IoT vs. Home Automation
Is There a Difference, and Why Should You Care?
To cut to the chase on our premise, yes, there is a difference, and you should care. Even though the economy here in the San Francisco Bay Area is largely based in technology companies and residents are more than familiar with these terms, it’s still useful to start with some definitions.
Much is written about IoT, which is an acronym for the Internet of Things. The “things” refer to smart devices that have internet connectivity and enough intelligence within them - chips and software - to do “smart things.” Think of your smartphone as one of those smart things, and for that matter, your tablet or laptop. We all know what they do for us every day.
The other side of IoT is how the intelligence being built into devices is changing industries and the way we live. IoT is an all-encompassing term about how smart devices can communicate with each other and take advantage of information over the internet to do things like never before. For example, IoT will make a significant impact on healthcare. Devices that monitor physical data like blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar will be able to use that data and the power of cloud computing to warn of a stroke in a diabetes patient - before it happens. Another example is the self-driving automobile. The automobile was once not a particularly smart device needing a human driver. With the power of advanced computing, sensors, sophisticated software, and internet connectivity, cars can drive themselves and navigate to a destination without your input. We may not be to that level yet - but we’ve seen that future and know it’s coming.
So where does home automation fit into this equation? Home automation is but one part of IoT. Smart devices like Nest thermostats, smart lights, video doorbells, and Samsung's smart refrigerators are all part of the Internet of Things. Why? Because they can all share information and offer control of their operation over the internet to other applications. And as IoT devices, that means you can do smart things with them, like adjust your thermostat and lights when you leave the house, automatically. More than that, as part of IoT, these devices can do even smarter things. In some cities, intelligent thermostats can participate in demand-response programs to help curb peak electricity loads and keep the energy grid stable. This is another example of what IoT can do in the future, beyond simple remote control and automation.
Getting closer to home, let's take a more in-depth look at how true home automation is more than a collection of smart IoT devices, and why that's important.
The Importance of Ecosystems
In our blog a couple of months ago on voice control systems, we discussed the relevance of ecosystems. In home automation, ecosystems are significant. Just because a device is part of the Internet of Things doesn't mean it works seamlessly with everything. Unlike browsers like Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome, which work with 98% of the world's websites, home automation devices play within their own ecosystems. Some devices, like the Nest thermostat, work across some home automation systems to some extent for control. But to get the most out of it, including its machine learning functionality, only Google's apps can take full advantage of it.
The major takeaway with ecosystems is that you need to be careful that your smart device works well within it. In other words, the only way to do more sophisticated home automation sequences is only within that ecosystem and its devices. So if you have a variety of devices that work within Google Home and Amazon Alexa, you may not be able to get them to play well together.
True Home Automation
What do we mean by true home automation? It’s a solution that enables you to manage your home the way you want. It may mean controlling your smart features with something more than a smartphone app - like a wall-mounted keypad or an AV remote control with real buttons. It means having both hands-off and hands-on control, such as having precise control of individual lights but also having automated control over a houseful of lights, inside and out. It might mean exercising control over devices that are not inherently smart, like a sprinkler controller or a pool pump system, and having them coordinated with other functions.
For that level of home automation, you may need different solutions that not only work with smart consumer devices like Nest but also bring them into comprehensive smart home systems. Products like Josh.Ai for voice control and systems like Control4 and Savant are examples of solutions to take your home automation to the next level. What you want isn't just a set of IoT devices - no matter how hip that might sound - but a smart home system that works cohesively, seamlessly, and the way you want.
If you need something more than a collection of smart devices, Twilight Solutions can help you achieve the home automation system you really want. We are proud to serve clients in the Bay Area and beyond, from Atherton, Woodside and San Francisco to Napa and Walnut Creek. Give us a call or click our chatbox below to be quickly connected to one of our specialists. We look forward to working with you!