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Home Automation

Over the last few weeks, we have been exploring something the latest home automation tech and learning what is possible with all the latest gadgets on the market. 

There are so many devices out there it is hard to decide what the best way of automating your home is, so here is a quick summary of what to look out for preferrably before you commit to spending hundreds of pounds on tech. 

It is important to realise that there are many different ways of achieving the same thing and some work better than others. Initially we will discuss the main two differences you find with home automation devices such as sensors, light switchs, plugs and other remotely operated devices. 

Firstly, you might find that you go to eBay or Amazon searching for a “wifi” this or that. What you will end up finding is a device that connects directly to your wifi router without the need of using a hub. Initially you might think that having the expense of a hub seems completely unnecessary when you have a router that ought to act as the hub. The issue with this is that cramming more and more wifi devices in to your home has some negative effects. The most important negative effect is the reliability of a device that is connected to a router. The fact is, a connection over wifi is not 100% always accessible. You might have the alexa app and want to utter some phrase to get a light to do something. Is it really efficient to have to go off to a server and then come back to your home to perform the operation? We would suggest avoiding going down the route of using wifi enabled home automation devices, unless its in rare circumstances. After trying some cheap motion sensors and some wifi light switches, we found that the reliability, stability and responsiveness did not deliver or meet the expectation. You don’t want to walk in a room and 5 seconds later after the 30 server hops have been complete, your lights come on. 

Going down an alternative route with something like the Samsung Smart Wifi Hub has proved to be a far better and more enjoyable experience. These devices connect over a protocol called Z-Wave or Zigbee so that your devices communicate on a different network to your wifi. Performance, reliability and quality of products available appear to be on a different level compared with that of the cheaper wifi enabled devices that work more autonomously. The Aeotec sensor compatible with Samsungs hub is a great all in one sensor offering 6 sensors in one device; temperature, UV, motion, tamper and Lux. You can use this sensor in one room and fire off multiple other devices depending on the values for each of these sensors. Admittedly the lux sensor records very low values due to its position on the device and is not currently supported with Alexa integration. One of the main things you will want to do is use a combination of lux and motion to determine whether a light should go on. Currently if you only have wifi light switches this is not possible with the Alexa app so you would need Zigbee enabled devices all working through your hub to gain access to these features. 

The rules you can set up in Samsungs smartthings app are if this or this or this, which is just what you need compared with trying to use eFamilyCloud or Smart Life app with If this then that app (IFTT) where you only get one “if”.

Working on this mini project has been a great way for us to gain more experience with Alexa and the Alexa API for motion and others. Building an alexa app is a perfect way to get on the forefront of technology by gaining a comptetive advantage over your competitors. Why not give us a call to find out how we can help you build your next Alexa app or mobile app on iOS and Android.  

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