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Home Automation

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Today we celebrate the birthday of Alan Turing, a pioneer of computer science and artificial intelligence. Turing's visions and achievements form the foundation for many things that are taken for granted today and are far from being at the end of their development. Our living space is also increasingly supported by machines and systems that are becoming more and more automated and interconnected. In our current blog post, our Xperts therefore look at the possibilities of making one's own home smart and what needs to be considered in terms of security and costs.

By the way, the blog post was created from one of our impulse lectures. In this format, our Xperts delve into a specific topic and share their expertise with other employees. Over the years, we have amassed a considerable pool of knowledge from various disciplines - not only from software development. The format is very popular among our employees and offers a good opportunity to explore areas of interest in more detail or to present one's own ideas to a larger audience. The demand for an impulse lecture on how to make one's own home smart was so great that we now want to share the knowledge gathered by our Xperts with the outside world.

Whether heating, lighting, ventilation, surveillance or entertainment electronics - almost all aspects of everyday life in our own four walls can be integrated into a smart home system. The possibilities are numerous and the so-called Magic Triangle - known from project management - can be helpful in the decision or implementation.


Those who have little time but the necessary financial leeway will probably opt for a proprietary system that works smoothly more or less by itself. However, there are also different non-proprietary solutions in this area, with which a high quality home automation system can be achieved at relatively low cost.

For example, the price range for radiator thermostats is approximately 15-50 EUR. Depending on how many thermostats are to be installed, it may make sense to choose one variant over another. However, quality should always be kept in mind, as an inexpensive but non-functional smart home system clearly misses its goal: to unburden people and make everyday life easier.


In the following, we give a brief overview of what we consider to be the most common technologies and compare them on the basis of price, radio frequency as well as the selection of compatible devices. It should be noted that the advantages and disadvantages can vary depending on the application. In addition, it is also partly possible to combine different technologies with each other.

WLAN is supported by a wide range of devices and manufacturers and operates in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. There is a large selection of smart home devices that are compatible with WLAN and can be easily integrated into an existing WLAN network. As a rule, the costs are comparatively low. Problems usually only arise when the number of devices increases or they are located too far away. In general, it can be assumed that from 10 devices upwards, transmission speed is increasingly reduced and other devices such as smartphones can experience disturbing latencies.

As far as the choice of manufacturers and devices is concerned, Bluetooth is roughly in the middle range. Like WLAN, it uses the 2.4 GHz band and benefits from low costs and low energy consumption. Disadvantages result from the smaller range of devices and the fact that the devices - even though it is not a proprietary standard - are often manufacturer-specific. Despite simple pairing, Bluetooth reaches its limits relatively quickly, not least because of its limited range.

ZigBee is just a bit more expensive, but has a very wide range of compatible devices. It is extremely reliable and, like WLAN and Bluetooth, communicates over the 2.4 GHz plus the 868 MHz band. The low energy consumption and the large selection of devices at low cost make ZigBee the technology of choice for many, even though it is more complex to set up and configure than Bluetooth or WLAN. Another advantage over the other two technologies is that some of the devices have a repeater.

The proprietary Z-Wave also uses the less frequented 868 MHz band. The selection of devices is extensive, but smaller than with ZigBee. Since every power-connected device functions as a repeater, it has a significantly greater range than, for example, WLAN. Those who equip their smart home system exclusively with one technology will probably choose Z-Wave despite the higher costs, because the devices have good interoperability and thus higher reliability.

It becomes even more cost-intensive with Homematic IP, which works in the 868 MHz band like ZigBee and Z-Wave. Likewise, with this proprietary technology, every power-connected device is also a repeater. The selection of devices is modest - nevertheless, even in large supermarket chains, you can always find devices that are compatible with Homematic IP. In addition, this technology also offers a high degree of security.

Next, we turn our attention to DECT ULE. Like all the technologies in our selection - apart from WLAN and Bluetooth - DECT ULE was developed specifically for use in smart home systems. The technology is non-proprietary and uses a frequency band in the range of 1.88 to 1.9 GHz. Even though not every wired device also functions as a repeater, DECT ULE has a high radio range and good penetration capability. The prices for the devices are roughly on the same level as Homematic IP and the selection is also significantly smaller than with other technologies. The low susceptibility to interference due to the frequency band used, which does not collide with other technologies, and the low energy consumption nevertheless make DECT ULE an attractive option. In addition, this standard is popular because it is installed as standard in many FRITZ!Boxes.

Last but not least, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of EnOcean. This technology is characterised above all by so-called energy harvesting. The devices draw their energy from their environment, for example through movement, light or temperature changes. At the same time, in addition to the proprietary standard, this feature also limits the choice of manufacturers and devices for this technology and makes for particularly high costs. The low-frequency 868 MHz band is used as the frequency band. From a technical point of view, EnOcean has the most overlap with Z-Wave, so it has a good range as well as high interoperability.

In order to make the entire system work, special software is required, and there is no shortage of options here either.


The following are some reasons why we would like to focus our attention on non-proprietary software solutions. Above all, open standards and protocols make these applications so attractive. They enable the integration of different manufacturers and technologies without being dependent on a single provider. The systems are usually easily expandable and have active communities that not only take care of existing documentation but also help to continuously improve the software. Last but not least, the following solutions impress with a high degree of customisability as well as being able to store the data locally and not having to outsource it to a cloud.

The acronym FHEM stands for Friendly Home Automation and Energy Metering. The software is based on Perl and, thanks to its many years of existence, offers a high degree of flexibility in the connection and expansion to other technologies and manufacturers. In addition, FHEM also has a considerable community that is always on the lookout for ways to further develop the product. Only the UI and the learning curve could be a hurdle for some users.

Node-RED is a flow-based development environment that is also ideal for home automation. Automation workflows can be easily created by connecting nodes. A wide range of devices and services are supported and the software also impresses with a user-friendly interface, the Node-RED dashboard. In terms of functionality, however, Node-RED lags a little behind other manufacturers, as it does not have a dedicated device management function built in, for example.

OpenHAB was developed in Java and, like the other software solutions in our overview, offers many interfaces for the integration of other technologies and manufacturers. The application has a web-based user interface and is very popular in the home automation community.

Home Assistant is also very popular among users. The UI is appealing and individually configurable even allowing the creation of 3-D images of individual rooms. It also offers a high level of compatibility with other manufacturers. The large community behind the application is another plus point.

ioBroker is probably the least known home automation platform in our list and therefore does not have as broad a community as the other software solutions. Advantages arise from the intuitive user interface and the large number of supported devices and services. Extensive automation options similar to Node-RED are also possible with it.

Domoticz focuses on simple operation and scores points with its user-friendliness. The integration and connection of other devices and manufacturers is also in no way behind the other applications.

All of these non-proprietary software solutions require hardware that must first be set up by the user. There are no major requirements: any common laptop or a Raspberry Pi is sufficient to operate a home automation system.

Other home automation solutions that work well, but are proprietary and relatively cost-intensive, are Homee, Homematic IP as well as HomeKit, Alexa and Google Nest. These applications have their own hardware on which the software is already installed - so they are much easier to use.

Which software you choose ultimately depends on personal preferences and the technologies or devices you already have at your disposal.

In order for the dream of an automated home to succeed, the appropriate smart devices are of course needed.

Smart devices

Nowadays, a wide range of things can already be integrated into a smart home system. From simple light switches to sophisticated heating and room ventilation concepts, almost anything can be implemented. When the use of AI will also expand more and more here is only a question of time. While the robot that prepares and serves you food still seems to be in the distant future for mass use, round vacuum robots are already whizzing across more and more floors in our households - and the trend is rising.

If you like to tinker a bit and are looking for individual solutions and want to act as independently as possible, you should look for devices with an ESP8266 chip. The chip is WLAN-capable and also has a comparatively low power consumption. The Tasmota firmware enables great control and offers considerable advantages in terms of transparency compared to proprietary firmware. Nevertheless, the advantages of proprietary devices should not be ignored. Devices that run with Z-Wave or Homematic IP, for example, have so-called interdevice communication. The devices are connected to each other to allow direct communication and avoiding having every action go through the control software. If, for example, the window sensor is coupled with the radiator thermostat, the radiator is lowered when the window is open without having to set up complex automation mechanisms. Even if, for example, the WLAN fails or the hub is down, the devices still function.


Our brief overview shows that there are already a number of ways to automate your own home today - without immediately sliding into financial ruin or outsourcing your own data to cloud providers. Nevertheless, we can assume that the market will be even more dominated by the large providers in the future. However, other systems and technologies are currently being developed that take a non-proprietary approach.

Particularly worth mentioning in this context are Matter and Thread. Matter aims to simplify the integration of smart devices and improve their interoperability, while Thread is a wireless communication protocol for IoT that enables reliable and secure communication between smart devices. In the future, a large number of ZigBee devices will be retrofitted with Thread through a firmware update. The organisations that develop Matter and Thread are backed by large tech companies such as Google and Apple.

The trend in this area is also towards ever greater automation and networking. The topic of AI will play an increasingly important role in this context - and even if the smart home control of the future may not look like Arthur C. Clarke's HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is nevertheless more than likely that these home automation systems will be controlled by an AI in the future. The time when the first AI will pass the Turing test seems to be closer than ever before at the current rate of development.

One thing is certain: anyone who decides in favour of a smart home should inform themselves well in advance in order to identiy what requirements they have for their home automation system in the first place. For those who want things to be as simple and convenient as possible, it is worth taking a look at the smart home solutions of the major providers. If, on the other hand, you are looking for the greatest possible independence and local data storage and like to tinker a little, you should take a closer look at the non-proprietary technologies and software solutions presented in our overview.