Home Automation Systems Work?
For this reason, you need to make sure that the smart devices in your home are all running on the same protocols so that they are able to connect to each other rather than just work in isolation.
To get the maximum benefits out of each product, it’s best when they can all talk to each other and work together. Luckily, more and more devices are designed to be “multilingual.” That is, they run multiple protocols so that they can speak with a variety of different devices.
There are pros and cons to each system so you should learn more about the different systems available to find out which one suits your needs the best.
The Top Home Automation Systems
Choosing the best home automation system for you will depend on which devices you have or are interested in buying. You want to make sure you use devices and a system which are compatible with each other.
The two home automation companies that are dominating the market right now are Z Wave and ZigBee.
Z Wave Home Automation
Z Wave technology is very efficient. It has a surprisingly far signal range while being able to operate on relatively low power. This is perfect if you have a lot of battery powered devices. It will greatly extend your battery life.
Z Wave currently has over 1,000 different kinds of compatible devices so you can basically outfit your entire home with smart devices that all run on Z wave.
Its mesh network ensures a higher success rate of message transmission. That is, when you send a command or when two devices need to talk to each other, the message is going to reach the device that it is intended for.
This is because the signal can be sent from one device to the next until it reaches its destination. This means signals can travel a much farther distance without being weakened and it can do this without using nearly as much power as other systems.
ZigBee Home Automation
ZigBee is the other big dog in the home automation software market. It has a relatively large number of compatible devices, rivaling (but not beating) the range of Z wave compatible devices.
It also boasts low energy requirements since it uses a similar mesh network structure. However, unlike Z wave, ZigBee devices seem to have a little more difficulty communicating with devices made by different manufacturers, even though they all should be speaking the same ZigBee language.
So if you don’t intend to buy all your smart products from the same manufacturer, ZigBee may not be your best choice. Z Wave will allow for much smoother integration of different brands of products (as long as they are all Z wave compatible).
You know what Wi-Fi is. It is nearly universal at this point. More and more smart products are starting to just operate with Wi-Fi. This means that as long as you have a Wi-Fi router, you won’t need to buy a smart hub or access point to connect all of your devices.
The downside to this option, though, is that there could be a lot of interference. Since you already use Wi-Fi for internet browsing, streaming videos and music, and so on, hooking up devices in your home to it will add considerable strain as more and more devices are competing for their share of the bandwidth.
It also consumes more power than either ZigBee or Z Wave so battery operated devices won’t last as long and your total energy savings will be a little lower.
Open Source Options
For the techies among you who like to tinker and build their own systems. You can use open source software which you can reprogram to suit your specific needs and get the appropriate hardware to rig up the appliances in your home and turn them into smart appliances.
You can find detailed instructions and cool ideas online for your own DIY smart products but we definitely do not recommend this option for those who don’t have much experience with building or putting together technology. You might end up with a pile of metal pieces and wires where your fridge used to be.
Choosing the right home automation software can seem like a tricky process but hopefully this guide has helped clear up the confusion a little bit so you have a better idea of which direction your research should be headed in.