Smart Home App Development: How to Make an Automation App for Smart Homes
The home is getting increasingly intelligent, and home automation is becoming commonplace. Smart home app development becomes a promising niche for those companies, that want to embrace home automation.
The futuristic dream of lights turning on when you walk into the room, turning the temperature down automatically when you leave your home, and checking your security cameras from your phone when you’re at work, is now very normal.
Technology continues to improve rapidly, and smart devices like smart plugs, thermostats, cameras, lights, doorbells, and more are making our home lives more comfortable and convenient, not to mention more secure.
As such, smart home app development is now a fast-growing industry.
And it’s only just beginning. The growth of 5G internet will only speed up and improve the smart home over the next few years, and soon everyone will live in some form of smart home.
In fact, by 2026, smart home revenue is set to hit $195.20 billion.
Connected devices development is growing rapidly, and there is a lot of opportunity for developers to create smart home apps and enjoy a slice of this growing market.
Things are moving fast. We could soon start to see more augmented and virtual reality incorporated into the smart home, and AR/VR for smart homes is likely to be a big area.
But even if you are not thinking about smart home AR/VR apps, now is a great time to build a useful and profitable smart home automation app and break into the market. So don’t miss out on getting your foot in the door early.
But how should you set about building your smart home app? Which features should it include? And what are the key considerations?
We’ll look closely at this in the following smart home app development guide.
How it works
Before developing your smart home app, you need to understand the basic system.
Many devices in the home now come with sensors built into them that detect conditions like the temperature, and their job is to gather information and send it to the hub.
Smart homes are based on embedded systems where software controls hardware in the home.
The app is the hub, the home automation controller, and it handles the communication between the devices and processes the data. The smartphone application forms part of the hub, and users can manage their devices via the app.
The devices, sensors, and apps all need to communicate, and they usually do this via WiFi. However, they may also use Bluetooth, Z-Wave, or Zigbee.
These are the technical considerations. Next, you need to consider the main features of smart home systems to decide which area to focus on.
Home Automation: Key Features
Home automation systems have several features. You could focus on one, some, or all of these when you create your mobile app.
Here are the main features of a smart home system:
Security is one of the top features of home automation apps. People want to manage the security system in their homes, especially when they are out. Connected home technology is making this easier than ever.
People can now use their apps to monitor their properties. For example, they can set up a connected security camera with a motion detector, home alarms, smart locks, and other motion sensors and receive alerts when something unusual happens.
General Household Management
Household management is a big area of smart home technology. It includes everything from smart lighting to thermostat control to fridges, cookers, washers, dryers, coffee machines, and more.
They’ll soon all connect to the internet and require apps that make them easy to control.
Entertainment is another key area of smart automation in the home. Smart TVs are the main focus at the moment, but there are many other ways that entertainment is becoming a popular smart home feature,
People now want to manage the TV, radio, projector, speaker, home theater, soundbar, and more via apps. As such, smart home entertainment is an important area to consider.
Another growing area is that relating to household hazards. Smart devices can detect hazards like water leaks, gas leaks, smoke, and carbon monoxide.
Users can receive notifications when something is detected, allowing them to act sooner.
Custom vs. Ready-Made Smart Home Apps
One of the big questions you’ll need to ask yourself is how you plan to build the app. Will you use a ready-made option or a custom solution?
You probably have a good idea of what you want your app to do and the role you want it to play. But how you design the app will have a huge impact on the final result.
Here are the main considerations for both options.
There are several ready-made or off-the-shelf platforms for smart home apps. Smart home developers can use these as the base for their apps to save time and money.
When you use a platform to develop the app, you just develop the app using a platform and use the APIs to connect the devices to your system.
You can choose from several platforms:
Using one of these platforms will make the app quicker to launch and be cheaper and use fewer resources.
However, it may look similar to other apps on the market, and it will probably have fewer unique features that make it stand out.
With a custom solution, you start from scratch. Of course, it takes longer and costs more, but don’t dismiss it for these reasons.
The fact is a custom solution when it comes to automation app development offers much more flexibility. You can include any feature you want and design it to perfectly match your branding.
The development cycle is longer, and it could take several months to create a complex cross-platform app. But it depends on which features you want to incorporate.
But you can make your app stand out rather than look like many others. Doing this can help to give your app the edge and make it more competitive in a crowded market.
With a custom solution, you can completely control the code and create a more customized experience.
You can use several programming languages to create smartphone apps for the smart home. These include Swift for the Apple ecosystem and React Native for both Android and Apple devices, and other cross-platform languages like Xamarin.
If you are not a developer, discuss this with your outsourced app development team and find out what they recommend.
Which Is the Best Option for You?
There is no “best” option because it depends on several factors, including your budget, what you want to create, how much time you have, how complex the app will be, and more.
Custom is probably the best option, but it may not be realistic for you now because of the additional time and costs involved.
It also depends on your long-term goals, so it’s worth thinking about these early on. For example, are you planning to build an entire business around this app? Or is it a helpful tool that is a small part of your business?
Custom apps provide more creativity, innovation, and growth potential. And if you outsource your app development, you maintain complete control over the project while the experts create the exact app you want.
Best Home Automation Apps
One of the best things to do before deciding on the process for your app is to explore existing home automation apps.
There are many of these, so use them to get ideas and inspiration for your app. Find out more about what users expect from these apps and get a better understanding of the direction you want to pursue.
Here are some of the most popular smart home apps available today:
SmartThings from Samsung is one of the top home automation apps available. It works with smart devices from Samsung and other manufacturers like Nest and Yale, allowing users to control all their devices from a single hub, from fridges to thermostats.
Users can group devices to control them together, and the app is highly customizable, so it offers lots of flexibility.
Overall, it’s a simple but powerful app that people worldwide use.
It’s no surprise that Google has an app that users can use to control all their Google devices and other compatible brands like Philips Hue lights.
It’s easy and intuitive to use, and different tabs provide easy access to devices. You can also use Google Assistant to use your voice to control features.
With the launch of Alexa, Amazon led the way with smart speakers, and the Alexa app can control all Alexa devices and devices from compatible manufacturers.
It features excellent voice control that makes it very easy to use. You can also use the app to set up routines where specific actions happen based on your actions (e.g., when you leave your home).
This security-focused app is a good option to explore if you create an app for security.
Use it to set up your system, calibrate it, and monitor smart locks. For example, you can use the app to set the doors to unlock when you approach the front door.
It’s simple, elegant, and a good example of what a home security app should look like.
Control your Philips Hue smart lights using this app, which is easy to use and packs many features. For example, you can adjust the brightness and color of smart bulbs and create routines to run automatically based on your schedule.
Use this app to control your Apple HomeKit accessories. Many devices work with HomeKit, and you can use Siri to control the devices by voice via the app.
Now that you’ve looked at the available apps on the market, you have a better idea about whether you want to use a ready-made platform or design a custom app from scratch.
There are several important considerations when building your app, and these will give you more direction so you can plan your app and make it a success.
Single-Purpose vs. Multi-Purpose
One of the primary considerations is whether your app will focus on one specific purpose or whether it will be a multi-purpose app.
Will it control one single device or several devices together? Or will it control different devices with a similar purpose, like security devices?
A single-purpose app is more manageable and cost-effective. An all-in-one app will be more complex and possibly more expensive. A single-purpose app will also be quicker to create, so you can launch it sooner.
But do people want to have lots of apps for different purposes? Or a single app that does it all?
Find out what your users want by carrying out market research. See how they use the solutions already available to them. Then ask yourself what your app will do differently and better.
Devices to Support
You need to carefully consider the devices you want to support. For example, if you want to focus on Apple HomeKit devices, then iOS is the way to go. But you might want to work with devices from other manufacturers too.
Have a clear goal in mind. For example, maybe you have your own devices and want the app to work with them alone.
As far as your users are concerned, the more devices you support, the better.
Free & Premium Features
Another key consideration is whether you will provide all your features for free or whether you want to offer premium features too.
Think carefully about your monetization goals. For example, will you offer premium features as a subscription or an upgrade? Which features will users pay more for?
Compare with your competitors. What are they doing? Do they charge extra for certain features?
Ideally, you don’t want to charge extra for features that competing apps provide free of charge.
Another option is to start with a few basic features when launching the app. Then you can add new features over time based on customer feedback.
Perhaps the most important consideration of all is the user experience.
People will not download and use an app with a bad user experience. You want the reviews that people leave for your app to highlight how easy it is to use.
This ease of use is what the smart home is all about: making life more convenient and comfortable. No one wants the stress of confusing apps that make it difficult to find the functions they need.
An intuitive UI is, therefore, essential. Make it appealing so that people want to use your app.
The user’s needs always come first. So get a deep understanding of their needs, what they want, and why they would use your app, then meet those needs.
You must consider data storage with your home automation app, which means either local or cloud storage.
Here, cloud storage is often the better solution.
With this, you can allow users to access information from anywhere. It’s also easier to restore data, like in the case of hardware failure.
Local storage requires more power and is not as practical. And with cloud storage more secure than ever before, it is often the better choice.
Security is one of the most important considerations. Many people worry about security breaches—especially in their homes.
Years ago, only computers were vulnerable to hackers. Now, it’s everything. Smart homes are particularly vulnerable because there are lots of devices all connected to a single network, which provides more entry points for hackers.
Security is a huge challenge for the Internet of Things (IoT) systems, so take it very seriously.
That means encrypting all data and transferring the information between devices and the hub in an encrypted format.
Make sure users have tools they can use, too, like the ability to change passwords. Finally, update your app, patch it regularly, and constantly carry out security checks.
Consider security right from the start, and integrate it into your architecture.
Features to Include in Your Application
By now, you should have a good idea about the type of app you want to create, what it will do, how it will work, and what will make it different. You also know the most important considerations you need to think about before designing it.
Whether it’s custom-made or using a ready-made solution, now you need to decide upon the specific core features to include.
How will you go about getting users to register for your app? You need to make it a secure process because you don’t want to make it easy to get into the system for non-users. But at the same time, it should be simple and convenient for the user.
Stick to the tried-and-tested email or phone number verification. Send security codes to a cell phone number or email address that they can use to sign in for a secure and simple registration.
How will you go about onboarding? Smart home automation can be complex, but you should make the whole process as straightforward as possible to make the user experience positive.
The best way to do this is to create a tutorial providing simple but comprehensive instructions about how to use the app.
Encourage users to watch the tutorial when they first use the app but make it available so they can access it at all times and find the answers they need later on.
You should set up user profiles like the admin and regular users so the person who downloads the app can create both roles.
Users will want to manage their smart homes in the way that suits them best. For example, families may not want their children to have access to certain features. So make it easy for users to limit access to specific accounts.
Notifications play a big role in smart home applications. Users will want to receive a notification when something important happens, like a thermostat turning on or a security alert in their home.
Set your app to send push notifications to keep the user updated and fully customize notifications.
A section should display the smart devices in the home that your app connects to. Ideally, display these together on a single screen so the user can quickly choose which device to access and control without having to search for it.
Grouping devices is a useful and common feature, as we’ve already seen in the existing apps listed above. The idea here is to provide the option of grouping smart devices together and putting them into rooms.
This way, the user can control them all from one space for greater convenience.
Scenarios are very popular with smart home apps, and you should consider adding this feature to your app.
When the user wakes up, for example, they may want to set a specific scenario (curtains open, thermostat on, coffee maker starts, etc.)
Allow users of your app to decide what happens based on the time of day or their actions. For example, some scenarios could be set to run based on the user’s location.
Make sure users can access all the information they need on how they use their smart devices.
People like to see visual guides on how much energy they have used, for example, or the length of time they have been using a particular device during the week or month.
Create an analytics section, and make it easy for them to find.
Smart homes are here already and will only become more important over the coming years and decades.
People need easy and secure ways to control their smart devices in their homes, which means apps with a great user experience. A good mobile app can help to make smart homes even more comfortable, secure, and convenient.
Now is a great time to launch an app. Smart homes are still fairly new, and not everyone uses smart connected devices in their home yet. As such, smart home development will become more popular over the coming years as the industry grows.
So use the information in this guide to help you develop your own smartphone app for home automation.
Explore existing apps, decide what you want your app to do, think carefully about the key considerations, and decide which features to include.
Then set about creating your app and consider hiring skilled embedded developers to create a custom app for you. This will provide you with full customization options to create a unique experience for the user that will stand out in the market and generate more downloads.
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