Home Automation is quickly becoming one of the latest hot spots in the tech sector and is no longer limited to the likes of Bill Gates and similar ilk.

Last year I was introduced to the world of home automation by a close friend who works for a software vendor that is making noise and becoming a “staple” in the industry. His demonstration of mood inducing Philips Hue bulbs changing color in his living room and motion activated lighting in his kitchen didn’t really do much for me. Like any tech-head, I thought it was cool but what was the real-life application? It didn’t hit me until I recently experienced the technology in the flesh and started to imagine the capabilities.

So let’s define Home Automation. For some people it may start and stop with the simple mechanical timers that have been around for decades, turning your holiday lights on and off or cycling your lawn sprinklers during the spring and summer months. For myself, I was interested in limiting unnecessary electricity usage, home security and maintaining “situate awareness” of my living space.

With smartphones, tablets, WiFi and 4G readily in the hands of consumers, we now have the user interface to automate our homes without having to carry around miscellaneous gadgets.

When choosing an automation platform (hub) there are numerous factors that may steer your decision. For most, cost will be at the top of the list. Automating your home can be costly endeavor as you add devices such as lights, dimmers, motion sensors, door locks, cameras, thermostats, etc. Compatibility should paramount when building out a system. Stick to devices utilizing standard protocols like WiFi, Z-WaveZigbee and Bluetooth. There is no use buying system accessories that you may need to replace should you you decide to change control software or device hubs later down the road. While vendors like Lutron utilize their own proprietary communication protocol called Clear Connect, they are one of the few manufactures that almost every hub and software vendors makes it a point to be compatible with.

The solution I had chosen for my home automation platform was Staples Connect powered by Zonoff. For the sake of transparency, if it wasn’t for having a close friend directly involved in the development of the product, I probably would have never known about Staples Connect. Let’s be honest, Staples is the last place you’d think of when looking to automate your home, but the product is quite affordable ($80) and utilizes many of the standard protocols mentioned above.

That said, stay tuned for Part 1 of my Adventures in Home Automation.