Determining the best home automation systems is by no means and easy task. But each year, the judging committee and Electronic House magazine selects from numerous submissions entered by many manufacturers the top products and systems for your home. The judges consider innovation, uniqueness, and practical benefits to end users when choosing the winners of categories including audio, video, home control and automation, home theater, smart lighting, and home security. In this, our second announcement of our Products of the Year, (see here for the best home audio products) we present the best home automation systems. We will reveal the winners of the remaining categories in the weeks ahead, so be sure to visit electronichouse.com often.
Home Networking Components
WINNER: FIREFX Network Guardian IoT Cyber-Security Router & Intrusion Prevention System
With the current state of the Internet and Internet of Things (IoT) cyber-security, there is a great need for a real and meaningful security standard that can be deployed to homes. FIREFX has developed a product that can be professionally designed and customized to address the security needs of the 21st century smart home.
The FIREFX Network Guardian is a Unified Threat Management (UTM) device that replaces the traditional router/firewall in a smart home, adding superior performance, proactive IoT protection, cyber-security and data protection. The Network Guardian does this by combining a military-grade intrusion detection/protection platform and firewall to the traditional router in a superior hardware chassis.
Just as a home security system ensures your physical safety, the FIREFX Network Guardian ensures your cyber-security. The Network Guardian is the first dedicated security router/firewall designed specifically for IoT smart home deployments. With pre-configured monitored VLANs for control systems, PC/wireless devices, guest access, and kid-safe protected Internet access, the Network Guardian can be fine-tuned by a professional home systems integrator to meet your specific needs.
How does it work? In simplest terms, the VLANs create a separation in the network traffic, allowing for granular content filtering and creating inspection points as traffic traverses the router. As traffic crosses between VLANs or goes in or out of the router, it is carefully inspected for known threats by comparing it to threat patterns that are downloaded twice daily to protect your network from emerging viruses and malware. In addition, the Network Guardian continually analyzes your traffic, learning what is normal and flagging suspicious traffic for closer scrutiny. Traffic identified as malicious is immediately shut down, protecting the entire network from cross contamination.
Energy Monitoring Devices & Services
WINNER: Whisker Labs Home Energy Monitoring Sensor
Today, it’s difficult to know if your home’s HVAC system working efficiently, let alone if it is about to break down. Ditto for your hot water heater, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. The failure of any one of these appliance is a major inconvenience and significant expense in any scenario.
Now imagine sticking a phone-sized sensor attached to your home’s electrical panel (or breaker box) that connects to your Wi-Fi, continually monitors the health of your home appliances and devices, and notifies you of any anomalies with specific recommendations.
Whisker Labs has developed a DIY (do-it-yourself installation) home energy monitoring sensor that can access the electricity data from your home, send it to our cloud based, big data analytics machine, and receive diagnostic information on your HVAC system, or notifications that your sump pump appears to be slowing down or even that your laundry is done.
The Whisker Labs sensor connects every device and appliance in the home immediately and measures energy use in the home in real-time and at high frequencies, with patented methods that rely upon very sophisticated scientific and computational analytics to develop one sensor that can turn every home into a connected home with one simple DIY sensor.
The Whisker Labs DIY home energy monitoring device delivers accurate, real-time power usage and diagnostic information for each appliance – without costly and complex professional installation. Whisker Labs’ sensing technology brings non-connected devices online for applications related to energy consumption, fault detection, and overall home efficiency.
Power Management, Conditioning & Backup
WINNER: APC by Schneider Electric Back-UPS BE850M2
The APC by Schneider Electric Back-UPS BE850M2 powers and protects all critical home networking electronics while maintaining an Internet connection during prolonged power outages. Focusing on the most critical aspects of power protection, BE850M2 powers wireless home and small business networking equipment for up to six hours after safely shutting down connected PCs and other high-powered devices. By powering critical electronics, the device allows you to check email, steam movies and TV shows, make phone/video calls and maintain home automation and security systems.
The BE850M2 also features additional battery backup and surge protected outlets and conveniently-located USB charging ports to ensure emergency power for any device, including smartphones and tablets.
Featuring a smaller and lighter design than previous models, Back-UPS BE850M2 can be easily relocated and positioned in any environment—critical for homeowners who need to power and protect numerous devices in today’s connected world.
Professionally Installed Whole-House Control/Automation Systems
WINNER: Lutron Connect Bridge and App
The Lutron Connect Bridge is a device that enables numerous features within the new Lutron Connect App. The Lutron Connect Bridge connects to a Wi-Fi router which allows for communication in the app with Lutron’s popular RasioRA 2 and HomeWorks QS home control systems. The features within the Lutron Connect App include geofencing support, Apple Watch support, timeclock syncing, automatic cloud-based firmware updates of the Bridge, and integration with certain Wi-Fi thermostats.
Geofencing prompts a change in lights, shades or thermostats (supports Nest and Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostats) to take place based on the user’s location. The Lutron Connect App also supports Apple and Android widgets. This allows for quick access to the app without unlocking your phone. The Lutron Connect App also reports to the user battery and device status. A pop up notification in the app will display when devices have low battery. The battery status is available for Lutron’s Pico remote controls, Lutron’s Radio Powr Savr occupancy sensors, and battery powered shades.
Remote Home Monitoring/Management Systems
WINNER: SnapAV OvrC Pro
The SnapAV OvrC Pro’s part-hardware, part-software hybrid architecture delivers enhanced visibility, control, and deep native integration with IP devices and other connected hardware. This means a professional home systems integrator can view any IP connected device, perform built-in diagnostics, or configure device-specific functions, while their homeowner clients can remotely reset select devices through a customized end-user mobile app.
Through OvrC Pro, integrators can proactively monitor the health and status of their customers’ networks and connected devices, all without being on-site. With incredible remote support features – visibility of all connected devices, access to ISP performance, a single-view operational dashboard, and an end-user mobile app that allows customers to reset select devices remotely – it eliminates the need for a professional to visit your house.
OvrC Pro makes it easy for a professional home systems integrator to deliver to clients a quick summary of the network health of their homes. Using the OvrC app, integrators can access and view the number of connected or disconnected network devices, as well as view firmware updates for each job location.
Additionally, the service package comes bundled with a customized client-facing app, OvrC Home. This app is the first of its kind, and empowers clients to fix common issues on their own by giving them an easy way to reset devices or systems through a simple touch.
WINNER: Venstar Wireless Temperature Sensor
Venstar’s Wireless Temperature Sensor is entirely wireless and communicates with your home’s Wi-Fi network to help improve indoor comfort while reducing energy usage and costs.
The sensor contains “multiple personalities” in one package. It may be configured as a remote temperature sensor, a supply air sensor, or as an outdoor temperature sensor. Used as a remote temperature sensor indoors, it can help average temperatures to eliminate freezing or hot rooms. Or, it can be set up in a specific space, such as the baby’s room, to control the temperature in that specific area.
But, where it really shines is when it is used as a supply air temperature sensor. When used as a supply air sensor in conjunction with Venstar’s free Skyport Cloud Services, the sensor will sample supply air every 20 seconds. If the supply air temperature is not as expected, it will send email alerts to the owner and/or the contractor so they can identify and repair the specific malfunctioning HVAC equipment.
When the Supply Air Alert is enabled, email alerts are also sent to the user and/or contractor’s mobile device using Venstar’s free Skyport Mobile App, which remotely monitors and controls Venstar’s ColorTouch and Explorer (formerly Voyager) Wi-Fi thermostats, giving users instant access and control of multiple thermostats at numerous locations.
When used to sense outdoor temperature, it helps manage dual fuel residential systems that help reduce gas usage and lower energy bills where fossil fuels cost more than electricity.
The sensor can operate from 1 to 5 years (depending on application) using four AA batteries, making it completely untethered, with no need for external power. It also works with 24vac power.
Universal Remotes & User Interfaces
WINNER: RTI KX10 10-inch In Wall Touchpanel
With a commanding presence and sophisticated style, the KX10 Touchpanel from RTI puts the world of intuitive control and automation over a home’s entertainment, environmental, and security systems at the user’s fingertips. The K10’s 10.1-inch multi-touch-capacitive LCD delivers ample screen real estate in crisp 1280×800 WXGA resolution. It can be customized and programmed to meet the control needs of any user.
Thanks to the KX10’s advanced engineering, it also functions as a high-resolution display that offers a convenient place to watch HD video (via an HDBaseT input) and view footage from security cameras.
In addition, it features video intercom functionality via a built-in camera, microphone, and speaker, allowing users to communicate with other RTI devices and door stations. The KX10’s proximity sensor brings the unit to life when a user approaches and an ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the screen brightness to the surrounding environment.
Built-in IR and RS-232 outputs enable the unit to conveniently control local devices, or be incorporated into the powerful RTI home control ecosystem.
For a look at all of the Product of the Year entries, go here.
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