The topic of smart home has been on everyone’s lips ever since the voice assistants Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. More and more households own a smart speaker with one of the smart assistants on board. But smart home is much more than just using Siri to ask about the weather. We’ll explain exactly what that is now.
Definition: What is a smart home?
A smart home is a household in which devices communicate with each other, act and are controlled centrally. The networked devices automatically take over work and tasks in your home. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a house or an apartment. There are smart home products for every type of home that suit your everyday life.
Communication between the individual smart home components is increasingly wireless. Data is usually transmitted either by radio, WLAN or Bluetooth. In new buildings, wired solutions are also used in some cases. The reason: If more and more devices are working in a network, it quickly becomes overloaded. Wired systems are also considered to be less susceptible. However, their installation is much more complex.
In a smart home, your everyday life is more comfortable, more energy-efficient and more secure.
In most cases, apps on your smartphone or tablet take over the control. It doesn’t matter whether you use Android or iOS as your operating system. Smart home manufacturers often offer apps for both systems. Another convenient option: voice assistants. Thanks to Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, you can control your devices simply by voice command.
Due to the increasing number of manufacturers, the desire for compatibility has also increased among users in recent years. Smart home systems integrate products from different manufacturers under one roof. In this way, they simplify the control and management of smart homes enormously. The best-known systems include Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home with Google Assistant. But providers such as Bosch, innogy and Telekom with Magenta SmartHome are also convincing with high-quality products.
- Advantages of a Smart Home at a glance
- More comfort
- More security
- More free time
- Less work
- Ease of use
- Home automation
Fields of application: What are the possibilities with a smart home?
The possibilities of a smart home are now almost unlimited. An intelligent home automation makes your everyday life easier and at the same time increases your safety and comfort. In addition, your smart home helps you save electricity and thus protect the environment. To give you an idea of what you can do with a networked home, here are six application examples.
Application 1: Intelligent light
Smart lighting in your home makes your life much more pleasant. With an innovative lighting system, the light in your smart home automatically adapts to your everyday life. For example, you can wake up naturally with a slowly dimming light in your bedroom. Or create a romantic atmosphere for a candlelight dinner with just one voice command. Lighting systems like Philips Hue offer you a choice of 16 million colors. Of course, smart lamps also dim down again in the evening so that you slowly get tired and fall asleep well.
Wake up in the morning with a gently dimming light with smart lighting systems like Philips Hue.
Another possible application is presence simulation.
With it, you can make others think you’re at home with random-based schedules – even though you’re on vacation. Or you can program your lighting system in such a way that it already switches on the outdoor lighting when you come home, based on your GPS data.
Application 2: Increased security through smart security systems
Of course, you increase the security of your house or apartment not only by presence simulation via light. Among the most important components of a smart security system are, of course, surveillance cameras.
No matter if indoor or outdoor cameras: Good smart surveillance systems convince with push notifications in case of uninvited guests, a picture in HD quality even at night, intercom function and live access. So you always have your home in view and are immediately warned in case of a break-in. And it doesn’t matter where you are. In the event of a break-in, you can notify the police immediately, even when you’re on vacation.
Indoor cameras increase the security in your home.
Video doorbells are also useful. Similar to surveillance cameras, they offer extra security. In addition to video surveillance, they also notify you on your smartphone when someone rings the doorbell. This is not only practical if you want to tell a parcel carrier where to leave the package, but also if you normally don’t hear the doorbell in the garden.
Another important component of a smart security system is smart locks and door/window sensors. While the smart door locks automatically grant you and your guests access if you wish, the sensors always keep you in the picture as to whether the windows or the balcony door are really closed. This uneasy feeling when leaving your own four walls – you will never have it again.
Application 3: Intelligent heating control
With smart heating, you can make your everyday life much more comfortable – but also more environmentally friendly. Intelligent heating systems regulate the temperature in every room so that you can maintain your desired temperature at all times. To do this, you can create schedules for when you are at home or use location-based control, known as geofencing. With this, your heating knows exactly whether you are on your way home and starts to heat.
With smart schedules, you can easily create your own personal feel-good atmosphere. And protect the environment at the same time.
A warm living room when you come home from work in winter? Thanks to a smart heating system, you no longer have to keep the heating on all the time. The same goes for a cozy bathroom in the morning. This saves you a lot of energy and heating costs, and at the same time protects the environment.
Heating systems for your smart home work with a wide variety of energy sources. Whether it’s oil heating in the basement or a gas boiler on the wall – intelligent heating controls and smart radiator thermostats bring more comfort into your home.
Application 4: Smart household helpers
Vacuuming – really few people like to do this tedious job. In a smart home, vacuuming robots take over this task. And they like to do it when you’re not at home. The new generations precisely measure your home, which you then divide into different zones. You then simply assign different schedules and priorities to these zones. For example, your robot vacuums the kitchen every morning and evening, while it only vacuums the bedroom every three days.
But smart plug adapters also help you in the household. You can use them to switch on your coffee machine, for example, at the touch of a button or on a schedule. This way, you can enjoy the smell of coffee every morning while you’re still taking a quick shower.
Application 5: Speakers in the smart home
Bluetooth speakers are already a standard feature today. Even in unconnected households. With them, you can easily stream music from your favorite app to your speaker.
Your music wherever you are, with the JBL Link 20 and the Vifa Reykjavik Bluetooth speaker.
Your options are even more diverse with a WLAN speaker or even a multi-room system like SONOS. With this technology, you can continue to use your smartphone or tablet as normal. Interruptions of the music by incoming calls? No chance with WLAN. Thanks to Multiroom, you can listen to your music simultaneously in all rooms or a different song in each room. Loudspeaker groups are also easy to set up.
Smart speakers also work with integrated voice assistants. For example, the Google Home models have Google Assistant, the Amazon Echo series Alexa and the Apple HomePod Siri on board. All smart speakers play individual songs and playlists on command and inform you about titles and artists on request. Of course, you can also control the volume with your voice.
Google Assistant is now integrated into the SONOS One.
In a smart home, the music can of course also be automated. For example, let your favorite song greet you when you come home or adjust your background music to your light scenes.
When choosing your speakers, the range of available streaming apps is always a decisive factor. Unfortunately, not all smart home speaker manufacturers work with all music services. This is especially true for control via voice assistants. Thus, you cannot yet call up music from Apple Music via Google Assistant on your SONOS speaker. But here, too, the trend is towards more interconnectivity.
If you’re thinking about buying a new smart speaker, be sure to check out our speaker guide and our SONOS type advice.
Application 6: Smart Garden
Your smart home no longer stops at your own four walls. You can also make your balcony or garden smart with a variety of options. When it comes to Smart Garden, lawn care and garden watering are the most commonly used applications.
GARDENA robotic lawnmower app
Control your GARDENA robotic mower conveniently via app or voice command.
In a Smart Garden, a robotic mower takes over the lawn mowing. It not only relieves you of annoying work fully automatically, but also cares for your lawn at the same time. It mows regularly according to schedule, adjusts the mowing frequency to the weather conditions and supplies your lawn with fertilizer thanks to mulching technology. Our comparison of the best robotic mowers will help you find your way through the countless models.
Smart irrigation systems reliably supply your plants with water. In this segment, GARDENA offers you a very comprehensive solution. The app supports you in creating optimal schedules for the different plants, enables remote control and adapts the irrigation with additional sensors to the specific requirements of your garden, terrace or balcony. For a better overview, take a look at our comparison of the different irrigation systems.
Application examples of a smart home at a glance
- Intelligent light for more comfort and security
- Monitoring your home against burglary and fire
- Less work in the household through robots
- Feel good and save money with smart heating controls
- Maximum entertainment fun with smart speakers and multi-room systems
- Less work and better care in the garden and on the balcony
How does Smart Home work?
Now that you know a few application examples, let’s get down to the function of your smart home. No matter which smart home system or smart home devices you choose, the principle of operation is basically the same.
Smart home control center
With a few exceptions like Eve, almost all smart home manufacturers rely on a central unit, also called a bridge or gateway. This device manages and controls the connected components. Unfortunately, in the meantime, there are usually always different control centers in use for the different products. This means that even if you operate your devices with an app, for example, the Philips Hue Bridge works in the background for your smart light and the tado° Bridge for your smart heating.
Smart Home Bridge tado
The tado° Bridge controls the smart heating system and takes over, for example, the remote control of your thermostats.
However, there are also smart home control centers from individual manufacturers such as Bosch, innogy or Telekom, to which devices from other manufacturers can also be connected.
The smart home control center also handles the integration of your smart home into the Internet. This allows you to remotely control your smart devices and location-based controls via geofencing. Updates of your smart home products are usually also carried out via the smart home bridge. In this way, the manufacturers continuously provide new functions and the security of your smart home.
The communication of the different devices in your smart home is the decisive factor for the automation of your everyday life. It takes place either by cable or wirelessly. The transmission standards used determine whether the products in your smart home can communicate with each other.
The trend in the smart home sector is clearly towards wireless communication. It offers you more flexibility during installation and also makes the setup much easier. Because you don’t have to lay any cables.
With IFTTT, all common online services and contexts can be combined.
The most commonly used transmission standards include WLAN, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth. Some manufacturers also use special radio frequencies. Data transmission is usually encrypted, so your data is transmitted securely. However, the dominant standards are not only characterized by their security, but also by their compatibility. This means that smart home devices from different manufacturers can talk to each other.
Using the Internet service IFTTT (If this then that), you can also create rules that bring together smart products with different transmission standards. You can find some examples in our tutorial for IFTTT and GARDENA.
Sensors in the Smart Home
The automation in your smart home is based on the principle of sensors and actuators. A sensor measures a state. This can be physical values such as brightness, humidity, temperatures, movements or sound. Or whether contacts are closed or open. The sensors pass this information on to other devices, usually the smart home control center. They serve as triggers for further smart home actions.
Task of actuators
These actions are performed by the so-called actuators. They perform a mechanical movement or an electrical impulse based on sensor information. As a result of this principle, smart WLAN lamps, for example, turn blue as soon as the thermometer outside indicates minus degrees. Or the temperature sensor of a smart radiator thermostat signals that the set temperature has been reached. The radiator thermostat then switches off the supply of hot water to the radiator.
Control with apps
Your smart home is often controlled via the manufacturer’s apps. It usually doesn’t matter which operating system is running on your smartphone or tablet. The smart home devices usually have an Android and an iOS version of the apps.
However, this also means that as the size and complexity of your smart home increases, so does the number of apps on your phone. But more and more manufacturers are relying on the dominant smart home systems from Google, Amazon and Apple. This way, you only use one central app for all your smart devices.
Voice assistants: When your smart home listens to your command
In addition to apps, another convenient control option has become popular in recent years: Voice assistants. These digital helpers, also called smart assistants, execute commands on voice command or pass them on to other smart products.
Google Assistant not only controls your music, but also helps you in your everyday life.
Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant dominate the market. The voice assistants not only work in smart home devices, but also on your smartphone or even on smartwatches like the Apple Watch.
The possibilities of voice assistants are very diverse. Besides smart home control, playing music, answering questions and navigation are among the most used applications. Unfortunately, not all smart home devices work with all voice assistants. The choice of new products therefore always depends on the digital assistant you use.
Overview of how a smart home works
- A control center controls and manages the devices
- Sensors measure physical states and mechanical contacts
- Actuators perform actions based on the sensor information
- Control of devices via apps and voice control
- Automatic actions based on rules
What smart home systems are there?
As already briefly mentioned, as the number of devices in your smart home grows, so does the complexity – and the number of apps. This can quickly become annoying and cumbersome to control.
With the integration of your smart devices in cross-manufacturer smart home systems, the operation is simplified considerably. Here, the control is done via a central app or voice assistant. Here, too, the big companies Apple, Amazon and Google have prevailed. But in addition, there are other manufacturers such as Bosch, Telekom and innogy that offer good smart home systems.
Smart home with Google
The central component in Google’s smart home system is the Google Assistant. As a voice assistant and app on smartphone, tablet and smart display, it controls your smart home and helps you in your everyday life.
The linking of your smart devices with the Google Assistant is done via the Google Home app. According to Google, more than 10,000 products can currently be integrated into the in-house system. This is always possible if the manufacturers of the products offer the so-called Google Home Actions. The products are then controlled either by voice assistant or via the Google Home app. The app is available for Android and iOS.
For Google’s smart home system, you don’t need your own hardware, since it works without its own control center. Networking is done via the Internet, so you can also control all connected products on the go.
Would you like to see a few examples? Then check out our overview of the most important commands for Google Assistant. There’s also something to laugh about – we promise.
Apple’s counterpart goes by the name Apple HomeKit. HomeKit also doesn’t need its own control panel for the basic functions. Everything you need to get started can be found on your iPhone, MacBook, iPad or Apple Watch. We don’t just mean Siri, which also works on the Apple HomePod. Rather, you manage and control your smart home system via the Home app.
The integration is done via a HomeKit code, the control requires no more than a few clicks. However, automations and scenes are only possible via a HomeKit control center. The same applies to the operation of. An iPad from generation 4, an Apple tv or a HomePod are suitable for this. The control center must be continuously connected to the Internet.
Comparing the compatible devices, Apple HomeKit supports far fewer devices. The integration into the Apple world is all the more convincing for it. The devices are operated intuitively and Siri also offers comprehensive voice control.
Amazon Alexa, with the voice assistant of the same name, is also one of the most used smart home systems. Alexa is also at home on your smartphone or tablet. In addition, Amazon offers you numerous smart speakers with integrated voice assistants. Some of the speakers in the Amazon Echo series also have a built-in Zigbee hub. This means that you can connect Zigbee-compatible devices without a separate control center. In addition to the apps, this also saves some smart home gateways.
Amazon Alexa, like HomeKit and Google Home, uses the manufacturers’ control centers. The integration of your smart home devices is done via the well-known Alexa Skills, which offer Amazon access to the devices.
- Advantages of smart home systems at a glance
- Control of devices from different manufacturers via one app
- Automations devices from different manufacturers in one system
- Voice control
How do I set up a smart home?
Before things really get started, there are a few decisions to make. Which aspect of your home do you want to make smart? Do you want to build a complex smart home? Do you want to use a smart home system? We’re going to show you a few questions to ask yourself before you get started.
The two most important decision-making tools
The most important question you should ask yourself is, of course, the intended use. This is because it basically determines the selection of smart home products. For example, if you absolutely want a security camera with built-in floodlight, some manufacturers will be left out.
In addition, a rough choice of the smart home system is important right from the start. Because it also determines later decisions. For example, if you want a smart video doorbell from Ring, you are limited to Amazon Alexa. You don’t want to decide right at the beginning? Then choose the products with the greatest possible compatibility. Even if no voice assistant moves in with you at first: If you use an iPhone, the cooperation with Siri is of course an important aspect.
Start with starter sets
So-called starter sets are a good way to start off by making one area of your home smart. They usually consist of a control panel and one or more smart products. You can get started right away and don’t need any additional hardware.
The setup is usually quite easy via the manufacturer’s apps. The same also applies if you integrate your starter set into a smart home system from Apple, Amazon or Google right from the start. Simply use the Apple Home app, the Google Home app or the Alexa app on your smartphone.
More questions about Smart Home?