Understanding the Workings of a Smart Home

Father using computer with son, family in backgroundHaving a smart home means you can connect your tablet or smartphone with the house, allowing it to send out alerts to you whether you forgot to turn the coffee maker off or the kids are watching TV when they should be doing their homework. With a smart home system, you can connect your device to the electric appliances in your house. All devices in your house that use electricity can be made to work with the smart home system.

The Technology and Software

It all started in 1975, when a company in Scotland developed the X10.

The X10 enabled compatible products to communicate with each other via the already installed electrical wiring in a home. The appliances act as receivers while the keypads or remote controls act as transmitters. For example, if you want to turn off an appliance in the other room, the transmitter that is the remote will send out a numerical message composed of:

  1. The code that has the actual command, which is ‘off’
  2. An alert to the system to receive the command being issued
  3. The identifying unit number for device

The system is designed to make this work in less than a second, but the X10 came with its own set of limitations as well. For one, this communication over electrical lines is not always a reliable method. The lines get noisy as they power other devices. Also, the X10 was also prone to making errors, at times interpreting electronic interference as a command and therefore messing with the functions of your home appliances.

To counter this, there have been many new systems that have emerged to compete for the home networking dollar. Instead of working through the power lines, there are tons of new systems that make use of radio waves, through your home Wi-Fi system, or a Bluetooth system.

Couple in kitchen sharing an interesting site on digital tabletPopular Network Systems

The two most important radio networks in home automation right now are Z Wave and Zigbee. Both of these technologies work as mesh networks. Mesh networks operate with allowing more than a single way for the message to get to its destination.

Z Wave works with Source Routing Algorithm to determine the fastest route for messages. Every Z Wave device has an embedded code. When you plug the device into a system, the network controller identifies the code and then attaches it to the network. When you send a command from the transmitter the controller makes use of the algorithm and selects the way the message should be sent. There is a hierarchy amongst all device that is self developed by the system.

ZigBee on the other hand sends messages zigzag in order to find the best path for the message to reach the appliance. Any company can create a product that is compatible with ZigBee. It also uses the standard IEEE has set in its platform, which means that manufacturers do not have to pay a license fee for it.

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