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Smart Homes & Automation

What is the difference between a smart home and an automated home? Our blog about Home Automation will help you understand what all the fuss is about and what to consider when you move house.

Smart Homes & Automation

It used to be a thing of science fiction. Talking into a computer was Star Trekkian, let alone talking into our smart phone to prepare our house for our arrival home. Have we entered the age of the Jetsons finally? Home automation systems, smart home devices and apps are shaping the way we think about living in the technological age. If you are thinking of outfitting your home with these devices the learning curve can be steep, likewise, getting your mind around such systems in ahome that you have just moved into with such ‘mod-cons’ can be a journey in itself. How does it all interconnect? How does the internet fit into it all? Will my house turn into Pierce Brosnan like in that episode of the Simpsons?

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The slight difference between Home Automation & Smart Homes

Although they are very similar and often discussed in tandem, there are a few key contrasts between the way the two systems operate.

Smart Homes

While it could be argued that an automatic house is a smart house, the term “smart home specificallyrelates to electronic devices and sensors that are connected via a local or internet network and controlled with apps on electronic devices. There are many different devices from lightbulbs to air conditioning units to home entertainment systems that can all be controlled from one device using customised user interfaces that require an action from the user to initiate the automation.

Home Automation

Full home automation imore-so the ethos of the way we interact with smart technology in the general course of living. It’s the real stuff of science fiction!

You can have smart home devices without home automation. Home automation is a way of coordinating your smart home devices to interact with each other without human interaction.Bprogramming automatic combinations of‘scenes’ to recognise when the home owner is undertaking a particular task, the devices can work together to create a desired outcome. For example, you could automate functions to set an atmospheric lighting and soundscapemood when a someone sits down to watch movies. Or when someoneapproaches home in their car, the gates and garage open automatically, digital locks on the doors release with the lights and air-conditioning in the house switching on before they get out of the car.Likewise, the gates and the garage will automatically close after the car is safely inside.

Generally, some sort of centralised software will be used as a control unit that interconnects devices and ecosystems and allows them to communicate with each other. They will collect and share small bits of information to complete a diagnostic which will allow the software to recognise the behaviours the person is exhibiting. This will trigger the hub software to generate a pattern of automated functions and send commands to the devices to complete a range of tasks thatcomplement what the person is doing at the time. In this way humans can take advantage of technological automation without the need to individually interact with each device manually first.

Does home automation cost a lot of money?

In 2021 home automation is more accessible and affordable than ever. As always though, it depends on how big your home is, how much of it you choose to automate and how far you go. There are a lot of devices out there and a lot of different ways of doing it. If you are choosing a more portable system, the cost can be spread over time as you build up a cache of software and hardware. If you are choosing the hard-wired option you can expect to pay a lot more and will benefit from the experience of a trained consultant and installation expert. The best place to start with costing your bespoke system is to assess what you want to automate and educate yourself on what is available, get quotes and talk to people in the business.

The installation professionals

Installation, testing and repair of home automated systems can be done by accredited home automation installers or electricians with the relevant valid licence. Not all electricians will have skilled in this area though, so make sure you research your potential installer thoroughly.

You can expect an installer to assess your needs and the property, provide you with a quotation, coordinate the installation of the system and provide training on how to use and maintain the system. Home automation can cross several different systems such as telecommunications, intercoms, lighting, security, cooling and heating, irrigation, home entertainment, locks and doors, blinds and curtains, satellite and cable services, as well as appliances and devices. It incorporates the use of software, motion sensors and timing systems so your installer needs to be on top of their trade and up-to-date with recent technology and user experiences.

Five ideas for automation in the home

If you have a decent operating system to power your automation desires, the possibilities can literally be endless. The web is full of ideas but here are a few we like:

Lighting 
Strategically placed motion senses can signal to turn off lights in a room that has been empty for a specified time.

Music 
Program a scene to automate the lights in a room to set to a mood that can change depending on the volume or type of music selected to play.

Entertainment 
Program a ‘party’ so that your disco lights kick in with a fun playlist that starts automatically.

Movies/Home Theatre 
Program the play button to dim the lights slowly as the movie starts, and the pause button to lift the lights, just like an “intermission”.

Security 
Access home surveillance footage from smart devices from anywhere at any time.

The team from CW Electrical & Automation also gave us an important tip for setting up security automation systems, "I know that one of the most vulnerable times for robbery is when you have just moved into a place. As you probably have a lot of brand-new furniture and electronics, as well, you probably have not had time to think about security yet. I advise customers to get their security systems installed BEFORE moving in, so they take away this vulnerability". 

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Taking the tech with you when you move

Some home automation systems can be hard-wired into the dwelling, but not yet having found your“forever home” doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the benefits of smart devices or even full automation. You just need to have the system designed with the intention of packing it all up to take with you when you move to your next place. Here are a few tips when moving out of an automated smart house, or for taking your portable system with you:

  • Opting for a Portable Smart Hub doesn’t require hard-wiring and offers the same function and power as those that do, but you can move it.
  • Small appliances can be automated by using smart switches. This DIY option will allow your corded appliances and electronics to be connected to each other via the hub. Best thing is you can just unplug them and pack them up to move. 

  • Make a check-list containing all of the connected devices, websites of the vendors, user manuals, support contacts and anything else of relevance.
  • If you are moving out of a hard-wired automated home erase all of your user data and disable any administrator or user access. Reset any learning or programmed devices to their factory default. 

  • Make sure you hand over all relevant information to be passed on to the new occupants. 

  • For strict security purposes make sure all software systems are running the latest up-to-date version.

The home of the future is here, but it will evolve

The Internet of Things (IoT) wholly incorporates the idealistic concepts of home automation and smart home device integration with our day-to-day function of living. As the first-world evolves to a future of tech-driven lifestyle values, we can only expect to see the future in what history has shown us - that there is no end to the entrepreneurial culture of disruption that leads to the innovation that the modern tech sector unleashesonto the market. As more homes move towards these principals one can assume that the future of technology driven home convenience is only just beginning!

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