Dan Gold

Smart home compatibility: towards an open eco system?

12 April 2019

Houston, we have a compatibility problem. They say a smart home makes your life easier, but it can be really though also. Especially when you are trying to figure out if the device you just bought can be integrated with your Alexa (wireless) or your KNX set-up (wired). Although the industry is moving towards a more open ecosystem, compatibility is still a complex issue today.

Does this device work with that technology?

Compatibility is a story of this works with that. It may be the most complex and frustrating question in the smart home business. Especially when you're blending devices from different manufacturers. Can I connect my Philips Hue lights with my Samsung Smartthings app that also manages my shutters? Can I control the same lights via Alexa or the Google Assistant? And which smart alarm system should I buy to ensure the lights go out when leaving? As you can tell, a simple action as buying smart lights raises a lot of questions for your smart home. Confusing? Hell yeah!

There are thousands of smart home technologies, hubs, devices, control apps and visualisation tools. This also means that chances are higher that what you want to connect is rather not compatible at all.

There are thousands of smart home technologies, hubs, devices, control apps and visualisation tools. This also means that chances are higher that what you want to connect is rather not compatible at all.

But there's no issue when I have a smart home hub, right?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question depends on your smart home hub. Some of them only work with their own products. Loxone for example is a closed system that offers a certain amount of functionalities that can only be controlled by their software app.

Other popular centralized hubs offer a growing range of integrations themselves. Today, you can control a lot of smart devices with an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home thanks to their growing popularity. Some automation standards are open source which means almost every manufacturer can build products that integrate with their software. Picture-perfect example here: KNX. Over 400 manufacturers worldwide have produced KNX certified devices, so that you always find a compatible device that meets your need.

Basalte's handmade luxury control devices work with the KNX standard.


  Basalte

In an ideal scenario, you choose the smart home hub that has all the functionalities and integrations with the products you have in mind. But we know that such a careful planned process isn't always the case. Maybe a closed ecosystem was perfect for your home -until now- when you want to connect an extra functionality not available within your current hub. So is an open source standard such as KNX the safer option? Yes, but it also brings a higher price tag. The choice is yours.

Can I use IFTTT to ensure compatibility?

With the IFTTT app you can connect two channels with each other following the If This Then That formula. So if your devices have a channel for IFTTT, this can certainly help you make a connection that isn't provided by the devices themselves, but success isn't necessarily guaranteed. Moreover, it can be complex to program the routines.

Are we heading towards more compatibility?

A difficult question to answer but it looks like more and more manufacturers are looking further than their own eco system and are opening up their technology to integrations with other hubs and systems. This is definitely a positive evolution for consumers who desire more freedom of choice. In the meantime, a worldwide supported technology already offers a wide spectrum of possibilities and brands to still your smart home hunger.

Further reading