'Tis the season to be jolly and we're spreading the joy with our own take on the 12 Days of Christmas. Each day we will feature a different aspect of home automation and integrating all the devices in a home which turn it into a smart home. Today, we start it all off with the brain of any intelligent home, the universal hub.
What it Does
A universal hub, also known as a central controller, serves as the brain to make your home smart. Each of the devices and/or systems in your smart home communicate with it to send and receive requests to perform actions and provide status information. This enables control of security systems, lighting, thermostats, irrigation, video cameras, and whole-home audio/video from a single controller. For example, you walk in the front door of your home at night. The security sensor on the door tells your hub that the door is open. This prompts the hub to check if it's after sunset, which for this example it is, triggering the hub to send a request to the hallway and kitchen lights to turn on. A well lit pathway has been created for you thanks to the universal hub's ability to talk with both the home security system and the lighting controls.
How it Does this
A unique feature of universal hubs is that they contain the wireless radios necessary to control devices via a variety of communications technology formats. The image above shows the most prevalent formats in today's automation products. This is a key feature to providing a fully-integrated smart home system. Why? Because the thousands of manufacturers of products can't agree on a single format. While the maker of your wireless door locks may use the Z-wave format, the company which produces your preferred brand of smart thermostats might use the WiFi or Insteon formats to communicate. Having a universal hub which is capable of communicating with all those formats means you are free to choose your preferred brands for different devices.The hub provides the bridge between all your devices and seamlessly connects them together in a single system.
Why it Matters to You
Greater convenience and increased awareness are two big reasons why this matters to you. A universal hub not only offers better choice in the products you use in your home, it empowers control over all of them from a single app on your smarthphone. No more switching from an app to unlock the doors, to another which controls the security system, and yet another to control the lights in the house. Everything can be seen in and around the home from a single screen.
Connecting all the devices in a home creates a more intelligent system. Being able to share information from various sensors and external sources such as WeatherBug provides a system more ways to detect activity and changes in the environment. That collection of information is what enables the system to anticipate your needs, identify when a condition exists that requires action, and to react accordingly without requiring you to do anything. Now that's convenience!
Last but not least, this also makes the smart home far more adaptable to your needs. That increased awareness the hub provides by uniting sensors from multiple systems also enables it to handle more assistive tasks. It can keep an eye on children by alerting an adult when they open the door to a closet where chemicals are stored, or help provide a safer environment for loved ones with special needs. The hub creates a smart home capable or reminding someone to take medications and monitoring a cabinet door to ensure that they take them on time. Motion sensors can be connected to ensure pathways are always well lit so that seniors don't have to worry about tripping on something at the entrance to a room or hallway, or reaching for a light switch in the dark. And text messages can be sent to care providers and loved ones keeping them appraised of important items or to alert them to potential concerns.