What The Internet Of Things Really Is, And How It Can Turn Your House Into A Smart Home

"Internet of things" is, at face value, a pretty meaningless buzzword. It refers to the multitude of tiny, energy-efficient gadgets with Wi-Fi connectivity that are filling up our lives -- 'net-connected kettles and powerboards and sprinkler systems.

But it also refers to the broader technology standards and infrastructure that allow these devices to exist, and to talk to the Web and to each other -- and it's this infrastructure that lets you build yourself a home from the future.

Leading the way in cutting-edge technology for window coverings, LUXAFLEX® has launched PowerView Motorisation, and is partnering with Gizmodo to show Australians how they can experience the smart house of the future, today.

What Is The Internet Of Things, Really?

It's easy to dismiss the internet of things as a lazy excuse for anyone and everyone to shoe-horn a Wi-Fi radio into their otherwise non-smart gadgets -- we're talking toasters and vacuum cleaners and sous vide cookers. But when you're talking about the internet of things at a larger, more homogenous 'smart home' level, it definitely has its advantages and can save you time and effort in areas like home maintenance and your power bill.

The internet of things, like the name suggests, relies upon the internet for communication -- and, in the case of a quality internet of things gadget, that means a direct connection to a server on the 'net, rather than directly to your phone or PC via a short-range connection like Bluetooth. Many internet of things gadgets use that online connectivity to let you control your device through a Web browser, or often via an Android or iOS app.

These gadgets are designed to communicate with each other, too. Although there are a multitude of internet of things standards, broader ecosystems like SmartThings and wireless protocols like Z-Wave or ZigBee exist that mean one smart home device can talk to another and make it possible for your entire home to work smartly. With a bit of care in choosing the devices that you purchase, especially if they're more expensive ones that you get installed in your home, you can make sure everything operates in harmony.

The eventual Nirvana of a smart home that we're all trying to achieve is one where you, by the time you've pulled your car up in the driveway, your gate has opened, the blinds are up and letting in the afternoon sun, your front door is unlocked, the air conditioning is on, there's a roast cooking in the oven and Game of Thrones is playing on your TV -- and this is all possible through the internet of things.

How Can The Internet Of Things Make My Home Smart?

Internet of things devices are becoming increasingly common, and there's a divide between those that use their own standards for inter-device and internet communications, and ones that rely on open hardware standards and Wi-Fi communication protocols. One isn't necessarily better than the other, though -- when you're talking about specialised devices, especially those that are more completely integrated and installed into your home, specialised communication methods are often necessary.

Take the automated, internet-connected sprinkler system in a smart home, for example. Irrigation systems are almost always installed for the long term, and while Wi-Fi wouldn't be an easy method of controlling your individual gardening sprinklers from within your house -- you likely wouldn't have Wi-Fi coverage -- their central control box might be connected to your home network either through Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection.

But there are a huge range of internet of things products starting to appear on the shelves of our favourite electronics stores, as well as at specialty installers that produce more complete device ecosystems. There's a gadget for everything -- smart lights, smart blinds, smart home entertainment and audio, smart cooking devices like stoves and fridges and coffee makers, and smart home systems like air conditioning and security systems.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at some of the world's most advanced smart homes, how some internet of things gadgets can make your life easier both at home and while you're out, and give you some tips for setting up your smart home in a way that works for you. Stay tuned.

Smart home images via Shutterstock


Comments

    Given that it's been demonstrated time and time again how insecure most consumer electronics are, I don't get why anyone would want to do this? It's only a matter of time before some smartarse in China starts switching your lights on and off at 3am, or switching your kettle on - or worse switching it off when you're trying to use it.

    It just seems like an incredibly large security risk for some slight benefits. Please do a corresponding article on the risks of IoT.

      Agreed, although I can see a level of risk from criminals way beyond being pests like the ability to monitor your devices for usage patterns that suggest when you are home and when not and being able to unlock doors and turn off security at will, ie. walk into your home and go shopping or for that matter, a version of cryptolocking for all your IoT devices and blackmail you at a distance to get back control of your home.

      Its a risk v reward thing. If someone does that, its no different to hacking into your remote control for your garage door, and really, what benefit do they get outside of shits and giggles?

      At home, if you feel the need to have a little more control, then people are going to do it. I cant see myself doing that, but as you often see in the movies, this could mean voice activated stuff at some point. So walk in, say 'lights' and the lights magically come on in the right rooms, and the right lux level. Or 'music' and the stereo turns on.

      Thats the small detail stuff that this might lead to, not necessarily being able to turn the lights on from your iPhone.

        The difference is someone needs to be near your garage in the first scenario. This instantly removes 99.9999999% of the the world's population as a potential source of mischief. I thought that would be pretty obvious. And shit and giggles are more than enough motivation. Imagine coming home and discovering some twat has turned your lights and appliances on all day.

        I don't see why any of the functionality you describe requires the device to connect outside your lan and expose itself directly to the internet. Once you're at home (i.e. within proximity of your wifi) all those things will work, and if remote you simply VPN home before doing it.

          Hey, I agree. I cant see much that NEEDS outside connections, but they are pushing it. There are fridges that can keep track of what goes in and out via barcodes, so can build a shopping list, then order it for you as needed, but thats quality of life stuff, not necessities.

          I'm a fairly early adopter most of the time, and each time I look at IoT stuff for the home I cant see a good enough reason either. But we live in a more and more connected world these days, and the lines between home and elsewhere is blurring.

          Like you, I cant see any reason to be able to open the door from anywhere in the world, though I can see some benefit to being able to put the heater or air con on (or even a slow cooker to heat dinner) when I'm on my way home.

          Little conveniences like that aside, and again they are only QoL things, then no, like you I cant really see a benefit either.

          But as others do, it appears there is a market for it.

    I'm happy for my home to stay as it is. My concern is that this needless technology will be forced upon everyone eventually, along with the issues raised by the posters above. Gizmodo seems to be obsessed with so called smart homes. Oh well.

    Last edited 05/05/16 1:44 pm

    Good article. Thanks!

    As with all technologies, there is risk. I'm comfortable managing risks when it comes to implementing tech in my home, however can see how security can be an issue.

    In saying that, it would be good to see an article on the risks, as per lunchbox99.

    The single biggest problem with IoT devices, there is no mandatory standard requiring that they also function (or have a fallback) for when there is no Internet connection.... I have some devices which work when the internet is down, but others costing many hundreds of dollars that simply don't. This is a major concern if the vendor decides to stop supporting the IoT cloud services....

    I might start up a "Certified not to suck" certification that IoT manufacturers can pay me $1 each to have a nice sticker...

    "The eventual Nirvana of a smart home that we're all trying to achieve is one where you, by the time you've pulled your car up in the driveway, your gate has opened, the blinds are up and letting in the afternoon sun, your front door is unlocked, the air conditioning is on, there's a roast cooking in the oven and Game of Thrones is playing on your TV "

    We're all trying to achieve this? This is Nirvana? In an internet full of idiotic pronouncements this one gets the gold star for today.
    Open the gate, unlock my door, turn on the A/C, turn on the TV, turn on the oven. I bet it would take me about 30 seconds tops to do that using existing technology, and I wouldn't have to worry about a web connectivity or hardware/software issue to stop me, not to mention being monitored by a corporation.
    The 'Internet of Things' is a classic case of a useless, un-needed technology looking for a buyer.

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