The smart home concept is slowly changing the way we use the devices around us at home. By giving them commands using an application, voice or gestures, we make their operation comfortable and natural. However, in order for the devices in our home to be really “smart home”, they need a fast and reliable connection to the network.
Therefore, it is important to choose the right router that will guarantee these conditions. Let’s check the benefits of smart home technology and what to consider when choosing a router that supports such a set.
Smart Home – what is a smart home?
A smart home is one in which there are devices that can communicate with each other and whose work can be controlled remotely. Part of such a network can be, for example, electronics, light bulbs, electrical sockets, cameras, or even thermostats on radiators.
All these elements connect wirelessly to a small device called a switchboard, which can be considered the command center of our home. It, in turn, is integrated with the application on our mobile device. In this way, we can control all the equipment included in the set from anywhere.
If we additionally connect devices with a voice assistant in our home – for example Google Home or Amazon Echo – our possibilities are significantly expanded. We will be able to control the work of individual devices by giving them commands. Sounds weird? You will see how quickly you get used to it.
Imagine coming home from shopping. As soon as you enter, you give the command to turn on the light in the kitchen, increase the temperature and close the bedroom window that you want to ventilate. A moment later, you ask to close the blinds in the windows and turn on your favorite radio station. All this in a few seconds, before the purchases reach the kitchen counter.
Let’s briefly summarize the most important components that can be included in a smart home:
- Lighting – the ability to turn on and off intelligent lamps, as well as dim the light and change its color.
- Smart speakers – they will not only find and turn on our favorite music, but also provide us with the necessary information in almost every field. They’ll check the weather for tomorrow, a recipe for dinner, book a movie ticket, and even tell a joke.
- Heating – special thermostats enable remote control of air temperature in rooms.
- Electronics / household appliances – the smart home system will allow us to remotely control the operation of adapted devices, such as a TV set, home theater or refrigerator.
- Smart sockets – they allow you to turn on and off the devices connected to them. Many models also offer scheduling and energy monitoring.
- Security systems – enable wireless monitoring and control of cameras, motion detectors, alarm sirens and other elements of alarm sets.
- Intelligent threat sensors – detectors of the presence of fire, carbon monoxide, smoke, gas or water. They will notify you in no time in the event of an emergency in your home.
How does the smart home system work from the technical side?
Individual devices communicate with each other using wireless technologies. These are usually specialized standards such as Z-Wave or ZigBee or universal (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth). The brain of the entire system is the switchboard, which in turn is connected to the Internet via a router. This gives us the ability to control all elements of a smart home using a simple smartphone or tablet application.
Smart home and home network
For the entire smart home system to work properly, one very important condition must be met. Each of its components should have uninterrupted communication with the control panel, and it, in turn, must be constantly connected to the Internet. The last point is especially important because many smart home devices are used to monitor various types of threats – from burglary to flooding or fire. In such cases, a delay in communication of even a few minutes may have negative effects.
The good news is that you don’t have to change your home infrastructure in any way to install individual devices. No drilling of walls, no covering cables under battens or plaster. All smart home elements are designed to work wirelessly. A certain disadvantage of this solution is the phenomenon of signal attenuation by walls and ceilings. This is especially acute in older flats where such solid materials as reinforced concrete were used.
What conditions should a router for a smart home meet?
First of all, it should provide as far and strong signal as possible.
- The key issue here is the issue of antennas – their quality and quantity (possibility to use different broadcasting bands). Cheaper models of routers usually have two low-gain antennas (about 1.5dBi). More expensive models may have up to eight antennas, and the range gain usually reaches 3dBi. The first group of devices can be used to create a network in a small apartment with relatively thin walls. High-end routers will help build a network in larger premises, offices and on one level of a large single-family home.
- Dual Band function – simultaneous support for 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. The former has a greater range, and the latter is more resistant to interference. Tri-Band routers are also available on the market. In the case of these devices, the 5GHz band broadcasts more than one antenna.
- MU-MIMO mechanism – in routers without this system, individual end devices “steal” a certain pool of data transfer. As a consequence, if one person turns on video streaming on his laptop, it may take most of the transfer and our smart home switchboard will have problems transferring information to our mobile device. In the case of the MU-MIMO mechanism, the router forms data beams and routes them parallel to many devices with maximum throughput.
Mesh system in Smart Home
If, despite everything, a single router cannot handle the elements of a smart home and we still have problems with coverage, it is worth investing in devices that create a mesh system, i.e. a mesh network.
We will not achieve this type of effect by putting up several independent routers, because then each of them will create a separate network.
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The mesh system allows you to cover not only the entire house with a Wi-Fi network, but also, for example, the garden and garage. Importantly, the network created in such a way is not sensitive to interference in the 2.4 GHz band, which is a great advantage in apartment blocks and multi-family houses.
It is also worth getting acquainted with the manufacturer’s offer from whom we buy elements of our smart home kit. For example, in Fibaro sets, most of the modules permanently connected to the network act as a repeater. Therefore, in many situations, it is enough to connect the Wall Plug (intelligent socket) in the right place to improve communication between the nearby devices of this manufacturer.
The future of smart home – 5G network and unification of communication standards
The introduction of the 5G network will have a very significant impact on the acceleration of the Internet of things development. It is not difficult to imagine that each of the devices will be able to connect to the 5G network on its own, and the role of their coordinator will be played by an ordinary application on a mobile phone.
The speed of data transfer will also increase significantly. They will be able to be sent at speeds up to 10 GB / s, and downloaded twice as fast. This will open the way to many new possibilities, for example related to video streaming in very high quality. The new technology will also ensure much higher stability and reliability of the transfer.
In the future, one of the systems will probably dominate and start to force competitors out of the market. Such unification will make the installation and configuration of smart home devices even easier.
Which router for a smart home?
When choosing a router for our smart home system, let’s take into account, in particular, the size of our home, the thickness of the walls and the number of devices it is to support. Below we present the models we recommend.
Smart home router: Netgear R6400-100PES
A router that will be perfect for a multi-room apartment. It provides data transmission speed of 1750Mb / s. The device uses the Beamforming + function that enables directional signal transmission in the 5GHz band, which improves the speed and stability of the connection.
This model works in parallel on two bands, which results in less interference and the ability to communicate with more devices.
Smart home router: TP-Link Archer MR400
A smart home network requires a reliable and stable link. This model of router can work even when your home Internet stops working. That’s because it comes with a 4G LTE modem and has a slot for a micro-SIM card. So you can switch to the mobile network in an emergency.
The router can simultaneously support up to 64 devices. Configuration and management of the settings are very simple and even a beginner can handle it.
Smart home routers: ASUS AiMesh RT-AC67U (2 pack)
If you have a large single-family house and want to have a stable, wireless connection throughout its surface, this set is the perfect solution. It forms a dual-band mesh network system. The network can have one SSID or separate SSIDs for each band.
The routers included in the set can connect to each other wirelessly via Wi-Fi or wired using a cable connection using wall network sockets.