Smart Homes

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What is a Smart Home?

Many definitions exist and more are being created all the time. One example is by Coldwell Banker used for advertising purposed by its Real Estate agents: “A home that is equipped with network-connected products (i.e., “smart products,” connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself.”

What are Smart Home Components & Devices?

Smart Home components are electronic devices that connect together (wired or wireless) to add a feature to your home that can have the ability to be used manually, like a light switch, remotely via some device like a smart phone, or automatically via a pre-programmed instruction.
Some examples are: smart lights, smart thermostats, smart locks, automated video surveillance, and smart speakers with voice control and response, such as Amazon Echo with Alexa. Amazon lists about 250,000 of these devices with hundreds being added every day.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that have an IP address so they can connect to the internet and other internet-enabled devices and systems. They can be controlled and communicated with anywhere in the world over the internet. However, security becomes an issue as many manufacturers do not implement very good security and hackers are then able to control these devices.

Wired or Wireless Devices?

To wire or not to wire is the question. A wired solution is usually more reliable, faster and doesn’t take batteries that are expensive, wasteful, sometimes hard to reach, and need to be replaced at the most inopportune time. Many new wireless devices can be plugged into standard 110 Volt wall sockets instead of using batteries. To put Smart Home wires in a home after it’s built can be expensive, disruptive, and sometimes impossible under the BC Building Code.

Fees?

Many Smart Home devices have features that sound fabulous, but may need a user account on the internet that requires a monthly or yearly fee, running the risk of cost increases or discontinuation of service. Sometimes the vendors don’t make this clear at first and you only find out when you try to turn it on for the first time or your provider sends you a bill.

Power?

Smart Home devices all need power, with the exception of battery powered devices, that is good and clean 110 volts. However that is not historically available from BC Hydro so a backup solution is recommended for at least the critical components of your Smart Home. These critical components include: Internet modem, wireless router, wireless boosters, locks and medical devices like oxygen concentrators. An Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) that contains batteries, power regulation, monitoring and an alarm is recommended for these devices.

How Theater or Audiophile Music?

While the components of these systems may look similar, there are significant differences in quality. An Audiophile system can be used for Home Theater but Home Theater components typically do not have the quality of Audiophile. “Ultimate Systems” can be built for a staggering amount of money, but many users build a compromise system that is pretty good, and may be built up over time. The key here is research, clearly define what you want and know your budget. Warning: Speakers in Virtual Personal Assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are very poor quality and not recommended for Home Theater or Audiophile.

Here are a couple of presentations on Smart Homes and the devices you can connect:

Smart Home Slide Show Presentation

Smart Home Devices Slide Show Presentation