Oftentimes you'll see the terms "smart home" and "home automation" used interchangeably, which may lead you to wonder why there are so many terms for the same concept.

In this case, though, there is actually a difference - although it may be pretty confusing if you're new to the tech game.

In simple terms: home automation is just one of the many things that smart homes do. If that doesn't make it any clearer, think of it like this: smart home technology is comprised of connected devices—which means that they rely on networking technology like Wi-Fi or specialized technologies like Z-Wave to connect and communicate with other devices in and outside of the home.

Examples of such devices include: light switches and dimmers that can be operated remotely; surveillance cameras that can be monitored from another room or another continent altogether; thermostats that can be programmed to follow a set schedule or adjusted on the fly from your smartphone; even energy meters that allow you to keep tabs on your total electricity consumption in real time. That's merely scratching the surface, though; really, any device in your home that you can operate, monitor, or receive information from without physically interacting with it could be considered part of the smart home.

So, what about home automation?

It's simple – all of your smart devices know how to talk to one another. And you can customize what they're saying & doing in a way that takes the stress, effort, and unpredictability out of your day-to-day routine.

Let's look at some examples.

  1. Using your smartphone to turn on the turn on the foyer light before you unlock the front door? That's the smart home at work. Programming your smart home hub so that it automatically turns on the foyer light if you unlock the front door after sunset? That's home automation!
  2. If you have a morning routine that involves both starting your favorite "wake up" station on Pandora and firing up the coffee pot, why not combine both actions into one simple button press? Or better yet, you can program your system in such a way that performing one of those actions automatically triggers the other.

Of course, for all home automation of this sort to actually work, you need to make sure that all of your smart home devices can communicate with one another and work together. And the easiest way to do that is to make sure that your new smart locks, smart lights, smart plugs, and smart home hub all carry the Z-Wave logo.

For more information on how you can get started with your smart home—or automate the smart home system you already have—check out the Z-Wave Resources Center.