Choosing a Home Automation Controller
The controller, sometimes called the hub or gateway, controls your home automation system. It enables you to add and configure devices and to create and run 'scenes/moods' that enable the system to do things automatically, such as turn on lights based on time or motion. More information is shown in our Understanding a Home Automation System guide.
Controllers and Technologies
The first thing to consider when choosing a controller is what technology you plan to use for your home automation system. You then choose a controller that will work with that technology - sounds obvious, and in most cases the choice is made for you as you have to use the main vendor's controller. But in other, more flexible systems, you have a choice - which can be confusing when you're looking at lots of different systems and information.
Not all technologies need a controller as they work directly on your Wi-Fi system and their cloud servers (such as Nest). Below is a short list of the main technologies we offer and the choices you have.
Z-Wave is a wireless home automation technology supported by many vendors. It enables you to easily build a system that covers your complete home and it will automatically tell you the status of your lighting, heating, security etc - you always know what's happening in your home. Take a look at:
- How to Choose a Z-Wave Controller
- Full list of Z-Wave Controllers at Vesternet
- Understanding Z-Wave systems
LightwaveRF is a relatively new home automation technology that is mainly aimed at lighting and power control, it has a great range of lighting products designed for entry-level requirements. You can use the LightwaveRF Link controller or a combined Z-Wave/Lightwave controller - this guide helps you Choose a LightwaveRF Controller.
The Philips Hue system has it's own controller, called the Hue Bridge. The Bridge is needed for all but the most simple Hue system, certainly when you wish to control the Hue lights from a phone/tablet or computer. The Philips Hue system can also be used with IFTTT or as part of a Z-Wave system, but still needs the Hue Bridge - Using Philips Hue with Z-Wave.
The Honeywell Evohome system has its own controller that runs the system schedules, allows access smartphone/tablet access and interfaces with IFTTT. Currently Evohome will not interface with other systems.
Difference between Gateways and Software Controllers
The majority of systems use a gateway/hub, but in some cases you can use a software based control system.
These are also know as a 'Hub' or 'Bridge'. A Gateway is a physical unit that connects to your Wi-Fi router using an Ethernet cable, this allows you to control the system from a smartphone, tablet or computer (via the Wi-Fi router) and allows remote access even when you're away from home, via the Internet. In order to control the system from your Smartphone/tablet you install an app for that controller, this gives you control whether you're in the lounge or sitting on the beach.
A Gateway offers you an easy to install system as they include all software in a self contained unit - just plug=in, boot it up and in a few minutes you're ready to build your home automation system.
The full range of Vesternet gateways is at - Vesternet Home Automation Gateways
A software controller is a dedicated software program that runs on a PC, Mac or small single-board computer like RaspBerry Pi.
You will need a computer that is running 24/7 as the home automation will need to run scenes at different times of the day. You also need a USB adapter (sometimes called a 'stick' or 'dongle') - this enables the computer to talk wirelessly to the home automation system.
Popular software controllers are HomeSeer (PC), Indigo (Mac), Domoticz (free) and OpenHab (free).
A software based system makes sense if you already have a computer acting as a server for other things in your home, or acting as a media server. Otherwise if make sense to use a dedicated Gateway as your controller as it will be easier to install, less expensive and probably use less power.
The full range of software and adapters is at - Vesternet Home Automation software & adapters
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