Smart Homes: Wi-Fi or what?

Smart Homes, they’re the latest thing! It seems barely a week goes by without another company bringing out the latest ‘must-have’ gadget! From speakers that tell you what the weather is to egg trays that warn your phone when you’re out of eggs (seriously), there seems to be a solution for everything! But regardless of what you choose and how useful the product might be, the bigger question is how does everything talk to each other? Do you need hundreds of smart hubs or different apps? Or can you truly link items together in the ‘internet of things’? To answer these questions, we’re going to give you a quick run through of the different standards out there for item communication.

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Wi-Fi:

Why not just use your home Wi-Fi? Wi-Fi is very energy intensive and therefore uses up batteries quickly. It also has a limited range and can slow down considerably when multiple devices and users are online. Think how your home Wi-Fi can slow down with multiple people online, now add in your toaster, door lock, lightbulbs etc… 

Apple Homekit:

Despite what we’ve just said Apple HomeKit uses your Wi-Fi network to link products together then uses the HomeKit app and Siri to control them. This system does not use a hub when you’re at home, but if you want to use it remotely, you need either an iPad permanently left on the Wi-Fi network or an Apple TV to act as a hub. HomeKit is a relatively expensive system and adoption has been slow by big companies, however there are still lots of compatible products out there.

Bluetooth:

Low power, but also low range. It’s also not ideal regarding how items pair. Most manufacturers tend not to use Bluetooth (or use it in conjunction with other transmission modes), despite most people being aware of the protocol. 

Z-Wave/Zigbee:

These are the two most established ways of smart things communicating. Both work with a hub, but can only talk to each other (so you can’t have a Z-Wave lightbulb linking to a Zigbee hub). You can however get hubs that contain both Zigbee and Z-Wave compatibility, such as Samsung SmartThings currently. Zigbee creates a mesh network with items able to communicate with each other all linked by a hub, although setup can be tricky. ZigBee items do not always work together and it’s not as simple as just buying ZigBee devices, as manufacturers have to allow their items to talk to competitors. So your ZigBee LG product might not talk to your ZigBee Samsung product.

Z-Wave functions in a similar way to ZigBee, although the products tend to be more expensive but work better together due to Z-Wave being a proprietary system licensed by one company.

Thread:

Built on open standards and IPv6 technology with 6LoWPAN as its foundation, Thread offers numerous technological advantages over other wireless standards including secure and reliable networks with no single point of failure, simple connectivity and low power. Thread has some of the biggest players in technology invested in it, with Google, Samsung, Philips and more all Thread members. Novo is also a Thread member as we believe Thread will be the dominant communication protocol of the future. Thread certified components work easily together and allow up to 250 devices to connect effortlessly and securely.

So there you have it. A variety of different protocols, that MAY let your devices talk to each other. It’s a confusing time currently for the Internet of Things and it’s certainly worth considering what is actually inside the product you buy. Also remember that whatever protocol you decide on, although we recommend Thread, you still need an app or control system that allows you to use the product! That’s why here at Novo we’re always interested in learning what products our customers want so we can easily add in the extra functionality, yet another advantage of using Thread. There’s no point connecting a Thread light to your system if your app does not have a control for lights after all.

 

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