There are three different communications technologies that are used in a typical smart home. These technologies, however different their objectives are, co-exist and complement each other.
The first on the list is probably a technology you might already have in your home. It’s called Wi-Fi or Wireless Fidelity. You probably know this as the technology if you use a laptop to access the Internet. This the most popular and the most useful communications tool among the bunch, since it is capable of moving large amounts of data within an appreciable range, covering the whole house more often than not.
Wi-Fi is based on the 802.11 standard and this is the smart home technology we use to stream video and audio to different parts of the home. A Wi-Fi setup requires a router, which will control how packets of data are being distributed to one or more computers or mobile devices on the home network.
But in a smart home, we do not only deal with large information. We also communicate small packets of data within our home control network in order to send simple commands such as telling a light to go on or off. We don’t need Wi-Fi to do that, so we use another communications technology for our smart home. One technology to send simple commands around the home is powerline communications (PLC). This technology sends signals over your existing power lines, and we will use this to, for example, control our lights or turn appliances on or off.
Turning lights on or off, or setting timers for our devices requires only small packets of information, so we can use technologies that are cheaper than Wi-Fi. PLC is considerably cheaper than Wi-Fi, which is important given that you will want to connect a large number of switches and appliances around your home to your control network. Accordingly, a technology as cheap as PLC is needed.
Lastly, we have Radio Frequency (RF) technology — the technology used in cordless phones. This wireless technology can be used to also send home control commands around the home. It can work in conjunction with PLC, ensuring that if a command gets dropped through one technology, then it will get transmitted through the other technology.