There’s an extensive range of smart products on the market today, and this number only continues to grow. Whether they are controlled by voice, a smartphone app or by sensors, these products generally require strong, consistent WiFi coverage and a stable home network to function reliably. As covered in previous techtrends articles, in-home cabling is highly desirable for supporting these WiFi networks, and the devices that connect to them. The sheer variety of smart lights, smart speakers, smart switches, smart cameras (and more) that are on the market presents all kinds of cabling opportunities. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common smart technologies and how they can impact your work as an enterprising cabler.
At the entrance
We are going to start at the front door. The mechanical components of a smart door lock, just like any other lock, must be legally installed by a locksmith as per state law. Once installed, the lock can then be programmed using a smartphone app, allowing the user to get up and running reasonably quickly. Smart locks are generally battery operated. The user will receive alerts when the battery needs to be replaced or see a low battery indicator displayed on the device.
When installing a WiFi network it’s important to consider how products like smart locks will be connected. While there are WiFi smart locks on the market, many locks use Bluetooth, Z-Wave or Zigbee wireless protocols instead of WiFi, so they won’t be affected by the position of WiFi access points in the house. The lock may however communicate with a Zigbee, Z-Wave or Bluetooth bridge device, which itself is likely connected via ethernet to the router. In the case that the modem is located far from the front door, a cabling run may be required to position the bridge device closer to the main entrance.
Another common smart product is a video doorbell, which includes a built-in camera showing who is at the front entrance to the property. Due to the inclusion of a camera, smart doorbells must be installed by a professional who holds a security license. These devices can be hardwired or battery powered, and are generally connected to the internet over WiFi, but may be powered using a Power Over Ethernet (PoE) adapter.
When someone presses the doorbell button, members of the household will receive a notification to their phone/smart TV or smart display, allowing them to see and talk to the visitor – even if they are at the shops (or even overseas!). Some smart doorbells can work in tandem with a smart lock, allowing the guest to be let in the door using a temporary pin number. As with many smart devices, a solid WiFi connection is needed at the front door to allow the doorbell to stream the video from the camera and send notifications reliably. A strong signal will be even more crucial to operating a video doorbell that is located further away, like an outside gate, for example.
Inside the home
As we move inside the home, a household member may want to see if the person they let in has entered or perhaps if they’ve left a package. This is possible via another standalone smart video camera installed in the entrance hall, which is set up to record when it senses motion. As with the smart doorbell, smart cameras can be monitored using an app from anywhere in the world. Some cameras accept an ethernet connection, however if the camera is WiFi-only, cabling a WiFi extender can strengthen the WiFi signal being sent to these cameras, ensuring a high quality and stable video feed.
For families with an elderly parent at home, a movement sensor can provide peace of mind that they are going to the kitchen regularly or at least moving around. Movement sensors can also trigger lights illuminating a dark stairwell at night, for convenience and safety. However, movement sensors located in a back room or hallway far away from the router may not have an adequate WiFi signal to function as expected. Cabling skills come in handy when installing WiFi extenders to reach areas like these, especially in the case of a second storey or far corner of the home.
The addition of a couple of smart power points allows the user to control simple devices such as lamps either by voice using a smart speaker, timers or external triggers such as motion or the brightness of the room. These products are readily available at large retailers or hardware stores and can be controlled by an app. For those more adventurous, there are smart pet feeders, robot vacuums, smart weather stations, smart baby monitors and more. All these technologies require reliable WiFi in every possible area of the home, and possibly even in the front or backyard (in the case of smart tech for pets) – that’s where you, the cabler, can offer valuable skills to use cabling to support the efficiency and coverage provided by the home network.
Bringing it all together
Users looking for a more advanced smart home experience can benefit from using one smart control centre, such as a home hub or gateway. This will allow them to coordinate all their smart home technologies using a single app to make life easier.
One example is Nero by Environexus, which talks to a variety of smart gadgets, and provides the option to retrofit existing lights with smart controllers – all controllable through a single app. This is not only convenient, but also opens up possibilities to create a series of actions which are triggered all at once. For example, as the user pulls their car into the driveway the house can sense their arrival, open the garage door, unlock the front door, raise the smart blinds, turn on the entrance lights automatically, start playing some favourite music to put them in a relaxing mood after work and the list goes on.
Planning a smart home
The advantages of these consumer-grade smart gadgets is they are generally cheap and easily placed into existing homes with a minimum of effort, however as with any consumer technology, there are a lot of self-installed devices which simply fail to work well due to poor WiFi.
As a registered cabler, you have the skillset to implement a solid WiFi network backed by a quality cabled backhaul. This will provide the necessary internet coverage in every room and allow smart devices to work reliably in all corners of the house. Cablers who hold electrician licenses have the ability to install smart controllers behind light switches, garage doors, smart blinds, pool pumps and more, so there are myriad opportunities to be a one stop shop for providing a wide range of smart technology installation services.
The smart home space is just another opportunity in which the registered cabler can make the world of difference, adding value and providing a robust WiFi network that effectively supports these devices. Those with a technical mindset can take it a step further and learn how to set up products such as smart lights, enabling you to provide additional options to service the needs of the customer.