While we bandy the words “Smart” and “connected” devices and “Internet of Things” around as if they were simply synonymous with one another, the truth is that while they’re closely related, the don’t in fact mean the same thing. So which is which and what’s what? Read on for a quick walk around the basics.
First of all, let’s look at Smart technology. Smart is actually an acronym for “Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology” meaning that you are able to control the devices by voice or app, and check back on them via the app on your phone or computer. If the device is battery operated it will let you know in advance when the power levels are getting low, and you can see other diagnostic data when you look at the settings or status data your Smart devices are feeding back to you.
Smarter Living Isn’t Just Easier, It’s Safer Too
This information is not only convenient, it can be a lifesaver if it means that your smoke alarm sends you a text message or email to let you know well in advance that the battery is getting low or it needs cleaning. If you’re planning on going away from home, or have devices which operate independently at a remote location, such as wireless CCTV cameras which are activated via motion detection then having a handy reminder to fit fresh batteries long before they run down.
Smart Technology communicates with itself via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G and can obey direct commands, either through a built in microphone or via an app which you’ll need to download to your phone or tablet.
Connected devices is a broad brush which describes all the items which can be controlled via your smart home network, that is, the devices which you can control through your home hub, be that a Smart home speaker or Google Assistant. Some of these IOT and connected devices also are credible for Appliance Insurance. When you say “Alexa, turn on the XXX” or “Hey Google, switch the XXX off” the object which comes on or off is the connected device. It’s connected because it can be controlled, but it’s not Smart because it doesn’t operate independently or give reports on its status.
Home Automation Controls Your Living Environment
Home automation refers to the devices which specifically control service around the house. Heating control, air conditioning and lighting and security all come under the banner ‘Smart Home Automation.’
The ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT is the general term for all devices which can connect to the internet via your home system. Because you can turn the lights on in the UK when you’re in New York for example, via an app on your phone which is connected to the local Wi-Fi, this makes your lights part of the IoT.
The IoT poses potential security risks for a variety of reasons. If you don’t secure all the IoT devices which you use in your home they can hacked to reveal details about your home network which can then be used to garner additional data. For example, a lightbulb which is on the IoT can be used to get access to apps you use to control the CCTV.
“If This Then That” or ‘IFTTT’ refers not to a particular device, or range of products but a sequence of events which are triggered by something else happening. Device on the IFTTT network don’t need to be smart, or even ‘connected’ themselves. For example, if you tell your home assistant to turn on the bathroom lights the boiler can be made to turn on automatically in order to ensure there’s enough hot water for your shower. So you don’t need to specify the boiler coming on every time you turn on the lights. This can be achieved through the use of Smart plugs which control the power supply and other devices which react to changes such as thermostats and light sensors.
Why We Rely On Wi-Fi
All of these technologies rely heavily on a strong Wi-Fi signal, or for the best reception, a cable connection. While other protocols may be operating, such as Bluetooth, infra-red or Li-Fi (wireless data sent through light), it’s your home Wi-Fi signal which unifies all of the devices. This is because your Smart Home Hub receives and transmits in all these media, but the standard means of connecting all the apps on your phone or tablet will be via the home Wi-Fi network.
And Why Cable Is Still Invaluable
So, in order to have the very best wireless home network, a top of the range Wi-Fi router is vital, as is data communication cabling. Your Wi-Fi router comes with cable ports in the back, and it’s a great idea to use them! If you have immobile devices such as desktop computers, TVs, or any other devices which benefit from a strong, uninterrupted data connection it’s worth plugging them in for several reasons.
Firstly they won’t be interrupted by solid objects moving between them and the router, by interference from mobile phones, radios, or any other signal issues.
Secondly plugging big high data use devices in frees up wireless capacity for other devices which you’ll want to have running at the same time.
The landscape for wireless, IoT and Smart technology is only going to grow, and, in order to be able to keep up with developments, you need to be expandable too. To enjoy a connected home in the future, it’s going to be necessary to ensure that your home infrastructure can cope with the developments in technology, and the burden that these new devices place upon it.