What Are the Elements of a Home Automation System?

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At the most basic level, home automation systems are made up of three elements: a smart hub, a smartphone application, and a smart device. Let's take a look at what those elements actually are and what they do.

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1. Smart hubs

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Aeotec Smart Home Hub
Aeotec Smart Home Hub
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The smart hub is the command center of your smart home ecosystem. It’s the piece that connects your individual devices and helps them talk to one another.

Some brands—like SimpliSafe Home Security— have hubs that don't work with another brand's devices, while others—like the Amazon Echo—are compatible with all kinds of third-party products.

Your internet router is a hub too

Wi-Fi is one of the most common smart home operating standards. As long as you choose smart devices that work with Wi-Fi, you don't need to go out and buy a separate smart home hub—your internet router will do the trick. 

Other common operating standards include Z-Wave and Zigbee. To cover all your bases, we recommend getting a hub that translates all of these smart home languages, like the Aeotec Smart Home Hub

2. Smartphone app

An app is what gives you the ability to control or monitor your smart devices remotely. You simply download the system’s companion app and pair it with your hub, and you’re done.

A mobile app also gives you the ability to fine-tune the device's settings and schedules. While each product’s app works a bit differently, some also show usage reports and give you tips about how to use the device to its full potential.

Try these apps for centralized control

Once you accumulate a bunch of smart home devices, you might find yourself opening several different apps to control them all. Your smart home hub app—like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant—serve as command central—provided all of your smart home devices work with these hubs, of course.

If you have a hodge-podge of apps with different compatibility, try IFTTT. This app simplifies home automation and lets you set up routines with devices from different brands or operating standards. 

The launch of Matter smart home devices is just around the corner, and it promises to streamline apples-to-oranges smart home control too.

3. Smart home devices

Smart devices are the real workhorses of a smart home system. They’re the parts that actually implement commands. Here are just a few examples of the different types of smart devices you may be able to add to a system.

Access control and security devices

Home security and access control devices used to connect to a control panel only. Now every home security system worth its salt connects to a smartphone app too. 

Here are some of the most common home security components you'll find on the market with smart home capabilities:

Even home security key fobs can trigger home automation routines based on their proximity to your system's control panel. For example, you can program the system to arm and the doors to lock when your key fob gets too far away from the control panel—and you'll never worry about forgetting to lock up again.


Almost any appliance could become a part of your home automation system. Smart refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, and ovens already exist.

Smaller appliances, such as connected coffee pots and slow cookers, have been around for a while, too. But remember, they're not really "smart" unless they can be controlled by a smartphone app.

And let's not forget about those game-changing robot vacuums.

Climate controls

Smart climate controls help keep your home comfortable and your utility bills low. Here are common examples:

Energy resource managers

Smart energy management devices include remote sprinkler controls, water leak detectors, and energy monitoring devices. Smart plugs and remote control electrical outlets fall into this category, too.


When paired with a compatible voice hub, smart home entertainment devices let you turn on a TV show without ever digging the remote out of the couch. What a world. 

Aside from smart TVs, this category also includes smart speakers.

Fire and other environmental alarms

A smart smoke detector sends an alarm to your phone, allowing you to take action even if you aren't home. Smart carbon monoxide detectors and radon detectors do the same.

Health care devices

Smart health care devices are finally catching on. In some cases, you can invite your healthcare provider to access the data collected from the app. You can find bathroom scales, blood pressure monitors, medication trackers, and even some medical alert systems with a smart home twist. 

Lighting controls

There's a surprising variety of smart lights and controls on the market, including some of our favorites:

The list goes on

Smart devices exist for pretty much any modern problem. Check out these too:

Now that you understand the basic elements of home automation, head over to our Beginners Guide to Home Automation to learn more.


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Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over eight years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She is a certified Safe Sleep Ambassador and has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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