Sponsored by SAGE
Do-it-yourself home automation and wireless security products have been around for decades. But the buyers have traditionally been computer “geeks,” who love to tinker with new technologies, and “first adopters,” people who pride themselves on owning the latest and greatest electronic toys. That’s changing—fast. According to one recent survey, 2016 will be the year smart-home automation and security technology goes mainstream. The survey shows that 45 percent of the participants already own or plan to invest in smart-home products in 2016, and 36 percent of those respondents don’t regard themselves as “early adopters.” More important, of the respondents who already own smart-home products, 70 percent say they’re even more inclined to buy additional products to expand their system’s features. If you’re ready to add security, temperature and lighting controls to your home, here’s what you need to know.
Talk securely to your smart-home system
Stand-alone smart products like thermostats, lightbulbs and wireless power switches communicate with a smartphone or tablet app directly through your home’s Wi-Fi and the manufacturers’ web portal. Multi-component systems require a control hub to interface between the individual devices, a web portal and your smartphone. The hubs often use off-the-shelf X-10, ZigBee, Z-Wave or Bluetooth technologies. Those technologies are fine for automation tasks because hacking a light switch isn’t a big security risk. But home security products present a much greater risk, especially when the individual devices are built with off-the-shelf technology that’s unencrypted.
Encryption is the key
Since hub-based systems are designed for expansion, you need an encrypted control hub even if you’re just starting with home automation. That way, you can expand into home security devices later without buying a new hub. One system that has end-to-end encryption security is SAGE™ by Hughes™. The Hughes/EchoStar Technologies divisions have been building securely encrypted satellite systems for more than 30 years. They’ve used their encryption expertise to build the SAGE hub, as well as the individual sensors, switches, thermostats, accessory devices and their web portal. That’s a safety feature few other manufacturers provide. In fact, if a home automation or security system manufacturer states that you can add any other manufacturer’s equipment to their system, that’s a warning sign their system isn’t encrypted.
Then check out the interface
All home automation and security systems require some initial programming. Outdated systems program require you to program everything through a keypad. You enter an installer code followed by numerical option and parameter codes for every sensor and switch. That’s tedious and error prone. Other systems can be programmed through a laptop web browser but may not program properly on a tablet browser. The SAGE system is different. You perform the initial programming right on your TV. Just connect your cable or satellite box to the HDMI IN port on the SAGE hub and your TV to the HDMI OUT port. Then turn on your TV and connect the SAGE hub to either your Wi-FI or hard-wire to your router with an Ethernet cable. Then follow all the setup information listed on the screen.
The on-screen instructions walk you through the power-up and “pairing” procedures for each device. If you make a mistake naming or configuring a sensor or switch, simply go back and redo it. You don’t have to start at the beginning or reprogram the entire system. The SAGE system allows you to customize the “rules” for each device, so you determine exactly when and how you want each sensor to report its status. Then set up the “MyLocal-911” (at a nominal monthly rate). That allows you to contact your home’s local fire and police from your smartphone’s SAGE app regardless of your current location. Finish by mounting the contact sensors on your doors and windows.
Then arm and disarm the system and operate all the automation devices right from your TV or smartphone.
SAGE starter kits are available in three configurations:
- SAGE Starter Kit—Hub, one door/window sensor and a motion detector
- SAGE Automation Kit—Hub, controlled light switch, receptacle and lightbulb
- SAGE Security Kit—Hub, door/window sensor, motion detector, doorbell sensor, digital video camera.
— Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor