Putting the cart before the horse

2 minute read

You’re thinking of getting into home automation, so you’ve gone and bought a bunch of smart devices. Now you’re looking for help in doing something with it all.

Sound familiar? How many posts in forums, reddit, chat rooms, etc does this sound like?

Home automation is a hot topic, there’s adverts on TV and in magazines. You can pick up smart devices at DIY and hobby stores. It’s no longer an online only thing, it’s everywhere. Sadly that means that non-technical people are exposed to it, and the adverts that imply if you just buy their product, it’ll be easy.

These people dive in to automation, without thinking about why or how or even what they’re going to automate. They’ve got their cart, or at least a bunch of things that look like they should make a cart, are are now wondering what to do next.

The Seven Ps

Whether the original British Army version, or one of the more polite alternatives, it’s relevant here. Do some research, think a bit about what you want to achieve first. If that pretty voice control hub doesn’t help you achieve your goal, maybe skip it for now.

Not sure where to begin? There’s a number of ways of approaching that, you could look at the things that would help you (knowing if your train or bus is on time for your commute), the things that annoy you (having to turn off the extractor fan in the bathroom), or just the things you do too often (turning on and off the lights).

Once you’ve got that list, you can start your research to see what’s needed to make it happen. Some things will require various pieces of hardware, some may require little more than a Raspberry Pi and a working Internet connection. Some may even be simpler done with dumb commodity hardware than automation.

Looking before leaping

My recommendation then is simple - do some research before you commit to any choice of home automation platform, smart device, or similar. Work out what your goals are and what your budget is - in terms of both money and time, since these will often be a trade.

And don’t rush. Rushing leads to frustration. Remember you’re about to embark on something new, something you’ve never done before. There will be a learning curve ahead, and there’s no way to predict if it’ll be a gentle slope, or a cliff.