Language is such that people have a bad habit of using terms interchangeably despite their meanings being different. The terms ‘smart home’ and ‘home automation’ are classic examples. They are used interchangeably all the time. Yet when you dissect their individual definitions, you discover they are not the same thing.
Every smart home employs home automation to some degree. Yet not every home automation technology qualifies as a smart home device. If you are confused, this post is for you. The differences between the two terms are actually quite obvious when you step back and take a closer look.
Home Automation Explained
Home automation preceded smart homes, so let’s start by defining that term first. Home automation is the practice of automating some sort of function in the home. Perhaps you want the lights in your living room to turn on and off automatically. You can purchase a number of devices to accomplish that task. Do so and you have just implemented home automation.
Does automating your lights constitute jumping into the smart home arena? That depends on how you go about it. Your first option is to go down to the hardware store and buy old-school timers that plug into a standard wall outlet. You set the on and off times, plug the timers in, and plug your lamp into the timers.
You have just automated the living room lights, but there is nothing smart about it. Those timers are purely mechanical devices. They contain no technology that would be considered smart. On the other hand, what if you purchased wireless sockets that you can control with your smartphone?
Now you have genuine smart technology. You have chip- and wi-fi-enabled light sockets that you can control remotely. You can also connect them to a smart home hub for programming purposes. See the difference?
Smart Homes Explained
A smart home is a home equipped with automation technologies that can be controlled remotely and connected to an automation hub. A smart home is an actual home where home automation is something that smart home does. One is a thing, the other is a function. Get it?
Vivint Smart Home is a company that sells and services smart home devices. Two of their more popular devices are the video doorbell and the smart thermostat. The former is a doorbell with an embedded video camera and two-way audio. It allows you to see who is at the door via your smartphone or tablet. You can also communicate with that person in real time.
A smart thermostat is a programmable thermostat that can be controlled remotely. It can also learn your daily routine and self-adjust in order to save energy. Smart thermostats are miles ahead of the first-generation programmable thermostats introduced in the early 1980s.
Remote Operation Is King
To be honest, older devices like mechanical timers are getting harder and harder to find. They are out there, but most people interested in home automation now elect to go with smart devices instead. Not only do modern smart devices offer the benefits of automation, but they are also designed with remote operation capabilities.
Remote operation is king these days. People want to be able to adjust their thermostats on the fly. Homeowners want access to their security camera feeds whenever they are away from home. They want to be able to turn lights on and off on demand and remotely unlock the front door for guests. None of the old-school devices could do that, even though they did offer basic automation. Therein lies the big difference.