Smart Home Networking Basics

home-networkingToday almost every home and small home office has a home network, and an Internet connection.

The current home network enables multiple devices e.g. PCs,tablets etc to connect to each other, and also to connect to the internet.

Today most home networks will use a mixture of Ethernet and Wi-fi wireless networking technology and the TCP/IP networking protocol.

Smart Home devices will connect either directly to the existing home network or else indirectly via a hub or gateway.( Zwave and Zigbee). See Home automation basics.

Today’s Home Networks- TCP/IP Basics

Current home networks that connect your tablet,PC and Smart phone to the Internet are based on the TCP/IP protocol.

Most home will already have this network in place.

The following tutorial will help you understand, build, and extend a home TCP/IP network.

Home networks use TPC/IP and although you don’t need to be a TPC/IP expert you should at least understand the basics, particularly how devices are addressed.

Home Automation Networks – Z-Wave, Zigbee

Smart home devices are almost all wireless devices. Because the initial requirement was for low powered devices the Wi-FI wireless technology that is used on TCP/IP based networks was not considered suitable.

Therefore the first home automation devices were developed to use Z-Wave or Zigbee wireless technologies.

Because these technologies don’t use WI-FI or TCP/IP they don’t have an IP addresses.

This means that you cannot connect a Zigbee or Z-Wave device directly to a WI-FI or TCP/IP based network.

However to really be smart, devices should ideally be controllable from across the Internet.

Which in turn means that they will need to connect to  TCP/ IP network.

Therefore many home automation networks will require some form of hub or gateway to connect them to the existing Wi-Fi network and look like the one below:


Smart devices will also have a variety of addresses depending on the protocol that they are using.

Zigbee and Z-Wave networks don’t have IP addresses but use their own addresses structure.

See Zwave addressing and Zigbee addressing

Note: The terms hub and Gateway are used interchangeably on smart home networks. See what is a Hub

Future Networks and Summary

Many new smart devices are now using Wi_fi and so can connect directly to the existing home Wi-Fi network.

However because of the early adoption of Z-wave in particular, and also Zigbee, there are many device types that are currently only available for Z-wave or Zigbee.

A quick search on Amazon showed around 7,000 pages for Zigbee and 56,000 pages for Z-Wave.

It seems Z-Wave, because of its simple design already dominates and will likely increase its dominance over Zigbee.

In addition there are also proprietary home automation networks and protocols like Mi Home (UK).

Personally I think Wi-Fi will dominate in the future with Z-Wave and Zigbee being used in special or legacy environments.

Smart Home Networking Quiz

Quick Quiz to test your knowledge of Home networking concepts and technologies.

Related Tutorials and Resources

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