Wi-Fi has a bad rap, especially for its ability to feed commands to electronic devices in the home. The weak Internet connections and dead zones that can often plague homes can be sources of frustration for homeowners trying to command lights from an iPad or tell their whole-house audio system to play from their smartphone.
Still, there are many benefits to using Wi-Fi. First and foremost, it’s all over. No matter where you go, there’s a way to establish a Wi-Fi connection. It’s the ubiquitous communications standard of smartphones and tablets, and doesn’t require a gateway device (other than the router most households already have) to establish communications and control from a mobile device.
While Z-Wave, especially, is gaining momentum as the preferred wireless communications standard for home control, plenty of manufacturers are sticking with Wi-Fi. “We’re focused on Wi-Fi,” says Jim Carroll, Savant’executive vice president of corporate strategy and development. “It’s the road to the ‘Internet of Things’.” As a show of support, Savant at the CEDIA Expo in Denver showcased its new Wi-Fi 802.11-based lighting control system that can be used by itself or as part of Savant’s complete Apple-based home automation system.
Savant wireless lighting
As part of SmartLighting system, each lighting keypad features a built-in dimmer and internal processor, which precludes the need for a dedicated control processor. Once the keypads are installed and programmed (doable from a smartphone), the system is ready to use. Carroll expects each double-gang keypad to retail for about $215, and says that Savant will offer other Wi-Fi devices, like thermostats, that will be able to interact with its Wi-Fi lighting products. (Savant recently announced the availability of Wi-Fi lamp and plug-in modules.)
Also banking on Wi-Fi is relative newcomer to the home control market, Automated Control Technology Partners (ACTP). Its TiO (Turn it On) system is employs an all-IP backbone, with a variety of products available this fall, including lighting keypad and thermostats, that can be controlled via Wi-Fi. To be fair, TiO does require a “controller,” which includes the brains to identify TiO products on the network, but more importantly acts as a beefed up router to preclude communications snafus.
Tio base station
While most other manufacturers of wireless electronic locks employ either Z-Wave or Zigbee technology, residential lock newcomer, LockState’s new RemoteLock uses Wi-Fi only as a means of transmitting commands from a mobile device to the mechanism that locks and unlocks the deadbolt. The lock retails for $249, and if a user’s tablet of phone loses Wi-Fi connectivity, the lock can still be operated manually, says LockState director of marketing Robert Goff. Plus, the company offers a suite of other Wi-Fi devices, including a power plug, thermostat and camera.
In the case of Logitech, Wi-Fi leverages its Harmony Ultimate remote by enabling smartphones to act as supplementary remotes. Commands on the remote use Wi-Fi to populate on a users smartphone. Should a user want to set up new activities/commands for the Harmony remote and their smartphones, they can do so directly via the Smartphone app and Wi-Fi transmits the changes to the handheld remote wirelessly. Prior to the incorporation of Wi-Fi, user downloaded changes to the Harmony remote by connecting it to a computer.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.