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What is Home Automation

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Home automation has been a buzzword of the 21st century, with new advancements and products cropping up almost every day. Every day, more and more people are introduced to the concept of 'smart homes', which is way more than just a fancy tool for tech-savvy folks. It has something in store for everybody that seeks convenience, comfort and control.

In very simple terms, home automation can be defined as a system that allows you to control lights, fans, air conditioners, ventilation and other electronic appliances remotely. A network of these devices works together to transform your home into something that is more comfortable, secure, efficient and customised. You can practically interact with your home through a connected device like a smart phone or remote to control when, how and why a device should react.

Until very recently, building automation was something that was restricted to large scale commercial buildings and luxurious homes, but the advancements in technology and the rising demand for this technology has scaled it and made it accessible for anyone and everyone that wants to have an intelligent and intuitive home.

Earlier, automation only included basic lighting controls and HVAC operations that were accessible from fixed points or touch panels on the walls. Internet of Things has brought about a revolution in the applications of 'home automation' and its various functions. The modern homes are capable of doing much more than just switch on and off our lights and appliances- they can think for us and learn from us.

So, what in fact, is the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things (IoT): Internet of Things is that invisible magic dust that is responsible for all the 'smart' and 'automation' that we see around us. It is a combination of sensors, systems and all that happens between them. It connects the smart devices to a network that enables them to complete the tasks allocated to them and interact with the system without any user input. The metamorphosis of home automation to smart homes is the courtesy of IoT.

Why home automation?

Think of a regular day in your life. Your alarm rings, you hit the snooze, wake up later only to realise that you are running late for work. Hurriedly you have to use the cold water because you forgot to switch on the water heater and you run off to work without coffee. As you are about to reach, there's this weird feeling that maybe you forgot to turn off the blower or lock the door. In normal circumstances what do you do?

But a smart home has your back, as your alarm goes off, the lights of your room also turn on prompting you to wake up, by which time, your water heater has already warmed up the water and your coffee is ready. You leave for work calmly and quickly investigate on your smartphone to check if all the appliances are turned off or not. Apart from helping during a memory slip, smart homes can simply make your home run better. Suppose, if you return from work at 7 PM, you can schedule your smart plug to turn the air conditioner on at 6:30 PM, so that by the time you reach home, you don't have to wait another half an hour to cool down.

Not just that, smart homes have an unmatched potential for energy savings. You can schedule and control your lights, fans and almost all electrical outlets or even individual electrical outlets with your phone that can be powered down during the time when nobody's home or they are not in use. The outdoors lights can also be scheduled to turn on only when the sun has set and switch off as the day starts. A basic 'going away' event for your smart home can prompt all the devices to turn off and save you from wasting electricity on all those forgotten lights and appliances.

If you are intrigued by the things that smart homes can do for you, you might as well want to integrate it in your own home. To take a step further on this road, contact us today!

Images via Pexels and ShutterStock

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Learn The Lingo: 9 Basic Home Automation Terms Defined

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Home automation can turn any home into a smart home but the vocabulary associated with it can make its users feel anything but smart. With the new functionalities of your 'automated' home also comes a set of technical jargons which can make things feel complicated than they are. To get started on this journey to the 'smart', here are certain terms that you need to know:

Automation is the holy grail of smart homes. It can be defined as a way of controlling your home via electronic devices with minimal human interference. Some smart homes are fully automated and work on machine learning as well as scheduling, others are semi-automated with remote access while the rest are a mixture of both.

Hub/ Gateway
Hub is a piece of hardware that is the nervous system of your home. It seamlessly connects to your wi-fi and interacts with the mobile apps to follow the instructions that you give. This central device runs all the complex algorithms that can turn any dumb space into a smart space.

Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that is increasingly getting popular. It is a term used to define the devices that are able to communicate with each other, other devices and with the wider world through the web. It is with the integration of IoT that people are able to connect one smart device with another smart device.

Mesh Network
Rather than interacting with only a router like the wireless computers do, a mesh network has several connected devices that communicate with one another. In such a network, each device transmits its own data and also acts as a relay for other devices. The biggest advantage of this decentralised network is the fact that there can not be a single point of failure. If one device is unable to communicate, the others will still remain functional.

The easiest way to understand the term 'protocol' is to think of it as a language in which connected or smart devices interact with each other. Currently, the most common smart home protocols from around the world are ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi and IR.

Remote Access
Remote access or anywhere access enables you to access and control your connected devices on the go. It is facilitated by a functional internet connection and a smartphone app that interacts with the connected products in your dwelling. Remote access can also be easily called the distinguishing feature of IoT as lights and appliances operated by a remote have been in existence for a while but what truly sets them apart now is their connectivity to the internet which allows its users to send a command or keep a check on the appliances from anywhere in the world with the help of their smartphones.

Retrofit refers to automating an existing structure without any major renovations or new construction. Through the means of wireless technology, it is not just the new homes that can become smart, the existing 'dumb' structures can also enjoy the advantages of automation without requiring any rewiring of the appliances.

ZigBee can be defined as a low power network that allows compatible devices to interact with each other instead of a central hub. It is known for its cost and energy efficiency, which has made it one of the most popular automation protocols. ZigBee uses a mesh network architecture for communicating with the devices which provides it multiple pathways to interact.

Z-wave protocol also uses a mesh network topology and low energy radio waves to communicate from appliance to appliance. It enables the network to unify the connected devices into a single framework without running cables or reprogramming devices.

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Home Automation V/S Smart Homes Are They Both The Same?

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In today's technology-driven era, there's no escape from technology and gadgets. So, it only makes sense to embrace what's around us in abundance. The concept of smart homes came to light soon after Apple introduced the idea of a personal computer in every home in the late 70s. With the advent of the internet in 1990, the idea only got pushed along but with technology being an exclusive feature that only a few could afford. In fact, post the introduction of wi-fi in 1999, the infancy period of an intelligent and intuitive home had already begun untill 2007 which saw the humble beginning of technology-centric homes as we see them today.

The modern homes now have remote access via the internet, have the ability to compute and establish a wireless system of connected devices that function with the help of some electronic brain. To define such a system, terms like 'smart homes' and 'home automation' are used. Many people consider these two the synonyms of each other and use them indistinctly, which is definitely not the case. There is a fundamental difference between the two, which can be understood by the points below.

Home Automation
The term and the concept of 'home automation' first caught fire in the 80s when complex electronic systems that could automate certain features of a home were introduced. However, this technology never really reached the masses due to the hefty costs involved in both manufacturing and installing the systems. But technology did catch up and gave us the modern home with all its conveniences and comforts. The revolutionary concept of 'Internet of Things' fuelled the growth of this idea and paved the way for the beginning of a new connected age.

Home automation can be defined as one of the countless things that smart homes do. In simpler terms, it can also be used to define a home that has multiple segregated programmable devices like lights, power outlets and electronic appliances that are hooked to a distantly controllable network. It also includes your doors, windows, HVAC system and everything that comes with an on and off switch.

Smart Homes
Modern home automation is the enabler of smart homes. Smart homes have their roots in home automation but are a much broader concept than that. It is a term used to define a dwelling that has its electrical and electronic appliances in a state where they can interact with each other and can be controlled remotely through an app. Another evolving feature of smart homes is their emphasis on resource conservation. Smartifying a home does not end at that, intuitive and scheduled appliances also help in reducing the energy consumption which also makes them green in a sense.

Smart homes also imply 'intelligence' and to match its name, these smart homes also possess features like sensing, wireless communication and scheduling. The data acquired is then fed to a central hub which acts like the brain of the home, from where the users can monitor, schedule and control their appliances, making it 'smart'.

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Smart Lighting Does Matter and Here's why

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Smart lighting is something that is gaining more popularity day by day. So what is it that makes it this popular? Well, the chief selling point of smart lighting is its ability to control the lighting and alter the atmosphere in any space, at any given time from anywhere. However, this unique piece of functionality can bring additional benefits to your space that are not just limited to aesthetics and entertainment. With automated lighting, fumbling to find the switches in the dark is a thing of the past. Here are some more benefits of smart lighting guaranteed to make you fall for them.

Smart lighting helps you sleep better Lights have a huge impact on our circadian rhythms which also dictate our sleep/wake routine. Smart lighting solutions can tackle that by reducing light-induced wakefulness. The constant use of mobile phones in the evening disrupts the natural production of melatonin- also known as the sleep-inducing hormone. You can schedule your lights to start dimming 45 minutes prior to your bedtime. The gradual reduction in brightness will trigger your brain to produce melatonin and help you sleep better.

Similarly, to wake up better in the morning, you can induce an artificial dawn with your smart lighting, prompting it to gradually increase the brightness in alignment with your waking time to induce the production of stimulating hormone cortisol in the morning. This way your smart lighting can mimic the sun and balance your sleep/wake cycle.

Reduce the number of falls Yes, smart lighting can have an impact on that as well! Automated homes give you the lighting controls of your home right at your fingertips. Which means, that once you are settled in your bed, you don't need to worry about the lights that you forgot to turn off in the kitchen, you can simply do that from the comfort of your bed. More serious benefits of such installations are all the late night falls and collisions that you could avoid at night.

CDC reports that every year 700,000 people are hospitalised due to falls, of which 20% occur during the night-time due to the absence or lack of lighting. It indicates that almost 140,000 accidents can be prevented with right lighting at the right time. Smart lighting can do that for you because every switch that you need for every light is right in your hands.

Become environmentally conscious Did you know that human eye can not tell the difference between 80% brightness and 100% brightness? Well, yes, therefore there is no reason for your lights to be running at full 100% brightness. Give your home some smart lighting with dimming feature to enjoy 20% savings on your energy usage. With dimmer controls, you can also schedule your lighting to run at different brightness levels aligned with whatever natural light is received to harvest the daylight.

Not just that, it is quite easy to forget to turn off the lights off hallways, dining and kitchen before sleeping and most of the times we are just too lazy to get up to turn them off which results in increased power consumption, change that by conveniently turning off all the lights from a tap on your smartphone. Such small steps and advantages can reduce your power usage and thus the burden on the fossil fuels which can lead to less toxic gas emissions in the environment and reduce your carbon footprint while also reflecting some savings on your electricity bills. Its a win-win!

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Assist Your Loved Ones With Disabilities With A Smart Home

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Smart home has become a commonly used term around the world. It can be defined as a concept that improves the techniques and systems of a living space. It fulfils the purpose of energy savings while accentuating convenience, comfort, flexibility, security and functionality. There are various ways to 'smartify' a home, which can be achieved by networking, automation control of all the electrical appliances and retrofitting the existing system with some smart devices.

Most of the users of smart homes from around the world, use automation to improve the daily, mundane tasks. For them, it is a matter of convenience, comfort and control but there are some others who can benefit from it in more ways than one. These 'smart' systems can empower people with disabilities and let the elderly maintain a better quality of life and to become more independent by giving them the control of their surroundings and home.

Automated and smart devices can provide an endless number of solutions for people with disabilities and the elderly. Voice or smartphone operated appliances can let them govern the aspects of their homes without any interference. Most of the automated appliances can be remotely controlled and accessed and are being heralded as a step towards the future. Such devices can be a potential game-changer in the way specially abled people control and run their homes.

For somebody with muscular dystrophy, tapping on their phone is way easier than struggling to get their hands on those tiny electrical switches. Elderly people with back issues can forget the trouble of bending to turn off the switches that are close to the floor and simply instruct their smartphone to do so. Similarly, people with all kinds of issues can find some relief with automation that can assist them in being in charge of their homes.

You necessarily don't have to go for a full-fledged home renovation to make it smart, retrofit devices like smart plugs and relays that work with the existing systems can facilitate that with ease. From heavy appliances like air conditioners, microwaves and geysers to small appliances like coffee makers, televisions and music systems, all of it can be automated without bringing in any new appliances.

There's a wide spectrum of people that can benefit from connected homes. Even though the technology wasn't specifically designed for them, it can act out as a leveller and assist some people in living with dignity and independence.

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