Installing an IoT Home Automation System: Don't Make My Mistakes

In my past blogs, I have shared with you my experiences in moving my home data into the cloud and installing my first IoT thermostat. Over Christmas, I decided to install a full integrated home automation system. Here is what I learned; I hope it makes your journey easier.

1. Ease of use trumps price

The first mistake I made was assuming all home automation systems are equal and bought on price. The Skylink home system I chose I did manage to install using all my IT skills for setting up ports and IP addresses, but the big issue was usability. I downloaded the mobile app for my Android phone and it did not work; it crashed every time I tried to use it. What’s the point of remote home automation with no remote capability? The app was two years old with no new version available, and tech support refused to answer my calls.

TIP 1: Before you choose a system, download the free app from either Google Play or iTunes and try it out. You don’t have to connect it to the automation system to get a feel for the ease of use. I did this with my second choice (I sent the original system back after two days and ordered the SmartThings system).

2. Availability of multiple vendor devices trumps bundled systems

My target application was the garage door opener, and as I evaluated these systems, I found many had proprietary networks that seemed easy to set up but limited my choice of connected devices. That’s why I settled on the SmartThings system; its open Z-Link network has allowed me to choose devices from multiple vendors (and yes, I even have one from GE!).

TIP 2: Determine what you want to control in the house and evaluate that the systems you’re looking at support those interfaces; many focus on home security or force you to sign up for a monthly subscription, which was not something I wanted to do.

3. Avoid the niche players

As I alluded to before, avoid the niche players. Go for one of the larger mainstream vendors to get the quality of product and support you need. Ten minutes after I powered up my SmartThings system, I received an email from their support team asking if everything was ok and if I needed any help. I tested it out to make sure it was not just an automated email, and there was someone at the other end.

TIP 3: Do your research to determine a company has a good track record in the industry, especially cloud-based security. I only found out yesterday that the company I chose has been bought by Samsung to drive out its IOT platform.

So in summary, I should have listened to the advice I tell others when choosing an industrial automation system. Don’t buy on price; open networks are key. And stick with the mainstream suppliers. Seems automation is automation, wherever it is. 

Barry Lynch

Barry, Global Marketing Director – Automation Hardware at GE's Automation & Controls business, passionately believes that connected machines, mobile data analytics and workforce enablement don’t have to be hurdles in business today. He leads the strategic direction of the company’s automation and information systems programs to help customers apply the power of the Industrial Internet to their businesses. By connecting machines, data, insights and people, our technology solutions deliver critical insight for greater operational efficiency, effectiveness and optimization. Learn more about how Barry works at GE on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @BarryLynchGE.

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