What is Integration and why does it matter?

If you’ve ever dealt with a Smart Home or AV professional you will probably have heard the term integration thrown around.

So what is Integration?

In the world of Smart Homes, integration is the ability for systems from different manufacturers to communicate with one another. Some systems can communicate directly, but not all.

The best Smart Homes have a control system to act as a bridge. You may have smart heating and lights: The lighting system has a button to turn on holiday mode. When the holiday mode is activated, you may also want to set your heating to frost protection. A control system would detect that the holiday mode has been activated and automatically set the heating system to frost protect. In this scenario the lighting and heating do not talk directly but, as both integrate with a control system, an action by one can trigger an action by the other.

Why does Integration matter

Surely with smart phones and apps you could simply use the app that comes with each device?

This is fine if you want to use each system as a stand alone product. What’s left is a lot of smart products in a dumb home. To make the home smart we need to think about getting all these systems to work together. For example when you press play on a Blu-ray, the lighting automatically recalls a movie scene. It’s these small conveniences that require integration. The best Smart Homes are designed for each of the systems to integrate seamlessly.

In my experience though, with a few exceptions, the systems that do everything often suffer reliability issues. Again this is where integration is important; it allows for stable and reliable systems to be linked together in a customised way. The overall system becoming greater than the sum of the parts. It also allows for backup controls. In my first example should the control system fail both the lighting and heating systems will continue to work in a stand alone capacity.

Integration is key to building a smart home. Products like Amazon Echo and Google Home offer a simple solution. But they have limitations. Professional system such as Crestron Home and Control4 give much more flexibility. Many features can be changed by the user, however, as the system uses more complex parts some things will still require a professional. The best thing to do is to research your options and ask yourself “what do I want to achieve?”. That simple question can be the difference between success and frustration with your Smart Home.

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