In the last five years home automation has grown into a multi-billion dollar market. Due to its proliferation, home automation can be defined in several ways. In this case we are categorizing it as the residential extension of building automation. It may include centralized control of lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances, security locks, gates and doors and other systems. These systems are in place to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. We live in a society of constant connection and the connection to one’s home is no different. We crave information from all sources and options for action based on that information. Home automation gives us that, but can take many forms and sometimes be pretty costly. We’ve done a little of the work for you and provided a brief breakdown of the major categories and ensuing options.
HVAC – Players: Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell, Venstar. The clear leader here is Nest (recently purchased by Google). The Nest thermostat was arguably the turning point for home automation as it made this semi-mundane sector more connected to the everyday home owner. Security monitoring and cameras existed prior to its release, but they were the first to make home automation simple, reliable, modern, and impeccably designed.
Verdict: Nest. High price is justified with this category leader
Security – Players: Insteon, Vivint, SimpliSafe, MyFox, Comcast Xfinity, ADT, and so many others. There is much more parity in the security category of home automation. Many are partial to Insteon or Vivint as they were some of the first to market (and should have many bugs worked out), but several others have arguably better offerings. Price and reliability are two main factors to keep in mind in this category. You want to make sure you get the solution you pay for as security fails can lead to some bad situations, but don’t want to break the bank to keep you and your family safe.
Verdict: Insteon or Vivint: Both are fairly cost effective with higher than average user reviews. Vivint has the larger install base.
Lighting – Players: Phillips Hue, MiLight, LIFX, and Misfit Bolt. This market has become very crowded recently. More automated lighting offerings have entered the market in the last nine months, than in the previous nine years. Price and reliability are again the main factors for consideration. Phillips Hue is going to be the most expense overall, but boasts the most reliable platform to date. An advantage of LIFX however, is that there is no ‘hub’ required to be plugged into your Wi-Fi router. Misfit Bolt and MiLight are the two major new kids on the block, but customer feedback has been very positive to date. Those two also offer lower prices than LIFX and Hue in most home configurations.
Verdict: Phillips Hue or Misfit Bolt. Hue is more expensive but has time on it’s side. Misfit Bolt is the slightly less costly and less tested alternative.
Based on the categories above, the smart plays right now are security and HVAC.
Saving money and keeping your family safe are two reasons to look closer at which of these options is right for you. No doubt there will be other categories and applications of home automation in the coming months.