Decision time! What smart home system suits you best?
Starting out with home automation, it may feel overwhelming at times. So to help you take the first steps in your home automation journey, we've set up 5 dilemmas to consider during your search for a suitable smart home system.
Starting off easy
1. Are you interested in home automation?
- Yes, but only in smart home devices.
- Yes, I would like to transform my entire home into a smart living situation.
Yes, but only in smart home devices
There is no right way, or one-size-fits all, when it comes to smart homes. But if you are a true tech-enthusiast and always on the lookout for the latest additions for your gadget-collection, but you're not looking to actually invest in large changes to your home setup, this article might not be for you as we'll be looking at automation systems and their characteristics.
Nonetheless, we encourage you to keep on reading, maybe we can change your mind.
Yes, I would like to transform my entire home into a smart living situation.
Well get ready, because we have a whole lot of decisions for you to make! From wired or wireless systems to what kind of community suits you best. So sit back, relax and read on.
Do you prefer...
2. A wired or a wireless system?*
Cabled systems, like KNX, have a strong reputation in the home automation industry. Their biggest asset? A very low risk of security breaches, as your hub has to be physically tempered with in order to get hacked. Further on, wires are more reliable than a wireless system as it wil guarantee a well-working connection throughout your entire home (even that small corner next to the TV). It's a one time investment without extra costs after installation and can offer you a lot more functionalities than a wireless system.
One thing to keep in mind: the wires of this system need to be installed into your walls, meaning that the installation of a wired system is more costly than that of a wireless. So if you’re renovating or have a new construction planned, it is the perfect investment to guarantee a future-proof smart home.
Wireless systems are mostly focused around one component of your home, for example automated light control, security sensors or smart assistants. These systems are more accessible for a broad group, resulting in a broader choice of smart brands. Unlike cabled systems, wireless systems can be easily integrated into an existing home at any time.
Though this first step to home automation seems fairly easy, in the long run you might run into some severe compatibility issues. It is highly probable that, let’s say, your lighting controls are not compatible with your voice controls, resulting in a big waste of your money. Other disadvantages are a higher security risk and black spots (places where your device doesn’t connect to your control system) in your home.
*You can also opt for a hybrid system by combining both wireless devices and a wired system in your home. Hybrid models often combine two brands of home automation: one that’s specialized in cabled automation (this will serve as the backbone of your smart home) and one that focuses on wireless domotica and devices. This is a big advantage as you profit from both their expertises. It is important, however, to choose a hybrid system right from the very start. Otherwise you might face the earlier mentioned compatibility issues.
Combining a smart home assistant with a wired system
3. An open or closed system?
With an open or non-proprietray system you can simply integrate one brand of home automation systems with other smart home brands. Contrary to closed systems, the software behind an open system is openly shared with users, technical engineers and even competitor brands. That way you won’t be limited to the products of just one brand. As a consumer of smart home devices, it's in your own advantage to support open systems:
- you will enjoy a wider range of products and brands
- your home automation experience will improve significantly
For example, KNX is the ultimate leading power in open systems: over 8,000 devices can be linked to their smart home system thanks to partnerships with accredited companies, such as Siemens and Gira.
Of course, there are advocates for proprietary, closed systems. When you opt for a proprietary system, simplicity is the name of the game. Produced by the same manufacturer, installation, customer care and more is all centralized hence much easier for you to get the help you need. Naturally, this can also be the case for non-proprietary systems since installers and providers must be certified in order to do so.
Read more about the differences between an open and a closed system to see which one meets your needs best.
4. A centralized or decentralized system
With a centralized system, all intelligence is collected in one unit. Making it more manageable for newcomers to smart home automation! Centralized systems are allround accessible and work very well, until you switch off the wrong settings and the whole system shuts down. Amazon’s Alexa and Google home, but also Loxone and Zigbee are examples of centralized systems.
With a decentralized system the intelligence of your devices is spread out over all your devices. Does this mean you have to throw away your home assistant? Absolutely not! Instead, opt for a hybrid system where you can connect your centralized systems to a decentralized one (smart home hub). Read more about the core differences in our article on centralized vs decentralized systems.
5. To rely on your own know-how or on an active community?
Damn it, your automation system has a malfunction, now what? If you're intrigued by all things digital and domotica and and you're quite hands-on, you can perfectly rely on your own expertise to fix a glitch. However, for many smart homeowners the technology behind their devices remains a big mystery.
So homeowners who aren't too tech-savvy can't fix a malfunctioning smart home system? Not necessarily. If the malfunction seems rather small, you might want to reach out to an online platform/community. Here, you can ask fellow homeowners about your problem. It's very likely that someone will have experienced a similar issue, and therefore knows how to fix it. You can quickly repair your smart device or system, while saving on costs for a professional tech engineer - double win!
Conclusion: there is an automation system for everyone
Depending on your needs and expectation from a home automation system, you will have a clear preference for one system type. If your still doubting your choice, you can always contact an independent technician, or scroll through our magazine.
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