The drawbacks of a smart home with devices from different brands

While smart devices are supposed to make the home more convenient, using different brands with different radio networks could turn out to be an inconvenience. — dpa

Heating systems that keep the house at a constant temperature. Lights that come on automatically at night. A robot vacuum cleaner that cleans up the dirt. Roller blinds that raise and lower themselves in the morning and evening.

The smart home concept offers all these benefits. However, for it to work you need to ensure that all of the devices can talk to each other and be integrated into the same network.

"Radio-based systems are an option for most households because they can be easily installed and expanded if necessary," says Sebastian Kloess of Bitkom, an IT association in Germany.

However, there can be issues if the devices use different radio networks. "If the customer integrates devices from different manufacturers into his smart home, they may not understand each other," he says.

The communication standard most commonly used by smart home devices is WLAN, which is the standard way for wireless networks to connect to the internet.

"Everyone has that at home, many devices are addressed directly via WLAN," Kloess says.

However, for smart home use WLAN is usually oversized and therefore energy-intensive and prone to failure.

Radio standards specially developed for the smart home are more suitable. These include ZigBee, which is supported by many manufacturers and has low energy consumption.

There's also Z-Wave, a manufacturer-independent wireless standard used by many smart home devices.

Whether a system is open or closed is another factor. In the case of a closed system from a single manufacturer, customers usually can't integrate devices from other manufacturers into their network.

This is different with open systems. "They have a standard supported by various providers of smart home solutions, for example Bluetooth LE, EnOcean, WLAN, Z-Wave and ZigBee," explains consumer advice expert Reinhard Loch.

This makes it possible to integrate products from different manufacturers into one network. However, if you want to keep things simple you can rely on a smart home provider that uses components that all come from a single source.

Before doing that, you should make sure that that provider offers all the applications that you want, Loch advises.

In the future, it could become easier to use smart home devices without being tied to individual manufacturers. Amazon, Apple and Google are working with other smart home providers to prepare a new open standard called Connected Home over IP.

Digital voice assistants also make things easier. “They act as an interpreter and central control point in the smart home,” Kloess explains. Usually this also works for individual devices with different radio standards.

In a few years' time, thanks to artificial intelligence, the technology may be able to react to people's behaviour and automatically know what the residents need.

"Then the smart home will be a self-learning house that recognises the needs of the residents and manages the processes independently," says Alexander Matheus from the VDE Testing and Certification Institute in Germany. – dpa

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