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 Getting Started Guide.
Controllers, Platforms and Technologies
The first thing to consider when choosing a controller is what technology or platform you plan to use for your home automation system. You then choose a controller that will work with that technology/platform - sounds obvious, and in most cases the choice is made for you as you have to use the technology 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.
This guide helps explain the options available, you can also take a look at our full range of Wireless Smart Home Platforms.
Full Controllers offer the widest range of features and will enable you to control many aspects of your smart home. They often support more than one technology, and can be expanded to control things like lights, heating and security. If you wish to control many aspects of your home (either now, or in the future), then a full controller is the better option - especially Z-Wave.
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. Z-Wave offers a very extensible platform that will work with Z-Wave devices as well as other platforms and technologies such as Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, Google, Philips Hue, Nest and many more. You can take a look at our full list of Z-Wave Controllers or if you would like to know more about Z-Wave take a look at the Understanding Z-Wave systems guide.
For more information take a look at our How to Choose a Z-Wave Controller Guide.
Platform Specific Controllers
These controllers are made by a particular 'technology' vendor to control their range of products. They typically do not support other technologies/products, but they can be used as part of a more comprehensive system such as Z-Wave.
LightwaveRF 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, as part of a Z-Wave system, or with Voice controllers (see below) - in almost all cased you still need 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.
Over the past couple of years a new breed of home automation controller has entered the market - primarily aimed at voice control. The first was Amazon Alexa, quickly followed by Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. These 'controllers' allow basic control of some systems, particularly lighting, their main feature is that you control things using your voice - which is pretty cool. However, their actual control features are limited, and can only work directly with a very small number of products. For all but the simplest of systems, it is best to use them within a larger, more capable system, such as Z-Wave. This allows you to bring voice control to all parts of your home - including heating and security.
The Amazon Alexa platforms enable you to interact with your home through voice commands. As well as allowing you to play music and check internet information, Alexa will work with many (if not all) Smart Home Systems. this means your heating, lighting, blinds and even doors can all be controlled with your voice. Amazon Alexa requires an Amazon Echo, Dot or other hardware platform that then connects to other systems via your Wi-Fi network. Checkout how Amazon Alexa works.
Products that work with Apple HomeKit can be controlled from the iOS Homekit app on your iPhone, iPad or even Mac. You can control everything from a single app or using your voice with Siri. Homekit does not need a separate controller/hub - it simply connects to all Homekit compatible platforms via your Wi-Fi. Read more about Apple Homekit compatibility.
The Google Home and Google Assistant are relatively new to the smart home scene. The Google platform allows you to control music and your home with voice commands. You will need a Google home hardware platform to work with other systems in your home.
Typically these aren't controllers in the traditional sense. They do allow certain control of devices via their cloud (web) based servers.
IFTTT is a web (cloud) service that enables you to easily connect different systems and services together so they work as one. IFTTT stands for If This Then That. It supports almost all the smart home platforms Vesternet supply. There is no hardware controller required for IFTTT - everything is done via the IFTTT cloud via the Internet. Read more about IFTTT compatibility in the home.
The Nest products connect wirelessly to your Wi-Fi system and do not need any gateway or hub. The Nest cloud will only recognise Nest devices, but it will work with IFTTT and as part of a Z-Wave system - Using Nest with Z-Wave.
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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