SMARTPHONE CONTROL AND HOME AUTOMATION

security, thermostats, lighting/appliances, locks, garage doors, and more!

What is all the talk about Home Automation and controlling your home remotely? It’s everywhere: TV commercials, magazines and online.  You know it is possible but what does it actually entail?

How much does it cost? How much work will it take? What is possible and how does it work? You have questions and we have answers.

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THE WORLD OF SMARTPHONE CONTROL AND HOME AUTOMATION:

How does it work?

The idea of being able to remotely control utilities in your home is not a new idea. It has been possible for many years but until recently, the technology has not been reliable enough to make it worth the investment. The technology is now available and widely installed.

BASICS

The simplest way to understand the entire process is that you have devices that are installed in your home in conjunction with a main controller. The controller is connected to the internet “cloud” and can work with an application on your smartphone or program / website on your computer. Through the remote connection, you can control devices manually through your smartphone / computer, via a schedule or based on events with your security system.

In order to control devices in your home you need four separate elements:

  • A main controller (security system or third party controller)
  • Remote connection capability (internet or cellular)
  • Devices (security devices, thermostat, light switches, etc.) installed in your home that are capable of receiving commands from the controller
  • A device to control them remotely (smartphone or home computer)

Connectivity: The controller and the installed devices in the home communicate with each other in one of two ways: wirelessly or a wired connection.

Wireless automation is more cost effective and simpler to install but it does have its drawbacks. Most common are issues with range and connectivity in the home. The most common wireless technology on the market is called Z-zwaveWave. Z-Wave is an open source wireless protocol that various manufacturers have agreed to use so that devices can “speak” with each other regardless of manufacturer. This was one of the big breakthroughs in the industry.

Z-wave works on a mesh network in your home. A Mesh network means that devices which are too far outside their range to “speak” with controller directly, can receive signals by having other devices on the network “repeat” or pass on the signal through the other devices. All devices on the network help each other ensure that the other devices are getting the commands from the main controller.

In the end, with Z-Wave, the more devices you have on your network, the more reliable your network is.

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Wired automation is more costly but also more reliable and considered to be the preferred method in the industry.

At Independent Alarm, we use a technology called UPB that sends the commands from your phone / computer over the existing 120 volt wiring already in your home. This technology has proven itself time and time again to be incredibly reliable and trouble free.

Types of Controllers:

SECURITY SYSTEMS

The most common type of controllers are security systems with home automation capabilities. This is quite common and most new or relatively new security systems (3-5 years old) have this capability built in. Your security system is ideal because it is already connected to the outside world and it controls the most important function: SECURITY.

The security system must be connected to either the internet or have a stand-alone cellular communicator built into it. Speak with Independent Alarm to determine if you are connected to your central station via an internet or cellular connection.

There are many types of security systems with various models / software versions available, too many to list here. Call or email Independent Alarm to discuss your options.

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THIRD PARTY CONTROLLERS

There are manufactures of third party controllers on the market that can automate items in your home and allow you to control them remotely. The controllers are usually stand-alone systems that do not communicate with your security system. They simply control the devices in your home.

These types of controllers are few and far between because they are typically a redundant system in a home. Why not solely use your security system if you already have one in your home?

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Types of Connected Devices and the Installation Process

The most common type of items installed are: security devices, light switches, lamp module, outlets, thermostats, and door locks.  Switches, outlets, and thermostats are available in UPB and Z-Wave configurations. Door locks, due to the nature of a free swinging door, are only available via Z-Wave.

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Installation:

Essentially, for each item you want to control, you will have to purchase and have installed an appropriate Z-Wave or UPB capable switch, outlet, thermostat, or door lock.  Light switches are typically handled by electricians, thermostats by HVAC professionals, and door locks by locksmiths.

Independent Alarm can coordinate the installation of these devices with the third party installers.

How to Control Remotely

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A connected Smartphone with a data plan and / or a laptop / tablet computer can be used to control your system.

Android and iPad / iPhones are the most common type of smartphones that controllers can communicate with. Blackberry and Windows phones work with some models of controllers.

Once the system is set up at your home, a remote connection to the cloud is created by Independent Alarm. Typically this “piggybacks” on the security monitoring that you may already be incurring.  After the connection is set up, simply download / install the appropriate application for the system and you are online with the installed system. A user name and password are typically required for access to the software. The credentials are also supplied by Independent Alarm.

If you are interested in seeing what it takes to have your home set up for some basic or advanced automation, please contact Independent Alarm at 856-854-9222. Have questions about how the estimate process works? See a description of how we do business here.

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