Whenever tech is mentioned in AEC it’s either BIM systems or tech for architectural visualization. But it’s 2018 and tech in the AEC has gone beyond the design stage and high end tech is now actually being incorporated into the finished structures. Introducing home automation.
Home automation is the use of computers to control basic home functions and features automatically and sometimes remotely. Over the years, sophistication of devices and tech has led to home owners looking for easier ways to manage homes. At the click of a button If possible too. Industry players have been listening to the customers and have not disappointed. They’ve given us some amazing stuff to consider. We’ll review some of them in this issue.
There are a few elements that we need to understand as we discuss matters home automation. First of all we have the platform on which the entire system works. Think of this as the operating system for the home automation. Basically the software that allows all things to run and coordinate. This is what processes the information received and sends out the order for the task to be done. You can also call this the virtual assistant. Secondly we have the hardware on which the system runs. Think of it as your Personal assistant in the form of a speaker. This personal assistant runs on the platform/operating system. It will answer you back when you talk to it or ask a question. Think of it as a speaker. The third item is the phone app for your speaker. This app also runs on the particular platform and is synced to both the platform and your speaker/personal assistant. You cannot run a home automation system without the app. The fourth member of this eco-system are the accessories. These are basically the workers of this colony and do the actual work. They are the gadgets that are run by the other three members. With that I hope it will now be easier for you to understand the various home automation systems that we will review.
Samsung in my opinion have gone out and given us the best home automation kit yet. Introducing Samsung smart things. The hardware for the smart things is called a Smart things Hub. This is what you would need to buy. Just like all other Samsung gadgets this system runs on the android platform. The phone app is called the smart things app. You can easily download this for free on any android device with the google play store. When you buy the kit, Samsung are good enough to throw in a few basic accessories. A couple of sensors and a few cameras. This is the basic kit, you can easily buy way more accessories as you require.
The Hub comes with a LAN port. Sadly with no Wi-Fi ability. Once you buy the Kit, you connect your hub to the internet, download the smart things app on your phone and pair your accessories to your phone app. The sensors come in a wide variety. You have door, window, fridge and cabinet sensors. You can monitor any opening or closing of this items. You can even get a water valve sensor that will alert you if there’s leakage. A gas leak sensor is also a handy accessory if you wish to get a home automation kit. You can also trigger reactions to every sensor. For example you can trigger your phone to dial the cops in case your door is opened when you are not at home. Or even set your phone to call your plumber once the water valve sensor detects a leakage in the kitchen or wherever you might have set it. Please not you can add as many accessories as you can think of. The front door camera, the garage door opener, the baby room video monitor etc. Another accessory that I find quite important is the smart power outlet. This allow you to control power usage for your appliances all around the house.
Another great feature about smart things is something called routines. Routines are simply a set of commands that you set for all your smart devices to do at a particular moment. In the morning when you wake up and have a million tasks before work, you can set most of your tasks to be automated by your devices and handle only crucial tasks. You can set the coffee maker to start making coffee, set the window blinds to open and maybe set the radio to tune in to your favorite morning show. The lights can be set to turn off once you leave and finally you can even set the doors to lock themselves once you step out. In the evening when you come home you can set the lights to turn on, the garage door to open up, turn on the TV or radio to start playing, the window blinds to close or open. The app allows you to make as many routines as possible. You can even have a movie night routine where maybe the lights go out, window blinds are closed and the TV starts streaming for one of the many TV streaming services. Once you set tasks for a particular routine you press the routine button on the app or simply talk to your hub and ask it to carry out a specific routine.
The way the hub is set up is that it is always on standby mode listening out for the wake up word. A wake up word is the word when said activates the system to be ready to receive a command prompt. You can have it as the default wake up word or customize it to fit your preference. The wake up word is a feature in all the home automation systems and not just the Samsung smart things. The hub is a rechargeable device.
Google have not been left behind in the home automation field. Introducing Google Home and Google Gnome. Let’s start with Google home. Google home is the personal assistant/speaker for this system. Your platform is the Google voice assistant. The same voice assistant on your android device that you keep asking what did Trump tweet today. The phone app for this system is called google home. The wake up word for this system is Google.
Apart from the tasks just like smart things, since this system runs on google you can do way more in terms of using your google account. Let’s say you are cooking something but aren’t too sure of it, you can simply ask Google home for a recipe and it will walk you through the steps to get your meal. You can also ask it to set reminders, add calendar events and email someone all while doing dishes or your laundry. This is the perfect personal home assistant. You can also add as many accessories to this system as you would like to. The sensors, cameras, door closers, garage openers and even maybe sprinklers.
This system allows you to support multiple users with their google accounts. So the entire family can enjoy the convenience of having task automated for them. Just like smart things you can also set routines for your system. Each user can also have their routines.
Google gnome is basically google home’s outdoor loving sister. Do you have a backyard where you spend loads of time? Well you can have the outdoor assistant with you. It is water and dust proof and can withstand extreme outdoor temperatures. Both the home and gnome are rechargeable devices and are compatible to all your favorite streaming and other services such as and not limited to Netflix, Youtube, Spotify, Pandora, and Tune in.
Amazon have recently made a mark on the tech world and even streaming services with their recent acquisitions and products. They’ve also dived right into the home automation pool. Introducing Amazon Alexa. Alexa is the platform for this system, it is the software that runs the system. The speaker is called amazon echo and they have a mini sized one called amazon dot. Echo and Dot are the hardware that Alexa runs on.
Just like google home and Samsung smart things, Alexa can carry out a wide variety of tasks and she works seamlessly with all the accessories you can think of. The wake up word for this system is Alexa.
Another favorite of mine is the Windows Home system. It would not be a complete tech review without a Microsoft system to compare against. This system works on Cortana on your phone and even on your laptop. The biggest pro of this particular system is its ability to sync with different platforms. If you already have a google home or Samsung smart things system you can easily run them from a windows home app on any windows 10 device.
An amazing feature that Microsoft have added to their smart home system is the integration of the Microsoft cloud for data analysis. Let’s say one of the accessories that you have bought for your home automations is the fridge sensor. A normal fridge sensor would alert when anyone leaves the door open for far too long. Microsoft cloud and analytics allow you to see data of who opened the fridge even if it was just to get a drink. It also shows you the data for the capacity of the fridge and how it reduces and increases over varying periods of time. You can track who’s been eating your apples. With its ability to incorporate multiple users into the system, you can get proper data of which user uses which specific appliance at what time. Tres cool! They also give you data on things like power usage and water usage which is valuable to energy and resource conservation. The wake up word for this system is Cortana.
Apple also have a share of the smart homes field. Apple Home. The apple system is a bit different. You don’t need a speaker/voice assistant for it. All you need is Siri and the smart homes app on your phone paired to the various smart accessories in your home. All you do is command Siri to carry out a task and that is all. For example you can ask Siri to start streaming your favorite TV show or turn off the lights or turn on the thermostat. The turn off for this system is that it works only across iOS devices. This system also has routines but they are known as scenes. Each user, it does allow multiple users on one system, can create their own scene. The wake up word for this system is Siri.
Apart from the Samsung smart things all the other system have Wi-Fi capability and this makes them way more mobile. Some of the accessories that you might want to consider are such as, the Phillips Hue. This is a wide range of smart lights that come with their own app and allow you to control the lighting in your house even remotely while away. You can even get a moxie shower head by Kohler with a music player or radio with a sensor that turns on whenever you sand below the shower head. You can even get touch id door looks or voice recognition door locks. The home automation revolution is finally here with us.
So next time you are making a project proposal to a client give them something new and different, give them an automated home.