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Smart Hubs, IFTTT & Raspberry Pi: How To Start Home Automation



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Josh Miller / CNET

So you want a smart home. Big! But where do you start? With so many platforms, wizards, hubs, and protocols, it can really get very confusing. Here's what you need to know when you're ready to dip your toe into Smart Home Automation.

Zigbee and Z-Wave

Zigbee and Z-Wave are low-power mesh networks that allow devices to communicate with each other without Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. However, with Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols, you must connect a physical hub to your router to send and receive signals between devices.

You can find hundreds of big-brand Zigbee or Z-Wave devices like . Nest GE and Philips Hue . If you are not sure which product is right for you or which smart home products you will buy in the future, do not worry. Invest in a hub like SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub 2 that work with both Zigbee and Z-Wave.

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Not every smart home device needs Zigbee or Z-Wave. Some products, such as smart plugs, can connect to your home's 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network through its app.

Other products such as The Smart-Lock series from August can connect to your WLAN by purchasing a Wi-Fi bridge. This bridge also provides remote access to the Smart Lock from anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection. Storing a hub is certainly more convenient and cost effective, as dozens of devices can affect the performance of your wireless network and related devices.

Other products such as Philips Hue and Lutron require their own proprietary hubs, often referred to as bridges, that connect to your router. And if you are interested in intelligent lighting, but want to be without risk, Lifx has covered you. Your light bulbs connect directly to your home Wi-Fi.

No matter how you automate your home, it's important to invest in good Wi-Fi, whether you're upgrading your service provider or buying a better router.

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Smart Speakers and Language Assistants

Next, you want a voice assistant to act as an interface between you and your smart home. Deciding which smart speaker is right for you largely depends on your personal preferences, and you probably already have a favorite in mind.

If you're using Apple all day, consider using the Apple HomePod as a Smart Home Automation Center. Love everything Google does? You have three options: Google Home Google Home Mini and Google Home Max . If you're an Amazon Prime enthusiast, the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot are two great options for accessing Alexa, the smart wizard from Amazon. Google and Amazon offer affordable options for about $ 50 (often less on offer) so your bank will not get damaged by adding smart to your home.

All three platforms have their pros and cons, but all three are also capable of managing your smart home devices. If you're limited to Amazon or Google, you can use our Quiz to find out which smart speaker is right for you.

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Taylor Martin / CNET

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a unique option with almost infinite possibilities, if you are on the DIY path and want to delve deep into the heads of home automation.

This tiny computer chip can be built with kits to create computer programs that allow you to perform all sorts of tasks and devices in your home. However, it takes time, additional accessories and technical know-how.

However, if you want to program and build with smart home technology, there are kits to create smart speakers, cameras, and more. Google's AIY ("Artificial Intelligence Yourself") series of Raspberry Pi-friendly kits will help you with this. Check out other cool stuff you can do with Raspberry Pi computers here .

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IFTTT

IFTTT (If This, That That) is a free online automation service that allows smart devices and web-based platforms to interact with each other. The big plus with IFTTT is that it is not limited to physical devices. For example, you can create an IFTTT recipe (called "Program") that automatically saves attachments from your emails to a specific Dropbox folder.

In Smart Home, this means recipes that connect devices that would otherwise not work together. For example, if your Nest Thermostat goes into Away mode, turn off all Philips Hue lights. You can also create prescriptions that will fire on your arrival or leave the home of your home with your mobile phone. One of the useful (and entertaining) features of IFTTT is the ability to create custom commands for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa .

Even though IFTTT is not all you need for a smart home, it's a great addition to a smart home, especially if you want to link product actions together for a more automated experience.

There are many options when it comes to improving your home. It may take a little trial and error to find out what works for you or which products and services you prefer, but stick with it. Once you have everything set up, you have a home that makes life smarter and easier.

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