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Home Automation: The Network

Automating a home well requires communication pathways between the different things you want to control and automate. Light switches, audio-visual components, garage door openers, and climate control equipment–all of these can be harnessed only if there is a way to communicate with them.

A fully automated home will actually have two networks, an IP network and a ZigBee network.

  • TCP/IP of course is the network you probably already have, providing wireless Internet access throughout much of your house. But most of us don’t have a network that’s ready for streaming video workloads, whether for TV’s or security cameras. That requires wired ethernet.
  • ZigBee is one of the low-power, low-bandwith wireless protocols used in a lot of components for home automation. (Z-Wave is another.) ZigBee provides amazing flexibility so that you don’t need to run ethernet cables or power cables to every component in the system you automate. ZigBee works as a mesh, so each component in the system can act as a wireless relay for all the others. Battery-powered components running ZigBee cannot act as a relay, but things like powered light switches and dimmers will.

Going Gigabit

To stream video to any room of the house requires bandwidth. So for the TCP/IP network in our house, I selected a 24-port gigabit switch from Luxul. Fortunately, my house is already wired with cat 5, which means I won’t need to pull much cable. I got a smaller, 8-port switch for our main entertainment center because there are several components to connect in there. I also picked up an 8-port Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switch.

Power-over-Ethernet gives great flexibility for things like a front-door camera or a wall-mounted touchscreen. Ethernet is required for streaming video, but with PoE you can run a touchscreen without running a power cable.

Getting Ziggy

All of the dimmers and switches in a system work over ZigBee. In replacing existing switches, it also builds out multiple powered ZigBee nodes. That should create a pretty solid mesh throughout my house so that any battery-powered devices can be added.¬†Controllers from Control4 include a ZigBee network, so for my 2,800 square foot home system I likely won’t need extra ZigBee networking components. (I’ll need to verify this notion.)


After I get the ethernet gear set up, I’ll put in the next post in this project.


Note: Control4 systems can be installed only by professionals. Go to the Control4 Dealer Locator to find an installer in your area.

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One Response

  1. […] a massively extensible system that can control devices by either infrared or network devices (ethernet and Zigbee). It even sports some direct-wired controls through four relays and four contact sensor interfaces. […]

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