Many people have some form of DIY automation device in their home even if it is a smart speaker or smart screen in the kitchen for recipes. So why would you look at an “integrated home automation solution”, and what does that really mean anyway?
The world of terminology ambiguity is rife in smart homes and automation – most people have different views of how automation and integration is defined. For me, ‘automation’ involves autonomous control configured to your needs – it thinks and acts as you want it to without you directly triggering an action. So ‘an integrated home automation solution’ has:
- A standalone (no internet) system that measures, monitors, changes and updates as the day progresses, every day all day
- A limited number of product brands that work together forming a solution
- A limited number of Apps, up to 3, to control your entire home
- Been installed by an experienced and accredited installer/integrator
There are several brands of ‘integrated home automation solution’ available for domestic houses. The solutions differ in how they started and evolved. Some systems started out with an AV focus, others had a lighting focus and lastly there were those with a generic automation (e.g. blinds, HVAC, water, etc) mindset. Integrated home automation solutions today have the most functionality covered ‘natively’ through a single App.
So how do you choose such a diverse functioning automation system? Don’t panic now with all the questions that are coming to you. At a high level you can gauge your automation solution level from these 4 factors.
- Your/family needs
- Architectural design proposal
- What you want the house to do and how it does it
- Your budget
Getting through those 4 items takes a bit of time with lots of open discussion to achieve a good comfort level in how the automation solution comes together and functions.
The next topic is usually cost which sometimes leads to “why are those integrated solutions more expensive than an off the shelf DIY things?”. That question doesn’t have a simple answer. To de-mystify it though let’s look at the pros and cons of “integrated home automation solutions” to help yo understand what it is and isn’t.
What are the Cons of an Integrated automation solution?
- Design Time – you need to invest time up-front describing what you want in the Design stage so the Build and Integration Stages flow smoothly. If you can’t list out what you think you want engage a professional on your behalf
- Build time – slightly more work with wireline automation solutions, minimal time uplift with wireless integrated automation solutions
- Technology Fads – you want the system to last a long time, perhaps the life of the building. So chopping and changing to the latest tech fads may be more difficult
- Complicated – integrated automation solutions can look or feel overly complicated in some situations where
- buttons and screens are peppered across walls, OR
- too minimalist and it appears not enough buttons to control everything
- $ Cost – upfront build and hardware cost is higher in the majority compared to DIY automation solutions
- 3rd Party Reliance – you are reliant on a system integrator to change or alter a permanent system setting, you don’t get full administration of the whole systems
- New Build Only And NOT For Renovations – installation of wireline solutions are more complex in renovations, but in reality, it depends how the house was built, e.g. double brick, brick veneer, slab/piers, flat/pitched roof, etc.
What’s the Pros of an Integrated automation solution?
- Reliability – select the right solution and they operate for years/decades with very little maintenance or product breakdown or upgrade
- Wireline solutions provide high availability and quick response times
- Reputable brands and standards offer support past the last product sales date
- Automation – inherent automation ACROSS the system, functionality is tested and baselined and the integrator knows products work together
- Connectivity Protection – local control of your home WITHOUT an internet connection
- Data Privacy – limited to no data exiting your automation solution (Video doorbells excepted)
- Simplicity – the multi-function wall switches do much more than turning on/off lights or raise shutters. That wall switch assembly you thought was expensive has a temperature, humidity or light sensor built in.
- Security – reduced impact from 3rd party hardware and software changes/upgrades
- Customisation – low customisation rate required with known interoperable products
- $ Cost – Yes an integrated system will more initially. Consider the long term cost base with minimal product obsolescence, no outages from upgrades and low time waste factor from homeowner’s tinkering with settings
Armed with the above but still confused which way to go regarding an Integrated or DIY automation? No problems, here are some sample decision paths:
- I only want to control from a wall switch or my smart device —> choose either DIY or Integrated
- I am a trained and licensed electrician with good technical ability and want to automate my house —> choose either DIY or Integrated
- I rent but would like it to make my lights/blinds/HVAC smarter —> consult your landlord/agent first
- I am technically savvy, I am NOT an electrician, but I am happy to configure my house over days/weeks/months to get it to work together —> Use an electrician to wire up the DIY sensors/switches/actuators
- I want AV around the house at renovation time and will expand automation later on to other features/capability throughout the house —> choose either DIY or Integrated, you will need to plan well for either option
- I want full automation with the highest reliability —> choose Integrated wireline
- I want my wife and children to be able to control our automated home seamlessly and without fault —> choose Integrated
Hopefully you are now thinking about which home build or renovator example above you resonate with? You could be a mix or maybe none of the above.
If you still have questions, reach out and more than likely I can assist you.
Stay Safe. Be Smart!