Smart Home is a trend that has intensified and accelerated in recent months thanks to Corona. Most retailers report significantly increasing sales in 2020, the number 1 even of plus 180 % for Smart Home control centres. These are the hubs that network individual smart devices such as lamps, thermostats or door locks. Many people work in the lockdown in the home office or spend more time at home and therefore upgrade their house or apartment smartly.
Smart Home networks home technology via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and automates devices. They can be conveniently controlled and operated remotely using a smartphone, voice assistant or tablet, for example. There are simple solutions for individual tasks, for example smart lamps, or complex Smart Home systems. They are programmed with scenarios such as "leave house", which, for example, switch off all lamps, activate the door lock and camera, lower the room temperature and check whether the hotplates are really off.
Smart Home makes our everyday life easier because household appliances such as refrigerators, robot hoovers or washing machines can be operated remotely and relieve us of work.
Example: The fridge recognises what is missing and orders the missing food online - when you get home, the food delivery is waiting for you.
Smart Home increases our living comfort because lamps or multimedia devices can be programmed with scenarios.
Example: You say "Candle Light Dinner" and Alexa or Siri switches off the TV, starts a playlist with songs from the 80s and dims the light in the dining room. Only the candles (still) have to be lit by you...
Smart Home makes our home safe because alarm systems, motion and fire detectors, cameras or lamps can be networked with the building technology.
Examples: When you close the front door, the alarm system switches on - or you programme a "holiday" scenario and no longer have to ask your neighbours to switch the light on and off irregularly.
Smart Home reduces energy consumption and improves the indoor climate because heating, ventilation and sun protection can be controlled automatically.
Examples: The heating lowers the temperature as soon as you leave the house, the ventilation compensates for humidity that is too high or too low, or the blinds lower when the sun shines into the living room.
The devices run processes that you have programmed beforehand. If you want to use more than one smart device, you need a control centre, also called a hub or gateway. The control centre connects and controls all devices and ensures communication and data exchange. The data is transported wirelessly via radio solutions such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or bus systems, which are permanently installed lines.
If you want to retrofit your house or apartment smart, a wireless solution is easier and makes more sense. But if you are building, bus systems make more sense because they work more reliably, consume less power and protect your data better. Common are KNX bus systems, which can be flexibly installed and adapted to your Smart Home concept, and digital power networks, which use power lines for data transport.
There are open and closed control centres for Smart Home systems. Closed control centres work with a manufacturer-specific radio protocol. This means that you can only network the devices of this manufacturer and its cooperation partners. This severely restricts your choice, but the devices work together perfectly and protect your data better. Open control panels support various radio standards and are compatible with many manufacturers. This allows you to operate all devices with a single app.
If you only want to automate individual tasks, you do not have to buy a complete system. It is often sufficient to replace individual controllers or switches. For example, you can just replace the old light bulb with a smart light bulb or the old radiator controller with a smart radiator controller, download the app, and you're done. That's enough to dim the light continuously or adjust the temperature to within a tenth of a degree, usually even remotely.
If you started with a lamp, then bought a control for the heating and finally added a camera, in the worst case you had to install three apps from three manufacturers. That's why you can't operate the devices centrally. That's why there are free online platforms like IFTTT (If This Then That), which link smart individual solutions via the internet. Or Apple HomeKit and Google Home, which also function as a control centre for the devices of other manufacturers.
If you know from the start that you want to network more than two devices, you should buy a system solution with a central base station. This way you only have to install a single wireless box at the router instead of gateways for each lamp, sensor or thermostat. And you can conveniently control the system via a single app and easily automate it with rules. Starter packages with a control centre and command receivers (or actuators) are available from specialist retailers for a few hundred francs.
Building automation with a bus system is safer, more economical in power consumption and more powerful than a wireless installation via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. If you are building or renovating your house or apartment, the electrician can lay the control cables in the walls with little effort. This way, you can easily connect switches and sockets via the installation bus later on. You have the choice between closed proprietary systems of a manufacturer or open systems such as KNX, a standard for home automation that is now supported by more than 500 companies.
Every Smart Home device collects data about you to perform its tasks and is connected to the internet. The refrigerator recognises what is missing and orders the missing food online. It stores this data. Just like the heating system, which needs to know when you leave and return to the house so that it can adjust the temperature. Lifestyle habits can be derived from this data. Much of this data is not sensitive, but some is, for example the data from which conclusions can be drawn about your health, or credit card information. That is why you should be careful and close possible security gaps: