Smart Homes or Smarthomes, are like any other home, with only additional control options for lights, plugs, thermostats and more. If you are setting up your first smarthome or updating an existing one, it is essential to understand how they work as you make decisions about what to add. And with smarthomes, it’s all about radios and brains.
Your smart gadgets are powered by radio
There is something in common when it comes to devices that power smart homes: it’s a radio. For Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth or patented specifications, the big difference between smart devices and non-smart versions is the radio.
But that radio does not give intelligence to your bulbs, plugs and doorbell. It is there for communication. You may think that your devices communicate directly with your mobile or tablet and vice versa.
But that is generally not true. In other cases where it is, such as Bluetooth, that is always the end of the story. Almost all your smart devices communicate with an intermediary, you can call them the brains of your Smarthome if you wish.
Your Smarthome requires a brain, sometimes more than one
At this point, you should know when talking to your Echo or Google Home devices; They transmit your voice to Amazon and Google servers for interpretation. Without that process, voice assistants do not understand a word of what you say. The truth is that almost all your smart devices work in a similar way.
Before your smart ring video reaches your mobile, travel through the bell manufacturer’s servers. When you press the off button on the Philips Hue application, that signal passes from your smartphone to your wireless router, to the Philips hub. That concentrator communicates with Hue bulbs to turn them off.
Think of servers or hubs as the brain of your smarthome. That’s where the intelligence is. Not on the devices themselves and not on the physical applications or remote controls that you use to interact with them.
Similarly, those servers and hubs allow additional skills beyond switching on and off. They provide routines, facial recognition, automations, voice control and more.
Your Smarthome can interact with many devices
But what you should keep in mind is that your Smarthome can have more than one set of brains. Your Google Home connects to Google’s servers; Your Philips Hue bulbs connect to a Philips hub, Lutron to your hub, etc.
Some manufacturers design devices to communicate with universal hubs, such as Z-wave devices that connect to a SmartThings or Hubitat hub, but you may still need to involve other servers and hubs in the company for interaction between all your devices.
Philips Hue bulbs can work with a SmartThings Hub, for example, but they still use Philips Hub in the process.
More brains means more gadgets, more complications and maybe lag
Knowing that your smart device communicates with something (a hub, a server, etc.) is essential because Smarthomes work better when everything works together. If you prefer to talk to your home to control it, but the light does not work with Alexa, then it may not be a smart light.
Fortunately, device manufacturers understand this and usually try to work with as many different services as possible. So if you have already decided on a particular brand of bulbs when you add motion sensors, you should verify that they communicate with your bulbs effectively. Most importantly, you should pay attention to how they interact.
Each additional “brain” in the chain has points of failure and possibilities of delay. For example, imagine creating a routine that turns on the lights in your living room when you get home and open the door.
If your smart lock works with Wi-Fi and your lights with Z-wave, then the data that you have come home should travel from your lock to your router, to the cloud of the smart lock, back to your router, to your hub, and then to your lights. The cloud and the center will see the data and decide what to do with it.
The delay shouldn’t be a problem for your Smarthome
Eventually, those additional trips imply delay. It can be less or very noticeable depending on the speed of your internet, the devices involved and the servers and hubs. A completely locally controlled system (all Z-wave through a cloudless hub like Hubitat or Home); It will almost always work faster than a system that uses the cloud.
But leaving the cloud can limit the devices you can use and even prevent voice control, which depends exclusively on the servers in the cloud to function.
Beyond misinterpreted data, another point of failure for households with “multiple brains” is when a device manufacturer closes or changes access rights. Your center may stop working or the service you use; Like Nest, you can cut access completely. And your Smarthome could break for this simple reason.
Add additional devices carefully
But the more you can limit the jumps you make through different hubs and servers, the better your home will be. And when inevitable, try to choose a “dominant” brain or a “control.”
As much as possible, send your devices through a hub, either a Smarthome hub or a voice assistant. When giving control to a service, you will at least limit the application jump when it is time to create routines, automations and even basic controls.
And your best bet to keep control of how your smart devices interact is to start with a good understanding of how they interact and what controls those interactions.