Home Automation: Choosing a Platform

Disclaimer: We decided on and purchased SmartThings on our own. There are affiliate links that will give us a cut if you buy it though.

It seems home automation is becoming the next big thing in consumer tech.  It’s been something enthusiasts have been playing with for years now. But with prices and difficulty decreasing, home automation is no longer just an enthusiasts hobby. Companies are taking notice. Apple released HomeKit with iOS8. Google bought both Nest and Dropcam. You can walk into nearly any major hardware store and see at least a small home automation section.

As much as home automation is catching on however, it still feels like we’re in the early adopter phase. Which makes choosing a platform tricky. But we had an idea of what we were looking for.

  • Standards Compliant: The two biggest standards in home automation right now are Z-Wave and ZigBee. We wanted a platform that would work with both of these standards. If we decided a platform that didn’t make it we would only have to replace our hub instead of our entire system.
  • Products: While Standards compliance means we can use any of the devices that are equipped with that standard, we wanted to have a platform would easily work with products out of the box. We didn’t want to have to have to work too much if we didn’t have to.
  • Partnerships: Just another way to show that the platform is established really. If other companies are willing to spend money to work with you, it’s a good sign.
  • iOS and Android: Really, I’m surprised I have to say this. But companies still put out software for only one of the two major platforms (I’m looking at you Hearthstone.) I don’t want to buy my phone based on my house. I don’t want to wire my house based on my phone.
  • Community: My husband is a big forum guy. He likes to read about what other people have done, and apply it to his scenario. Having an active group of users wasn’t a must have, but a nice added bonus.
Smart Things

Our SmartThings hub.

I put the ultimate final choice in the hands of my husband  (I have a history of winners such as Dreamcast, Zune, and HD-DVD). But after looking at the options and discussing what we wanted out of a home automation platform, we went with SmartThings. It works with Z-Wave and ZigBee, plus it has an open API that you can use with nearly anything. It’ll work with Arduino, which is awesome. (I have no idea what I’d want to do with Arduino + SmartThings, but I like having the option.) It works with Honeywell, GE, Kwikset, and several other big name companies. It has IFTTT support which will let us connect it to other products, such as Nest. It has an active community to inspire new ideas. They were recently acquired by Samsung, which gives me hope that they’ll be around for a while.

Right now, we only have a few lights hooked up to our SmartThings system. It works well, but that’s really not enough to judge it by. We’ll be adding more features slowly, and updating you on how it goes. (Thermostat is up next!)

2 Responses to “Home Automation: Choosing a Platform”
  1. Andy Arenson says:

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