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Discussion Starter #1
Is there a standard to look for when buying connected devices? Is there a single system that can control all or most home automation things? I know Apple has HomeKit, are there others that have a good range or supported devices?

The types of things I am looking to connect:

Security System - Door and motion sensors with panel, most likely monitored
Indoor and Outdoor Security Cameras - 4 outdoor PoE, 2-3 indoor wireless battery
Thermostat - ecobee or similar
Wireless Home Audio - streaming from phone or media center
Ring Doorbell - could just use outdoor camera, but I like that its tied to doorbell

Before investing in these types of things, what should we be looking for?
 

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He is trying to say that a change in lifestyle may be a better way to approach the issues. I'm not suggesting you do that. Moving to a shack in the wilderness and living off the grid would eliminate the need for most of those items but it's not practical for most people.

Home automation is such an imprecise term that it's difficult to define just exactly what it does or what problems it solves. Home automation systems are something that most people don't need but think they want due to advertising and media hype. One standard used for "home automation" is X10. However, it's not designed for the types of problems posed and is rapidly becoming obsolete.

For the stated requirements, I would look for the best in class for each solution. Most of those items do not need to be interconnected. Look at using apps on a phone or tablet to monitor and control each item.

The items I would look at integrating are the security and monitoring system, maybe including the doorbell. They can be controlled and monitored with a central system designed for the purpose or using software on a small PC server. Some companies specialize in providing security systems for a monthly fee. Others sell integrated systems that can be purchased. Another way would be to assemble the system from individually purchased components. One popular surveillance standard is called ONVIF. It's an open standard used by a number of companies.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Fair enough. The reason I am interested in this all of the sudden is because we have outdated versions of most of the things listed, and are looking to replace them. If there is some way to integrate most of things as part of a bigger home automation/management interface, that would be my preference. Your post was helpful and it did make me realize that most things do have apps, and maybe the single management interface is a smartphone/tablet via the individual apps, rather than some other software.
 

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I have everything you mentioned mikec.

Currently using a combination of a Vera for the older stuff and stand-alone apps for the more modern stuff.

Have you checked out OpenHAB first of all? Connecting the security system is usually the most difficult part. So you need to look at what type of system you have and what interfaces to that are available.
 

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Mikec. We used to live in downtown TO beside rooming houses, Regents Park and hostels, after we had been burgled 3 times the insurance Co asked politely if we could get an alarm...which we did and in the week between ordering and installation got burgled once more.
So when I retired we moved to a nice safe part of Guelph where there hasn't been a robbery of any sort on the street in living memory.

I assure you that if we were still in Cabbagetown we'd be asking the same question as you are and be considering upgrading whatever we had for security.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
 

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I don't know why everyone on this thread jumps to the assumption that mike's original question was just about security. I saw most of it as convenience.... including the Ring. And some security cameras and an alarm system I would consider almost standard equipment these days (or not "standard" but also not that abnormal). But I'm sure he doesn't want to turn on the heat or play some relaxing music just for the burgelers.

Fair enough. The reason I am interested in this all of the sudden is because we have outdated versions of most of the things listed, and are looking to replace them. If there is some way to integrate most of things as part of a bigger home automation/management interface, that would be my preference. Your post was helpful and it did make me realize that most things do have apps, and maybe the single management interface is a smartphone/tablet via the individual apps, rather than some other software.
I guess @mikec, you need to consider the architecture and how modern your devices are. I would summarize them as follows:

Modern Architecture:
  • Your "smart" devices such as Philips Hue lights, Sonos speakers, Wemo Smart-plugs, etc, all join your internal wifi and provide their own apps for management.
  • Smart device capabilities (i.e. times, scenes, etc) depends on each vendor and their app.
  • These apps may or may not work remotely (i.e. on a different network) depending on their design.
  • They usually expose APIs (meaning they provide ways for other devices to make calls to them).
  • Things like Google Home, or Alexa add the capability to make those API calls meaning you can control them from that central interface as well.
Classic Architecture:
  • Smart devices used special protocols for home automation, mainly Z-wave or Zigbee.
  • Similar to your home wifi (but separate), these devices needed a mesh network setup on these protocols.
  • A centralized "home controller" is needed to manage the mesh network and control the devices.
  • Traditional home controllers include Vera (from Micasa Verde) and Homeseer. More recently Samsung Smartthings (was a Kickstarter on a newer home controller that was quickly purchased and made more mainstream by Samsung).
  • The home controllers were traditionally controlled via an HTML-UI (like your home router) and can make device dependencies, scenes, and other automations from the centralized controller.
  • This UI acts as a single interface and point of control for all devices.
  • The home controller vendors and 3rd parties made mobile apps allowing for remote and external controls of the home controllers. (Again a single interface/app for all.)
There's also some overlap. For example, you can add a Philips Hue to both architectures concurrently (with most home controllers). Others like the Ring don't integrate with either - with that you have the Ring app only.

So that's the basics. Like everything else, you need to start the planning and purchasing by refining exactly what your needs are.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
@timlocke: Thanks for following up.
@north_of_calgary: you're right.. it's mostly convenience over security. We've never had any issues with burglary in the 10 years we've lived here, but there have been some issues lately at other houses on our road. We already have an old school, un-monitored security system that came with the house. The wife would like to upgrade it and get it monitored. I think adding some outdoor cameras would be enough, but she would rather the peace of mind of a monitored system when I'm not home.

I'm not afraid of DIY, learning new software/programming, or running cable, etc.. But it sounds to me like stand alone systems that have their own apps might be the best bang for my time and money. After thinking about it, having a single management system for all of these things only really helps if I want them to work with each other with schedules, triggers, etc. Having stand alone control via separate apps is sufficient for what I need.

I appreciate all the help.
 

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Some suggestions:
Thermostat - ecobee 3, Nest
Wireless Home Audio - Sonos
Video Doorbell - SkyBell HD, Ring Video Doorbell, Nest Hello
Indoor Security Camera - Logitech Circle 2, Nest Cam, Netgear Arlo Q
Outdoor Security Camera - Nest Cam Outdoor, Logitech Circle 2, Arlo Pro 2
Smart smoke & CO2 alarm - Nest Protect

Nest shows up with good products in most categories. Don't know what type of integration is provided by using all Nest products but it might be worth looking into.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Now that I have our security system setup, it seems like it's a good jumping point for more home automation control. The 2gig panel uses alarm.com for remote control, and you can add z wave devices to it, and control them via the remote app. I am looking at the garage door control, updated thermostat (I am leaning towards ecobee3), possibly some z wave door locks.

I still think I will get a separate camera system and access it through my home internet, rather than the security panels cellular link. That way I avoid paying a monthly fee to the alarm company. I keep bouncing back and fourth between Lorex, and Amcrest.
 

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One thing that's going to be very interesting for the development of connected devices is the news that Amazon is integrating Alexa into cars like Rivian (an electric SUV/truck company) and Lamborghini. You'll be able to use Alexa features and voice commands on your way to work.
 

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I'm thoroughly enjoying my August Smart Lock Pro.

What I particularly like is that I have it set to auto-unlock my door when I get home and to auto-lock it after 5 minutes. I also can control it with GH and Alexa and I have it linked to SmartThings as well. Setting my alarm system using SmartThings means I'm leaving so that triggers my front door to unlock itself automatically.
 

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I guess my experience with the tech is not normal. My door lock quit working(installed by previous owner) about a month after we moved in to the new place. The Q garage opener would randomly fail to work. I may have just been playing with inexpensive stuff but I will leave automation out of the picture until it is ready for primetime. Especially locking of a home. Just my rambling! ��
 

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To me, the Thermostat was the easiest one to start home automation with, the second one is the smart speaker, my third one will be the alarm system control via automation. Its nice to do, but it also be very careful people get carried away and blow tons of money, im doing mine in moderation. the smart speaker was FREE it was a gift from parents, the thermostat i used the rebate money from my new furnace purchase so it came in handy
 

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OP mentioned getting 2gig with alarm.com so you'll be able to add Zwave devices like light switches, plugs & thermostats. Leviton and GE switches are listed as supported and work well. For thermosats 2Gig zwave or honeywell zwave would be a good choice. If you have baseboards, stelpro zwave.

Careful, some devices like add-on doorbells will require an alarm.com add-on from your security/monitoring company. They may or may not sell the add-on zwave devices.

If they don't you can get them from Aartech Canada where you'll have after sales support if needed. If you go elsewhere ask them what happens after 30 days if you have a problem. Make sure you like the answer.

I like that you went with a "hub" based system so to speak. Meaning you have central control for the alarm & automation. Alarm.com is one of many ways to do it but it's a good solid system.

I'm less of a fan of all the various stand alone islands of function that need their own apps and don't actually work with one another. That's not what the smart home was supposed to be, in my humble opinion.

Cheers!
 
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