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Avoiding the pitfalls of “smart home” technology

Avoiding the pitfalls of modern “smart home” technology…understanding how it can take away from your life if done poorly.

The promises of modern home technology these days are huge and not all of it works well. Over the next several weeks I will be writing on the topic of keeping technology in the home practical and reliable. We live in a time where the attractive features of technology often are not intuitive and don’t work consistently…everything has an “app” and it can be very confusing if you are not into gadgets, firmware updates and troubleshooting.

For example, the majority of the latest gadgets and devices include “power cycling”, unplugging and reconnecting the power to the device when it “locks up” or stops working for no good reason in the owner’s manual. It can be highly frustrating when the TV stops working and you miss your favourite show or when your party is just getting started and the music cuts out, or the internet is down and your son or daughter can’t finish there homework assignment, or when you can’t turn off your freakin’ lights at bed time! The list of things that can go wrong is extensive, and common.

…the backbone of everything smart these days is your home network and internet service.

We all love our technology, when it works. There are some key things to consider when designing a smart home system that will make a huge difference to how simple to use and how reliable its operation are. To start with, the backbone of everything smart these days is your home network and internet service. Don’t skimp on your home network. You will need a high quality router, switch and if you want WiFi, wireless access points. The network chosen will depend on the size of your home, the systems you plan to run, the number of devices and outlets that will be connected, etc. Oftentimes people can fall into the trap of thinking that the best router available at the local superstore is the best router and this is not the case. Also, hardwired connections are always more reliable than wireless ones.

When planning for the home network consider setting up multiple VLANS to create separate network connections for your home control system from your day to day web surfing. Multiple VLANS when set-up properly allow your network resources to be shared in priority to ensure that all aspects of your home have the services that are needed. When the household gets busy watching different programs on Netflix on each of the 6 TV’s in the house, this can bog down the network and make it so you have issues controlling your lights or other network connected devices. It can also make things crash when the demands are high.

Something else to consider for reliability is battery back-up systems, also knows as uninterrupted power supplies (UPS), for your more sensitive components. If you are designing a smart home system, you will want to back up the main controller in the system, “the brain”, because power failures happen and ideally this piece of equipment is not exposed to it. Also, back up the home network, security surveillance system and the TV service boxes.

More on designing solid home technology systems next week!