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Five Main Attributes of a True Smart Home

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Some of you may have voice assistants in your home, either Amazon Echo or Google Nest devices. You may also have a number of smart bulbs and smart plugs.

Amazon Echo & Google Nest

You likely have the ability to control these smart devices with a phone app. But, despite the ability to setup home automation schedules or use voice commands to control your smart devices, this system does not fulfill the definition of a true smart home. What you have is an ordinary home that contains some smart devices.

So what is the difference between an ordinary home with smart devices and an extraordinary home that is genuinely smart?

Today I’ll review the five main attributes that make a home genuinely smart. In the process, I will you show you some of my devices and automations that demonstrate these critical smart home traits.

Let’s get started!

The First Attribute: Seamless Automations Devoid of Human Intervention

Let’s suppose for a moment that you have wireless switches or light bulbs that are compatible with your Amazon Echo or Google Nest device.

SmartThings Compatible Bulbs & Switches

The apps that connect to these smart devices provide you with some capability to setup various smart home routines. To automate your lamp you connect the power supply to a smart plug or you may add a wireless smart bulb to the lamp. You then create a routine in your app to instruct the smart plug or smart bulb to turn on after dark, let’s say at 5:00 pm and turn off at 10:00 pm prior to your bedtime. Cool right! ...perhaps not.

The most glaring issue with this automation is the routine has the lamp remain on for five hours, burning needless energy, regardless of whether anyone is in the room.

An additional problem can arise if someone enters a room, notices that the light is on while the room is vacant, and then decides to turn the lamp off via the manual switch. By physically disconnecting power to the lamp they have single handedly disabled your home automation. Your smart light automation will no longer execute during the intended schedule, nor will you be able to control the light with your voice assistant. Your smart lamp automation is flawed. It has been rendered useless with the turn of a switch.

The first trait of a smart home is that its automations operate seamlessly without the home’s occupants opening a smart app or having knowledge of specific voice commands. Homes that are truly smart have automations that are managed and executed by an intelligent smart hub. They are equipped with smart sensors which help the smart home hub to discern various environmental factors. Examples of these factors include whether or not a room is occupied or has sufficient lighting.

Aeotec Smart Devices and a SmartThings Hub

Many of today’s smart sensors have the ability

to determine luminance levels, motion and presence. Other smart sensors, such a contact sensors, are used to determine the open or closed status of a window or a door. In a true smart home, a lighting automation is not accomplished by turning on a light according to a schedule, but by the smart hub’s evaluation of a combination of environmental factors conveyed by smart sensors. The hub therefore determines to turn on a smart plug or wall switch only when the room lacks sufficient light or when an occupant’s presence is detected.

The smart hub also evaluates sensor data to determine when the room has been sufficiently vacant and it

turns off the room lighting or adjusts the room’s temperature thereby avoiding the needless expenditure of electricity. Likewise, a closet light is only activated when the door’s contact sensor is open or when motion is detected. In other words, smart homes have smart hubs and smart sensors that evaluate environmental conditions and operate automatically to make cost saving energy decisions to efficiently manage the home without the need for occupant intervention.

The Second Attribute: Smart Devices Can Be Controlled Manually

A second trait of a genuine smart home platform is that its smart devices can be controlled manually without breaking the smart home automations. Smart home must be equipped with manual switches for guests who are not familiar with your automations.

GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart Dimmer Switch

Manual switches are also important if particular automation fails. You cannot expect guests to know what commands to give to your echo voice assistant in order to turn on lights. People are accustomed to using physical switches to control lights. Furthermore, you do not want your automations to become disabled just because someone turns off one of your manual light switches.

All of my smart home wall switches and dimmers have the ability to be controlled manually. If a switch is turned off manually, that status is noted by the smart hub. Then if a guest enters the room and decides that the level of light is insufficient, they have the ability control the switch manually.

Homes that are truly smart are controlled by smart hubs that monitor the status of the home, to include the status of smart switches. If a smart wall switch is left on when a guest leaves a room, the room’s sensor can notify the hub of lack of human presence or motion so that hub can extinguish the light after a given time. The hub is then able to turn lights back on once motion or presence is again detected. A true smart home has smart devices can be controlled manually without breaking smart home automations.

The Third Attribute: Automations Respond Seamlessly To Member Departure & Arrival

One of the reasons I started my smart home journey was because there had been a couple of home related thefts in our community and I had the desire to enhance our home’s security. There is nothing quite like the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home is actively monitored and protected while you are away.

Monitoring automatically begins upon our departure using the SmartThings Home Monitor.

SmartThings Home Monitor set to "Armed Away"

During the Armed Away mode, the smart hub is capable of sending smart phone notification to all registered members when certain events occur, as when an exterior door is breached. Additionally, our Amazon Echo devices are activated start the echo guard feature upon our departure. Each echo device actively listens for alarms or breaking glass. Furthermore, our SmartThings camera, which has people detection capability, is also turned on ready to record and report any live activity. Finally, my exterior lights are automated to turn on when our absence extends past sunset.

Water Leak Detected!

Thanks to home monitoring, if a water line ruptures in my laundry room or beneath one of my sinks I am immediately notified via my smart phone. We also receive a notice when a smoke or carbon monoxide detector detects a problem. If an intrusion occurs while we are away an alarm is sounded and notifications are sent to our smart phones.

Our automations also provide elements of convenience. If we leave an exterior door open or agar the SmartThings Home Monitor will notify us of the door’s open status. If we forget to close the garage door, the hub will sense the open door following our departure and automatically close it and then send us a confirmation notice. If we leave interior lights on during a daytime departure they will be shut off. And if a smart door lock is unsecured, it will be locked automatically.

When we return, the hub detects the presence of our smart devices. The home monitoring system is then automatically set to Disarm and the Echo guard mode is disabled. The SmartThings Cam is turned off as well. The garage door is automatically opened and if our arrival is after dark, the appropriate lighting is turned on to accommodate our arrival. The hub is also capable of identifying each specific member arrival and it can instruct our echo voice assistant to a give that member a personal greeting. A true smart home has the ability to seamlessly respond to each member’s departure and arrival.

My Garage Door Automatically Opens Upon Arrival

The Fourth Attribute: One Smart Hub, Many Devices, Single App Control

Smart homes are equipped with a central brain, known as a smart hub, which seamless integrates a vast selection of smart home brands for easy control within a single application. All of the aforementioned automations are possible with the Samsung SmartThings Hub, which was formerly produced by Samsung

and is now be manufactured by Aeotec. Aeotec also now produces and markets many of the devices that were previously made by Samsung. Aeotec also has a considerable number of additional devices and sensors all of which are native to the SmartThings environment.

But device compatibility does is not exclusive to the Aeotec line of products. As reported by the SmartThings site, the Aeotec/SmartThings hubs are compatible with hundreds of brands, thousands of devices for one magical smart home. As a matter of fact, the SmartThings App provides a searchable database of devices wherein you can source devices by device brand or by device type. As you can see by this extensive device list provided on the SmartThings website there are many brands and devices. More devices brands are natively compatible with SmartThings then with any other platform.

Although SmartThings compatibility vast, it is beginning to expand. SmartThings has already announced the implementation of the Matter standard. If you are unfamiliar with Matter, Matter is a new unifying standard that is being developed to help ensure all smart devices will work together seamlessly. Samsung Electronics originally announced the availability of Matter functionality back in October of 2022. SmartThings hubs received an over-the-air update to provide capability to control all Matter-compatible devices. As a result of this update, SmartThings users can now control their Matter devices from the SmartThings application, instead of relying on multiple apps from different device manufacturers. A true smart home has one smart hub which is capable of integrated control of countless smart devices.

The Fifth Attribute: Local Control for Faster, Reliable and Secure Automations

Smart homes must operate with minimal dependency on the internet, meaning that most automations are executed on the hub rather than in the cloud. With SmartThings migration to the new Lua based environment, it is now operating with local based Edge Drivers. This places the Samsung SmartThings smart home on equal footing with other popular home automation system.

SmartThings is in the final stages of the evolutionary change to the Lua based platform. We are nearing the conclusion of the migration of all devices to the new Edge framework. This change has resulted in local automation and routines that work faster, more securely.

This change coupled with the fact that the Aeotec/SmartThings ecosystem connects to and controls over 5,000 smart devices from over 230 brands suggests that SmartThings is a very solid platform and a formidable contender in the smart home space. Not to mention the fact that the learning curve for the SmartThings system is far less steep than some of its smart home contenders.

The Samsung SmartThings home automation platform checks all the boxes for creating a genuine smart home. Its devices operate automatically without the need for human intervention. Its smart devices can be controlled manually without breaking established automations. Devices, routines and scenes respond seamlessly to each member’s departure and arrival. The hub integrates a vast selection of smart home brands for easy control within a single application and the hub is able to control devices locally and securely without reliance on the cloud. The SmartThings App is free and there are no annual costs or subscriptions. You merely need to purchase a hub, purchase some compatible smart home devices. Connect a compatible voice assistant and you are on your way to building your own true smart home.

Let me know if I inspired you to begin your own smart home journey. I am always willing to respond to your comments and questions. Thanks for joining me today. And as always, keep automating and God Bless!

Checkout my Amazon Store for the SmartThings Aeotec Smart Hub and SmartThings compatible devices:


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