What is a home automation system?

A home automation system usually brings together controlled devices to a central smart house hub (gateway). The UI (user interface) for the system control requires either wall-mounted tablets, terminals, and computers or a web interface that can acquire off-site with the use of the internet. Home automation is the self-activating or self-regulating control of electric appliances and devices inside the house. All of these are linked with an internet connection for obtaining a remote-control system and may have a trigger function for avoiding any manual operation. For instance, the lighting functions can be set to turn on/off according to the schedule one has set up. Home automation includes higher security and safety, minimized bill amounts, and IoT (internet of things). The IoT is simply anything connected to the internet.

Working of the home automation

Home automation works through a device network associated with the Internet via various communication protocols, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, etc. The devices can be operated remotely through electronic interfaces and controllers by using either a voice assistant like Alexa, Google Assistant, or any other app. Several IoT devices have sensors that manage changes in motion, temperature, and light for the user to achieve information about the surroundings of the device. To produce any sort of physical modifications to the device, the user triggers actuators such as smart light switches and so on.

Home automation consists of three levels:

  1. Monitoring: It means that the users can check in on their respective devices remotely through an app. For instance, one could view a live feed from their smart security camera.
  2. Control: It means that the user will be capable of controlling these devices remotely, such as panning a security camera for the living space view which covers all the angles of the proposed area.
  3. Automation: It means installing the devices to trigger one another, for instance having a smart siren switched off whenever an armed security camera discovers any type of movement.

Components of home automation system

The highlight of the home automation system is the remote control operation, which is controlled either by a mobile application or by an artificial intelligence voice-control assistant.

Mobile application

The mobile application permits users to control their devices in real-time, whether it’s closing the outdoor lights or opening the smart garage door. Users may place schedules, create scenes or groups of IoT devices, and customize device settings in the application, for instance, to have the user's living room lights set to any type of shade, tint, or hue of a specific color. Several IoT devices contain apps for Android and iOS devices, that are compatible with the majority of mobile devices and tablets.

Voice assistants

The application of voice assistants includes the user using their voice to monitor and control devices, whether it’s disarming a security system as and when the user walks in the front door or setting a timer on a smart speaker while the hands are occupied in certain house chores. Many of the IoT devices work with one of three voice-controlled assistants namely, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.

Home automation cloud computing

The home automation systems are not connected to any IP address or a high-end computer, but many systems are cloud-based, which is both affordable and simple to use. One of the example is the Nest cameras which do not contain slots for micro-SD cards, which would have permitted footage to be stored locally. Using cloud computing, all the footage recordings are directly uploaded to a cloud server, only accessible through a Nest Aware subscription which ensures safety and makes the information confidential.

Control protocols

  • WiFi: It is the most widely used control protocol and the user’s IoT device is linked to the regular Internet given by the Internet Service Provider. One must be careful to check the connectivity and speed of the internet connection which must not be a hindrance when there’s a load of many IoT devices connected to this connection.
  • Z-Wave: Z-Wave is a wireless technology that does not interfere with WiFi and it functions on low power at 908.42 MHz in the U.S. and Canada.
  • ZigBee: Similar to Z-Wave, ZigBee is a mesh network and a universal language that gives IoT devices access to communication. Another low-power, wireless mesh networking protocol is a thread that is based on an IP address open standard which permits the IoT devices to connect with the cloud and one another.
  • Bluetooth: One more category of mesh technology that offers people control and monitors over IoT devices and other automated systems.

Setting up a home automation system

It is advisable to follow the below steps for the hassle-free setting of the user’s dream home automation electrical system.

  • Smart home ecosystem: It refers to the selection of either Google or Amazon which will depend on other factors like the voice assistant, IoT appliance, and so on. The user is free to install both Alexa and Google but this may create confusion for choosing a suitable voice assistant. After the selection of the voice assistant, connect any smart speaker and a smart display to complete the major foundation of the home automation system.
  • Control protocol: Next, decide which protocol is necessary for the devices to communicate with, such as WiFi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or others. For smart homes, WiFi is the most effortless option choice, since most IoT devices work with WiFi.
  • Types of products: After selecting the required devices, move room to room and choose what type of products are needed, like security cameras, light bulbs, clocks, coffee makers, and so on.
  • Brands: Certain research on premier smart home companies is advisable and the reviews on the website go over the most famous brands like Ring, Nest, SimpliSafe, Alder Security, and so on.
  • Devices: Purchase IoT devices and buying in bulk is recommended for discounted prices.
  • Installation: Mostly the IoT devices have DIY (Do It Yourself) installation but certain companies like Vivint and ADT need professional methods for installing their smart security systems.
  • Customize settings: To make the home automation system unique, one can customize devices by altering the design.

Some popular IoT devices are lights, thermostats, locks, video doorbells, security cameras and systems, speakers, displays, and medical care. Their characteristics may include remote control, voice assistants, geofencing, home and away modes, scenes, energy monitoring, sunrise/sunset modes, shared access, triggers, IFTTT (If This, Then That), and apps.

Context and Applications

This topic is taught in various graduate and postgraduate courses like

  • Bachelors in Technology (Electrical Engineering)
  • Masters in Science (Microprocessing Units)
  • Masters in Electronics and Telecommunications
  • Masters in Science (Robotics and Machine Learning)

Practice Problems

Q1. What are the three levels of a home automation system?

  1. Monitoring, Control, and Automation
  2. Measuring, Control, and Authentication
  3. Manual, Calamity, and Automation
  4. Measuring, Control, and Automation

Correct option- a

Explanation: The three levels of home automation systems are Monitoring, Control, and Automation.

Q2. Which of the following are examples of voice assistants?

  1. Siri
  2. Google Assistant
  3. Alexa
  4. All of these

Correct option- d

Explanation: Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa are examples of voice assistants.

Q3. What is the full form of UI?

  1. User Information
  2. User Interface
  3. Uniform Information
  4. None of these

Correct option- b

Explanation: The full form of UI is the user interface.

Q4. Which device is a wireless technology that does not interfere with WiFi?

  1. Wifi
  2. ZigBee
  3. Z-Wave
  4. Bluetooth

Correct option- c

Explanation: Z-Wave device is a wireless technology that does not interfere with WiFi.

Q5. Which advanced technology is the IoT device connected with, if not linked to the IP address?

  1. Cloud computing
  2. Control protocol
  3. Both a and b
  4. None of these

Correct option- a

Explanation: Cloud computing is the advanced technology that the IoT device is connected with, if not linked to the IP address.

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network)
  • Authentication and software updates
  • End-to-end encryption and security policy

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