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Alexa, turn on the lights! We don’t know about your home, but in our home, most things
are automated and are integrated with our interior designs; our lights turn on whenever
we’re nearby, our coffee starts making itself in the morning, and our security system
disarms whenever we’re almost home and our residential interior designs are such that
none of this technology feels out of place. Not only are these features convenient, but
they also save us energy and thus, money on utility bills. But since home automation is
a relatively new technology, some people may find it overwhelming and only opt for a
interior makeover. Here, we’re breaking down exactly what home automation is and
how you can add some to your life. Believe us, the process is much less complicated
than it may seem and we help you make it simpler by integrating it with our interior
designs with the help of our skilled interior designers.
What Is Home Automation?
Home automation is the automatic control of electronic devices in your home. These
devices are connected to the Internet, which allows them to be controlled remotely. With
home automation, devices can trigger one another so you don’t have to control them
manually via an app or voice assistant. For example, you can put your lights on
schedules so that they turn off when you normally go to sleep, or you can have your
thermostat turn the A/C up about an hour before you return to work. Home automation
makes life more convenient and can even save you money on heating, cooling and
electricity bills. Home automation can also lead to greater safety with Internet of Things
devices like security cameras and systems. Such home automation installations can be
done by interior design firms in Mumbai. But hold up; what’s the Internet of Things?
Internet of Things vs. Home Automation
The Internet of Things, commonly known as IoT, refers to any device that’s connected
to the Internet; for example, a smart light bulb that you can turn on and off via an app.
All home automation devices are IoT devices, which can be automated to trigger one
another. So while IoT refers to the devices themselves, home automation is what you
can do with the IoT devices to make your life just a tad bit easier.
How Does Home Automation Work?
Home automation works via a network of devices that are connected to the Internet
through different communication protocols, i.e Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and others.
Through electronic interfaces, the devices can be managed remotely through
controllers, either a voice assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant or an app. Many of
these IoT devices have sensors that monitor changes in motion, temperature and light
so the user can gain information about the device’s surroundings. To make physical
changes to the device, the user triggers actuators, the physical mechanisms like light
switches, motorized valves or motors that allows devices to be controlled remotely. You
can systematically automate your home with the help of professional home interior
design services in Mumbai.
Home automation works on three levels:
Monitoring: Monitoring means that users can check in on their devices
remotely through an app. For example, someone could view their live
feed from a smart security camera.
Control: Control means that the user can control these devices remotely,
like panning a security camera to see more of a living space.
Automation: Finally, automation means setting up devices to trigger one
another, like having a smart siren go off whenever an armed security
camera detects motion.
Home Automation System Components
While some home automation systems require hubs, some mobile applications connect
directly to a router, which connects directly to an IoT device. Of course, it’s preferable
when there’s no hub, as that’s just an added cost on top of the cost of the IoT device
The hallmark of home automation is remote control, which is done through either a
mobile application or through a voice assistant.
Mobile Application: The mobile application allows users to control their
devices in real-time, whether it’s shutting off the outdoor lights or opening
the garage door for a neighbor. The app is also where users set
schedules, create scenes, groups of IoT devices, and customize device
settings, like having your living room lights set to the perfect shade of
blue. Most of the IoT devices we’ve reviewed have apps for Android and
iOS devices, making them compatible with the majority of mobile devices
Voice Assistants: If home automation is the sundae, think of voice
assistants as the cherry on top. With voice assistants, you can use your
voice to control devices, whether that’s disarming a security system as
you walk in the front door, showing your video doorbell’s footage on your
Echo Show device, or setting a timer on a smart speaker while your
hands are full of cooking utensils. Most IoT devices work with one of
three voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
Alexa: Alexa is Amazon’s voice assistant that’s built into Echo Show and
Echo Dot devices. Alexa is the voice assistant we see integrated into the
highest number of smart home devices from companies like SimpliSafe,
Ring Alarm and Vivint.
Siri: Siri is Apple’s voice assistant that’s integrated into the iPhone. While
Siri holds 35 percent of the global market share for voice assistants,
compared to nine percent and four percent with Google Assistant and
Alexa respectively. There aren’t too many IoT devices that work with Siri.
Rather, the voice assistant is used mainly on iPhones and iPads in
contrast to home automation devices, where Alexa and Google Assistant
Cloud Computing with Home Automation
Rather than basing home automation systems off a dedicated IP address or high-end
computer, many systems are based on a cloud, which is both more affordable and
easier to use. For example, the Nest cameras don’t have slots for micro-SD cards,
which would have allowed footage to be stored locally. Rather, all recorded footage is
automatically uploaded to a cloud server, only accessible through a Nest Aware
subscription, detailed in our Nest pricing page. In general, cloud computing is incredibly
popular on the Internet, so IoT devices are no exception.
The way that IoT devices connect to the Internet and each other is their control protocol;
if IoT devices are people, think of the protocol as their common languages. Like on
Earth, there are a few different languages, or protocols, that devices can speak,
WiFi: WiFi is by far the most common control protocol; it means that your
IoT device will use the regular Internet provided by your Internet Service
Provider. While this doesn’t require an additional hub, note that it can
slow your web surfing speeds down, especially if you have a ton of
different IoT devices set up at once.
Z-Wave: Don’t want to mess with your home’s WiFi? Z-Wave is a
wireless technology that won’t interfere with your WiFi; rather, it operates
on low power at 908.42 Mhz in the U.S and Canada.
ZigBee: Similar to Z-Wave, ZigBee is a mesh network and universal
language that lets IoT devices communicate. Thread: Thread is another
low-power, wireless mesh networking protocol based on an IP address
open standard; it lets IoT devices connect to each other and the cloud.
Bluetooth: Finally, Bluetooth is another mesh technology that lets people
control and monitor IoT devices and automate systems.
For most people, WiFi-connected devices will be sufficient, but for more advanced
smart homes, you might want to switch to a mesh network like Z-Wave or ZigBee.
Pros and Cons of Home Automation
Like anything in life, home automation has its pros and cons. Overall, we think it’s more
than worthwhile, but it may not be for everyone, depending on your personal
Remote access: Being able to control devices remotely means things like
unlocking the door for a plant sitter without having to leave a key under
Comfort: You know when you’re all comfy in bed but realize you’ve left
the bathroom light on? With smart light bulbs, you can turn them off from
the comfort of your bed without having to leave those high thread count
Energy efficiency: How many times have you left the heat on blast while
you’re out of the house for eight hours? With home automation, you can
set things like thermostats on schedules to make sure you’re not wasting
energy. A study found that Nest thermostats in particular can save about
12 percent on heating and cooling costs, for example. That means that
over time, these smart thermostats can actually pay for themselves in
Convenience: Being able to control devices remotely or via voice
commands, set them on schedules, and even sync them with the sunrise
and sunset is nothing is not convenient. Imagine being able to come
down in the morning to freshly made toast without you having to push a
Safety: Finally, there are many smart security products that can increase
your home’s safety, like sensors for doors and windows, security
cameras that can detect people, and video doorbells that let you greet
whoever’s knocking from anywhere with Internet.
Costs: IoT devices are certainly more expensive than their non-WiFi-
connected counterparts. For example, the average smart bulb costs
around Rs 2,300, while the average regular light bulb is about Rs. 300.
Of course, you have to factor in the additional features like remote
control, dimming, 16 million different colors and voice integrations, to
name a few, but overall, home automation isn’t cheap, depending on
where you shop.
Security issues: It’s scary but true: anything that has to do with the
Internet, whether it’s browsing Etsy for a new bedspread or checking in
on a motion notification from a smart security camera, can be hacked,
and that includes IoT devices. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a fair share of
hackings and security breaches from large tech companies that
manufacture IoT devices; Ring’s cameras, for example, were famously
hacked, allowing the live feeds to be compromised. Of course, this is an
issue you wouldn’t have with devices that aren’t connected to the
Internet, but if you want IoT devices, you’ll have to adhere to some best
digital security practices, detailed later on.
New technology: Since IoT is a relatively new technology, you may run
into some bugs, like devices having trouble connecting to the Internet or
experiencing lag, depending on the device’s make and model.
Surveillance: If privacy is a huge concern, then smart security is probably
not for you, as users can livestream footage from the camera’s
respective app. Instead, you might want to opt for a local alarm system.
What Is A Smart Home?
A smart home is any home that includes automated, Internet of Things devices
connected to mobile applications. Using these IoT devices, users can control many
things in their home from lights to security systems to appliances. Increasingly, more
and more homes are built with automation from the original construction, but technically,
any home with an internet connection and IoT devices counts as a smart home.
How To Set Up Home Automation
Setting up your home automation system is actually a lot less complicated than it may
seem. You can either wing it and buy a smart home product that sounds like it’s up your
alley, or set up your smart home more strategically by following these easy steps:
Smart home ecosystem: First, choose which “smart home ecosystem”
you want to be a part of, and by that we mean Amazon or Google, most
likely. This will determine which voice assistant you use, which will then
determine which IoT devices will work with your system. Of course, you
can use products that work with both Alexa and Google Assistant, but it
might be a little confusing to have to remember which voice assistant to
use with which IoT device, so we recommend sticking to one or the other.
Once you’ve decided which voice assistant is for you, buy a compatible
smart speaker or a smart display to kick off your home automation
Control protocol: Next, decide which protocol you want your devices to
communicate with, be it WiFi, Z-Wave, ZigBee or others. If you’re just
starting off with a smart home, WiFi will be your most straightforward
option, as most IoT devices work with WiFi.
Types of products: Next, go room by room and decide which types of
products you’ll need, be it security cameras, light bulbs, locks, coffee
makers, and the like. Our buying guide below can help!
Brands: Then, do some research as to the best smart home companies;
the reviews on our website go over the most popular brands like Ring,
Nest, SimpliSafe, Alder Security, and more.
Devices: Now it’s time to actually buy your IoT devices. We recommend
buying in bulk, as many companies offer discounts for larger packages.
Installation: Now, it’s time to actually install the IoT devices where you
want them. Most IoT devices have DIY installation, meaning you can do it
yourself for free. However, some companies like Vivint and ADT require
professional installation for their smart security systems, so be sure to
factor in installation cost, if any, to your bottom line.
Customize settings: So you’ve researched, purchased and installed your
IoT devices in your home. What’s next? Now, the fun can really start, as
you can customize the devices to your liking, whether that means setting
them on schedules, dimming lights, or having devices trigger one
another. We’ll talk more about these features in a bit, but first, let’s talk
about the IoT devices actually available on the market today.
Internet of Things Devices
In 2015, there were 15 billion IoT devices. By 2020, that number had ballooned to 200
billion Iot devices and counting. While we can’t list all of the IoT devices available, as
that list is ever-growing, here are some of the most popular:
Lights: Smart lights are one of the more affordable IoT devices out there,
and they make adjusting your lighting more convenient and customizable
than ever before. With most smart bulbs, we could change their color,
dim them, set them onto schedules, or even have them blink to the beat
of our music. That beats a Rs. 300 bulb from the hardware store!
Thermostats: Smart thermostats let us adjust our home’s temperature
remotely as well as set it onto schedules, saving our money on heating
Locks: Smart locks definitely upped our home’s security. They locked
automatically as soon as we exited the home, but if we needed to let
someone in when we weren’t home, we could either unlock them through
the app or give our guests a temporary passcode, certainly safer than
leaving a key under the welcome mat. Explore your options in our picks
for the best smart locks.
Video doorbells: Video doorbells are essentially outdoor cameras that
may or may not be hardwired into your existing doorbell setup, if you
have one. We got notified whenever the doorbell was pressed or the
camera detected motion or a person, depending on its artificial
FYI: If you’re a pet owner, you’ll want a security camera or video doorbell that can
differentiate between people and pets, only alerting you if they detect people when
armed. Look for a device with person or animal detection rather than motion alerts only.
Security cameras: Security cameras let you see what’s going on at home
from a mobile application; you’ll also be notified of motion or people,
again, depending on the camera’s AI.
Security systems: Smart security systems typically include motion, entry
and glass break sensors, alerting you of motion, doors and windows
opening and closing, and, you guessed it, glass breaking. For more
information, check out our take on 2021’s best home security systems.
TVs and remotes: Google, turn the volume up 10 percent! In our home,
we use smart TVs like Apple TV, Fire TV and Chromecast, which is
either built into smart TVs or plugs into a TV’s USB port.
Speakers: Smart speakers are often the basis for a smart home
ecosystem, allowing for voice commands through the voice assistants.
For example, when we tell our Chromecast to pause, we’re not speaking
directly to the Chromecast device plugged into our TV, but instead our
Nest Mini, which has the speaker and microphone necessary for us to
communicate with Google Assistant.
Displays: Smart displays work the exact same way as smart speakers,
with voice assistants built-in; the major difference is that they have
screens and often cameras, allowing for more entertainment and video
chatting options. Smart displays tend to cost a lot more than smart
speakers, so if you’re on a budget, we’d recommend going with a smart
speaker over a smart display.
Medical care: If you have a senior in your life you’d like to care for and
monitor remotely, there are a number of WiFi-connected medical alert
systems available, many of which include detection for falls.
Other IoT products: We’ve seen everything from Alexa-enabled
microwaves to smart plugs, scales, smoke and CO detectors. While our
site focuses on smart home security like cameras and systems, home
automation goes much further, with IoT devices in a number of different
Once your IoT devices are bought and set up, it’s time to create the home automation
functionalities that sold you on the devices in the first place.
Remote control: First and foremost, all home automation devices can be
controlled remotely through a mobile application, whether that means
disarming a security system for a neighbor, saying hi to a visitor through
a video doorbell, or shining a light on an overnight guest who can’t find
the switch themselves.
Voice assistants: Most IoT devices can also be controlled by voice
commands via voice assistants, most commonly Alexa and Google
Assistant. Schedules: Many IoT devices can also be put onto schedules
so that they turn off and on automatically throughout the day. This is
particularly useful for smart lights and thermostats, things that you may
forget to adjust as you enter and exit your home each day.
Geofencing: To make things even easier, you can connect the GPS onto
your phone to certain IoT devices to make them turn off and on based on
your location. An example? We had our doors unlock whenever we were
nearby, which saved us the trouble of searching in our bag for our keys.
Home and away modes: This doesn’t apply to all IoT devices, but some
smart home products like bulbs can be set to what’s called home and
away modes. Consider this: many people keep their lights on all day to
make it seem like they’re home, supposedly preventing burglaries.
However, this is pretty unrealistic, as even when you’re home, you
probably don’t leave all the lights on all the time. With away mode, the
lights will turn off and on at random, which more closely mimics real life.
Home mode, on the other hand, may have some devices off and some
devices on, customized to your liking so you can access it easily
whenever you’re home.
Scenes: Scenes are groups of IoT devices that you can control at once
rather than having to control each one individually. For example, we have
all of the smart bulbs in our living room grouped together into a scene so
we can dim them all at once.
Energy monitoring: Want to see exactly how much energy your IoT
device is using? Some bulbs and thermostats have energy monitoring so
you can see how much you’re saving.
Sunrise and sunset mode: Normally a feature on smart light bulbs, you
can have your bulbs synced with the beginning and end of the day, ideal
for maintaining your Circadian rhythm.
Shared access: Typically, IoT devices can be controlled by multiple
people; either they all sign in to the same app with the same username
and password, or the user can add guests so friends and family can
make their own accounts. If you live with roommates or other family
members, make sure your IoT device can be controlled by multiple
people (unless you’re a control freak like us!).
Triggers: Devices of the same brand, or of different brands, can trigger
one another, depending on their compatibility. For example, Ring devices
can obviously work with each other, like having a security system trigger
an outdoor light to go on. However, Ring products also work with third-
party IoT devices from companies like Dome, First Alert, EcoLink and
GE, allowing for more home automation opportunities.
IFTTT: Got two devices that can’t connect directly on the app? Some
devices work with IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That. IFTTT lets
devices of different brands trigger one another; for example, Wyze
cameras work with IFTTT, so they can work with Arlo cameras even
though the companies don’t have a direct partnership.
App: Finally, each IoT device has a corresponding app that allows for all
of the above features, so it’s important that it’s user-friendly. As software
updates can make improvements, be sure to check the app’s current
ratings from wherever you downloaded it.
Is Home Automation Secure? Tips for Securing IoT Devices
With some IoT devices, digital security can be more of an afterthought, not originally
built into many first-generation models. However, as security breaches become more
commonplace, many manufacturers are changing their ways, making their IoT devices
less hackable. But ultimately, it’s up to the user to take advantage of these digital
security features. Here’s how:
Secure router: One of the most straightforward ways to secure your
home automation system is to use a secure router from a company other
than your Internet Service Provider; we recommend looking into routers
from NETGEAR, Linksys, and TP-Link.
see what customer data they keep and how they share it and sell it to
Name router: Be sure to give your router a name other than the one that
it came with.
Encryption: Choose a strong encryption method for your WiFi, like
WiFi password: Make sure your WiFi network has a long, complicated,
and unique password. Of course, this makes it harder to add guests, but
it also prevents others from hopping on (and hacking your IoT devices).
Separate WiFi network: For the most security for your IoT devices,
consider getting a separate WiFi network for IoT devices only. This will
also create faster Internet speeds all around.
Password hygiene: Aside from your WiFi network, your IoT account
should have a password that’s not repeated on any other account; no
old, weak or repeated passwords allowed!
Device settings: Often, devices have features enabled by default that
aren’t necessary, and that can make your IoT devices more hackable. Be
sure to turn off these features when not in use, like WiFi, Bluetooth, and
knowing your location.
Software updates: Although change can be scary, software updates are
a good thing! They often include updates specifically targeted at
improving digital security, so be sure to perform all software updates as
soon as they’re available.
Authentication: Some companies like Ring have added two-factor
authentication to their accounts, meaning to sign in, we had to enter a
passcode that was sent to our phones. This made sure that only us, the
authorized users, could access our accounts. For even more
authentication, look for accounts that allow for fingerprint or facial ID,
known as multi-factor authentication. You can also add on either type of
authentication through a password manager; for example, we use
LastPass’ Touch ID to access all accounts on our iPhones.
VPN: Finally, if you’re using an IoT device on a public Wi-Fi network, like
a smart plug powering your laptop in a coffee shop, connect to a VPN, or
Virtual Private Network, to encrypt your web traffic and hide your IP
While no action can prevent hacking 100 percent, you can greatly reduce your likelihood
of being hacked with only a few simple steps.
Just like building Rome, automating your home can’t be done in a day. Rather, you can
start small and then build up your home automation system over time. With so many
new IoT devices being put on the market every day, there’s truly no limit to what you
can automate, making your life safer and more convenient than ever before.
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