The development of the smart home gradually emerged through various projects, with the ‘House of the Present’ being a particularly important milestone, according to Wikipedia. It came about through an architectural competition launched by Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine in 2001. The same competition as when playing Bizzo Casino. All participants were called upon to design a house for four people that could cost a maximum of 250,000 euros and should represent the social responsibility of architecture. Originally, this was only a theoretical competition, but the second-place architectural firm Allmann Sattler Wappner was nevertheless allowed to implement its concept at BUGA 05. The resulting “House of the Present” included not only various multifunctional rooms but also a central control facility for all electrical processes, making it the first officially known smart home.


In the following overview, we present the already mentioned Smart Home components again individually and explain their importance for home automation.

The control center is the brain of the smart home system

Most smart systems are based on a control center (also called base station, hub, bridge or gateway). It connects all smart components with each other and can thus operate several household appliances at the same time, if desired. For this to work, each control center masters at least one wireless standard, some several. More on this later.

Sensors register what is going on

As the “brain” of the system, the central control unit cannot respond independently to environmental stimuli, but requires the help of sensors to detect them. Their task – as the “ears” and “eyes” of the system, so to speak – is to convert physical variables such as brightness, movement, sound and moisture into electrical signals.

Sensors include, for example, water, motion and smoke detectors, as well as window and door contacts that detect opening and closing operations. Many window and door contacts register changes using either magnetic or infrared sensors. Magnets are considered to be particularly accurate, which is why they are also used in medicine.

Actuators control household appliances on command from the control center

Actuators are the counterpart to sensors. They enable the smart home to react intelligently to perceived impressions. For example, a smart heating system receives a radio signal telling it what the desired temperature is. The sensor senses the current temperature and reports it to the control center, whereupon it causes an actuator to increase the heating power until the actual and desired temperatures match.

Conventional electrical appliances and lamps can also use a WLAN socket to provide information about their status and be controlled remotely. Smart wireless plugs are both actuators, because they transmit electrical impulses and set kitchen appliances in motion, for example, and sensors, because they measure values such as power consumption or room temperature. The information about the “sensed” state is then made available to the control center or app via radio.

Operating devices spontaneously fulfill all wishes

Much of home automation is automatic, so users don’t have to worry about annoying household chores. However, if a deviation from the routine becomes necessary, e.g. because a resident comes home unexpectedly early, there are various ways to adapt intelligent functions. For example, via:

  • smartphone, tablet
  • Voice assistant or the corresponding speaker
  • Touch display for the wall

Radiator thermostats and electric door locks in particular often also offer an emergency function to allow manual intervention at any time in the event of a malfunction. While this is usually done with a classic emergency key in the case of networked locks, the manual operation of thermostats takes place directly on the housing.


Smart home gadgets expand the home in a particularly uncomplicated way. These are networkable devices that can be connected directly to the smartphone via WLAN or Bluetooth. They are therefore also referred to as “plug-and-play” modules.

Unlike the device components of a system, they therefore do not have to be connected to an external base station because they already speak the radio language of the smartphone or tablet, i.e. WLAN or Bluetooth. Some are even compatible with popular voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and respond when called.

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