Wireless Smart Home?

When considering whether you should cable your smart home or can you use wireless smart home, the simple answer is… if you have the opportunity to install cables, we recommend you cable. That’s not to say wireless solutions do not work, because they do. Also just because you choose to use wireless solutions it shouldn’t be afterthought and still requires planning.

Firstly, there isn’t just one type of wireless! We are all familiar with there term “WiFi” as most homes use WiFI to connect their phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet or more accurately to their broadband connection. This type of wireless is essential as most devices like mobile phones, tablets and laptops do not have a physical connection but the real reason is we are all used to having the freedom and convenience to move around our homes with out being “plugged in”. WiFi is actually a dozen or so different specifications defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) mostly in the 2.4 GHz and 5Ghz radio spectrums.

Often a broadband router which has WiFi capabilities is connected to the phone line. This propagates a WiFi signal from the router’s given location (which is not necessarily where it needs to be) to which everyone in the house connects their mobile devices. Although, this can work fine for small homes it is not uncommon to have dead spots in remote rooms like bedrooms or the garden. People often use repeaters which work but are not the most efficient method of extending the signal. As WiFi is almost fundamental in most homes, especially if you have children, we plan a distributed WiFi infrastructure on most projects. A distributed WiFI infrastructure is essentially moving the WiFi signal to the optimal location in the property and then wiring this location back to the router. We use a process called heat mapping where we technically estimate the signal propagation we would achieve given the construction of the walls, floors, furniture, etc. It might be that we end up with multiple locations where a WiFi signal is required called a Access Point. In extreme cases where walls are very thick or lined with metal (foil back plasterboard) we could have an access point in most rooms. So even using a “wireless solution” we could end up with an extensive wired infrastructure!

Although as we have said WiFi is fundamental in most homes, it’s important to note that the radio spectrums used, in particular the 2.4Ghz range is limited. The 2.4Ghz range is actually divided into 20Mhz/40Mhz channels and it’s actually an individual channel (or multiple channels to increase bandwidth) to which we connect. Some of these channels also overlap. This may seem irrelevant but if you think of a channel as a lane on a motorway. The more cars using the lane (channel) the more likely there will be collisions. When collisions occur, the cars (data) has to start their journey again which is very in-efficient. This may go un-noticed or provide mild frustration when shopping on-line or reading the news over WiFI and the pages takes time to load but if you are controlling your home or streaming media it can become very annoying. Also, the radio spectrums used, again the 2.4Ghz range mainly is heavily congested. So in especially built up areas where neighbours also have WiFI there is more than likely people using the same channels and the efficiency of your WiFi will be heavily impacted.

This has only been one type of wireless smart home technology so far! When considering wireless solutions such as wireless lighting or wireless security systems, for example, they may use different wireless standards than “WiFi”. Standards like Zigbee or Z-wave are common wireless device standards. Zigbee for example also uses the 2.4Ghz radio spectrum. Add to the mix Bluetooth and proprietary wireless signals and you’ve actually got a very congested air space in your homes, the problem is you can’t see it but we can!

So in summary, yes wireless is needed but it needs to planned very carefully and certainly not as an afterthought. Where you have the opportunity say building a new property or under going renovations then let us plan a wired infrastructure for you. Having a wired infrastructure means each device has its own clear lane on the motorway. The lane can also be tested easily and if installed correctly will not be subject to interference from sources which can not be controlled. Security is another consideration. In short, it is less likely someone could physically connect to your home network than to connect wirelessly.