The Internet of Things: What does it all mean? [INFOGRAPHIC]

April 30, 2014

Every time I turn on the TV or check my news feed online, I am bombarded with conversations about the Internet of Things, the smart or connected home, home automation and home control. But what does it all mean and how does it fit together? What is the “Internet of Things”? What does it mean to have a “Connected Home” vs. a “Smart Home”? What is automation vs. control? As experts in the field for the past decade, we’ll try to make some sense out of this new vocabulary that is increasingly part of our everyday conversations.
The Internet of Things (or IoT for short) stands for a network of physical objects that contain internet-aware technologies. Think computers, smart phones, network connected TVs, smart appliances, your car, wearable fitness trackers…heck, pretty much everything has some kind of internet connection these days. These physical objects are integrated into our lives and communicate with each other without requiring any human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Some people call it “M2M” or Machine-to-Machine. Essentially, the idea is that these devices will be able to, and oftentimes already can, identify themselves to other devices and work with each other to communicate and perform certain functions.
A connected home has the wiring or wireless infrastructure to ensure that devices within the home can communicate to one another and the Internet, or the cloud, with ease. Most homes these days have a local area network or LAN, which is a computer network within the home that uses CAT5 or CAT6 cables, routers, and probably some wireless technology to allow devices to connect and communicate. If all of the devices you have connect to the local area network (LAN) in your house, they (and you) can share things like media files, informational data, printers, and network access storage, among other things—creating a connected home. 
A smart home takes the connected home one step further. With home automation technology, like a Control4 system, all of the devices that are connected to the home network can be orchestrated to perform necessary or convenient functions in concert. The underlying operating system connects devices and systems like security systems, heating and cooling, lights, audio/video and entertainment systems, and shades just to name a few.  Then the system is programmed to make everything in your home work together seamlessly. The depth of control can vary from the ability to control one light or the door locks with unique applications to an all-encompassing home control solution that allows simplified control of multiple systems and devices through one interface, which is where Control4 excels.
Home control is your ability to immediately direct your technology, or smart home, to do something. For example, you push a button that says “Goodnight” and all the lights turn off, except for the hallway light which dims to 15% to create a path in case little ones need to get up in the middle of the night; the security system arms; locks close; shades cover the windows; and the temperature is set back to an optimal setting for a good-night sleep. Or you use your iPhone to turn off a pesky closet light that you forgot to turn off before you left the house. Without home automation your home control is decentralized. You might need one app to adjust your thermostat, another to set your outside lights to turn on when the sun sets, and another to arm your alarm system. Some people think “device control” – and lots of apps that do it – equals “home control.” But that’s not necessarily the case.
Home automation takes control to the next level. With automation, an event or action, or a series of events or functions are triggered automatically based on some predetermined condition – like the time of day, someone entering a room, a temperature set point, lack of motion for a period of time, the day of the week, etc. True home automation can incorporate a virtually unlimited series of events, all personalized to suit the individual’s home, devices, lifestyle and needs. Automation can also mean that your home is automatically communicating with you when it needs to. For instance, if a water leak is detected or the temperature drops unexpectedly or there is movement in the house or a door is opening at an unusual time. These communications come “automatically” so you can then take “control” of the situation. The blend of automation AND control is really what make Control4 technology unique.

Check out this infographic for some more details on the Internet of Things, the Smart Home and what the future might bring. (click on the image for a larger version)