Trust home automation equipment
In recent years, cloud and mobile services have turned entire industries upside down and fundamentally changed the way we communicate and work with one another. As part of the Internet of Things, the topic of intelligent living - or smart home - is an essential part of the digitization boom. The smart home is also becoming increasingly important in the consumer market, as demonstrated not least by the premieres at CES 2017 and IFA 2017.
Research and development have also made great strides over the past few years and have produced intelligent room and building systems that by no means have to shy away from comparison with Hollywood's science fiction houses. In the meantime, however, there is also a market for less futuristic, affordable, easy to set up and, in the best of cases, retrofittable solutions. These are intended for a broad, environmentally conscious public who want more security, comfort and energy efficiency in their own four walls. With prices between 50 and 300 euros, current home automation systems can even be used in student stalls without any problems. On the following pages, we will introduce you to some smart home solutions that are already available on the German market and enable easy entry into the world of intelligent living.
Digitalstrom: Retrofittable intelligence
One of the best-known manufacturers of smart home systems is the Zurich company Digitalstrom. The Swiss have implemented a system for intelligent home control, which is primarily characterized by its simple installation and high flexibility: The basic concept of the Smart Home system from Digitalstrom is suitable for every type and brand of device. In addition, it can be assembled and disassembled with comparatively little effort: only a few terminals are attached to the fuse box. Linux-based microcomputers are located in the terminals, which are supplied with energy via the power lines and also use this for data transmission.
Digitalstrom promises that almost all electrical devices in the house or apartment can be networked without much effort. Incidentally, a smartphone or tablet is not absolutely necessary to control the smart home system - this can also be done using the light switch. Of course, a wide variety of devices in the house can be linked to one another and controlled automatically - also depending on one another.
innogy Smart Home: Smart portfolio with additional costs
Intelligent house control is also available from the energy giant RWE. The RWE system relies on a smart home hub with which numerous modules and sensors can be coupled. The automation system from RWE also covers the full range of intelligent control options, from smart radiator thermostats and weather stations to intelligent protection against water damage. RWE offers numerous devices in its online shop - also from third-party manufacturers such as Samsung, Netatmo or Smarter. The RWE Smart Home has been operating under the name innogy Smart Home since September 1, 2016.
The innogy Smart Home can also be controlled using an app on a smartphone or tablet (Android, iOS). However, many additional app functions with this offer come with (monthly) costs. For example, there is a free presence simulation, the possibility of linking individual devices (logic profiles) or the visualization of power consumption. The energy company can pay extra for an SMS notification function that is supposed to inform about defined events in the smart home, remote access to the system or the connection of devices from third-party manufacturers. The additional app functions cost up to 20 euros. These are not absolutely necessary for the operation of the system. A smart home starter package is available from around 300 euros and includes a control center, two radiator thermostats, as well as an adapter and wall transmitter.
- Presence simulation
Many smart home systems want to deter potential intruders with a presence simulation and thus increase security in the home. If the landlord is traveling or on the move, the shutters are automatically raised and lowered and the lighting switched on at normal times of the day.
Airplay is a proprietary protocol from Apple that was launched in 2010. It enables streaming of audio and video data between two compatible devices such as iPhone / iPad and a sound system. Airplay is usually more stable than its competitor DLNA, but only works with AirPlay-compatible devices from the Apple and iOS environment.
- Android / iOS
Like computers, smartphones and tablets also need an operating system on which the programs (called apps) run. The most important mobile platforms are Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Smart home manufacturers offer control apps for most devices for both platforms in order to be able to address the largest possible target group.
In the truest sense of the word, apps play a central role in the smart home sector: They take on important functions as a central unit for remote control and programming of household appliances, from lighting to heating. Many manufacturers offer free apps for their products, which can then be downloaded from the app store. The apps often run on different devices such as smartphones, tablets and sometimes even smartwatches.
When it comes to smart homes, people often talk about home automation. The basic idea is that various typical household tasks are performed by electronics with minimal human interaction. For example, an app on the smartphone can start the morning coffee or tea brewing according to a pattern programmed once, such as with the smart coffee machine and a kettle from Smarter.
- Bluetooth / Bluetooth LE
In addition to wireless LAN, Bluetooth is an important all-round wireless protocol in the smart home area with which devices can communicate with each other. With Bluetooth, "pairing" the devices is particularly easy - the range is limited to around ten meters. The fourth generation of Bluetooth LE (LE stands for "Low Energy"), also known as "BLE" or "Bluetooth Smart", is very energy-saving and is easy on the batteries.
- Cloud computing / cloud storage
Today everyone knows what cloud storage and cloud computing are, but both play a particularly important and central role in connection with the smart home. The sensors in the house or household appliances often send their data to an app or platform on the Internet. For example, if you want 24-hour surveillance with recording and storage via a smart camera, you can book a data plan for the surveillance camera Myfox.
The "Digital Living Network Alliance" was founded by Sony and Intel. The standard is intended to simplify the connection and data exchange of compatible devices via WLAN. DLNA is mostly used for streaming multimedia content to notebooks or TV sets.
Smart home products from the e-health category increase comfort by saving one or the other doctor's visit or by making life in your own four walls safer and healthier in old age. One example is the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, which measures blood pressure using a smartphone and can send the values to the family doctor by email. Other devices such as the Withings Home camera measure the air quality and report germs in the interior.
- Connected devices
A basic idea in the smart home are devices that talk to each other. For example, the motion detector could activate a camera when someone enters a room. A wall switch in smart home systems can control several devices at the same time, for example lighting, multimedia devices and heating.
- Digital stream
The system from the Swiss manufacturer Digitalstrom is very well known in the smart home sector. It wants to make almost all devices in the household remotely controllable via app. For this purpose, it only uses existing power lines, which can be retrofitted with a special terminal with a CPU.
- Heating control
Saving energy is one of the main advantages that smart home manufacturers want to use to win customers. The simple savings principle: energy is only used when it is actually needed. The heating system, which runs permanently in many apartments, has particularly great potential. An intelligent heating solution like the smart thermostat Tado can use the smartphone to tell whether you are leaving the house. The system then shuts down the heating to save energy. If you approach again, the system preheats the rooms.
- If This Then That / IFTTT
Smart devices can easily be controlled automatically. Programmed processes with logic are often required in interaction - for example, when the lighting is to be switched off and the surveillance camera switched on when leaving the house. With the If This Then That service, such logics can be programmed very easily with "recipes". Products such as Philips Hue or Google Nest are compatible with the service.
- Internet of Things / IoT (Internet of Things)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the generic term for the increasing number of smart devices with a connection to the Internet. Smart cameras can, for example, connect directly to the WiFi network and send live images to an app while you are on vacation.
HomeKit is Apple's in-house smart home platform that aims to bring home electronics devices for iOS under one standard. HomeKit-compatible products are marked with the "Works with HomeKit" seal. Users can easily start up the devices with a setup code and control them with the Siri voice assistant.
LED lamps play an important role in smart homes: They not only save electricity, but can also be dimmed or changed colors. For example, Elgato has the Avea cordless rechargeable lamps in its range. The LED lamps can be remotely controlled via app and can also call up dynamic profiles, for example in auroras or sunset style.
In the smart home, music plays not just in one room, but everywhere you happen to be. When several playback devices are combined into a centrally controllable system, this is called multiroom. One of the best-known manufacturers in this area is Sonos. Sonos systems can not only be controlled via an app, they also combine music from different sources (e.g. streaming services and internet radios) in one system.
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