Home Automation Controllers – What Do You Need To Know

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SmartThings Controller

What Is A Home Automation Controller?

A Home Automation Controller (also called a “bridge”) is the brains behind your home automation system. It is the hub behind everything that you need to automate your home. While some smart home items like Nest or Doorbot work without a controller, to utilize the true power of a home automation system, you need a controller. A controller will allow the different components of your home automation system to work together. For example, if a motion detector detects motion, it will communicate the motion to the controller, which can then trigger a light to come on.

A Controller can work with numerous areas of home automation, including lighting, door locks, heating systems, air conditioning systems, thermostats, curtains and even home theater equipment. A controller can also connect with: video cameras, door and window sensors, motion sensors and alarms. The Controller is the brain of your system.

Examples of controllers: SmartThings, Revolv, Mi Casa, and Nexia.

Before you buy any of these controllers, read our SmartThings Review.

How to Select A Home Automation Controller

Selecting a home automation controller is one of the most important pieces of your own home automation systems. You need to pick your “brain” correctly, or else it can limit the number of options you have for expanding the system. Here are a couple of items you need to consider when selecting a controller.

Decide What You Are Looking For

First, you need to decide what you are looking for. Are you looking for something to provide more security and work with cameras? Or want your fireplace to turn on when you walk in? Decide what you want your Smart Home to do before you decide on a controller. As I’ll mention in the next point, flexibility is important, but you need the device to do what you can imagine now…but also in the future.


I’m not a fan of proprietary systems, personally for two reasons. 1. It limits the amount of flexibility. 2. It puts you in a bad spot if the company goes out of business. The most closed systems will be the toughest to look for. One of my favorite controllers, SmartThings (read my SmartThings Review here), has several different products that conform to the ZigBee and Z-Wave Standards. These are open standards that provide both stability and openness, much like open source web technology. Other Controllers, like Nexia is very selective in terms of the products it supports. Personally, I want to decide what products I want to use with my controller.


If you do a little research, most home automation controllers are fairly similarly priced. What you need to watch out for is the monthly operating costs. Nexia charges $9.99/month while SmartThings doesn’t charge anything per month. I believe that you shouldn’t have to pay a monthly service fee to use the products you already purchased.

Easy of Use

This goes without saying, but make sure that the interface for the controller is easy to use. Watch all of the videos and read all of the reviews you can. If you have all of this great equipment, but can’t use it. It’s worthless. Make sure that it has an App for your Smartphone (Android or iOS). You might also want a web interface.


In today’s “internet of things,” I don’t know why you would pay for a wired smart home system. It’s easier, neater and more flexible than using messy wires.

Further Reading:
SmartThings Review
DoorBot Review
Nest Smart Thermostat Review
Nest Protect Review


Whatcha think? Have a question or comment?