Week 2: Paul's Smart home diary

Network nightmares - there's more to a smart home than Wi-Fi kettles

Week 2: Paul's Smart home diary
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This post first appeared on Wareable, in February 2016...

Here's a confession. I'm a tech journalist but I don't really know all that much about home networking. Tech journalists are expected to understand everything about everything going on in the industry. The truth is, some of the time, we're basically winging it.

I fancy myself as somewhat of an expert on wearable tech, obviously, and my knowledge of laptops, tablets and smartphones is somewhat stellar thanks to a stint editing the imaginatively named What Laptop, Tablet and Smartphone.

I could lie to you and pretend I'm fully up to speed with the most recent industry standards when it comes to HDMI splitting and wax-lyrical about my favourite mineral coating for Cat6 Ethernet cables, but the truth is that my first foray into setting up a smart home has been quite a confusing one.

For while this diary is going to be all about the latest and greatest smart home tech – an area I consider myself at least mildly authoritative on – getting that tech connected and playing nicely is a different beast entirely.

Especially because I consider the ultimate smart home to be not just a collection of Wi-Fi enabled appliances but an all-singing, all-dancing connected home with unrestricted digital media. That means not only wiring up the house with the best cabling for a flawless broadband connection, but establishing signal inputs from satellite dishes, aerials and the like too.

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I know enough to know that Ethernet, well Cat6 Ethernet at least, is capable of transmitting uncompressed high-definition video as well as Gigabit data speeds. I've done plenty of reading on HDBaseT, which is the commercial connectivity standard. And I know what a HDMI Matrix is. Sort of.

But I can't really get my head around how that all applies to my personal situation.

Talking of which, we've now got the builders in the new house, doing general building work (an area in which my expertise is much, much less). So far they seem to be just smashing stuff up – which I trust (?) is the best way forward.

The stripped back nature of the house / building site does allow me to forward plan exactly what cabling I want installed, however, with the bonus of being able to hide all the cables out of sight.

I know I want satellite feeds for TV in most rooms; I know I want wired internet in most rooms too. I just don't know what the best way of doing this is. Luckily, there are plenty of experts out there who do.

I've spent most of the week talking to Sean at Neet Cables and Jon at Aerial Services. These guys know what they are talking about when it comes to equipment, systems and installations. They didn't even laugh when I showed them my crude diagrams demonstrating my initial thoughts on how my system might work.

And I think I'm almost there with my network setup. Almost. The crude diagrams have been refined and I now know most of the equipment I'll need to lay my hands on.

The electrician starts work on the house tomorrow and is all set to bury the cables as per my plans. With the plastering due to start any day soon, there really is no turning back.

Make sure you tune in to next week's diary entry to see exactly what I put in place. I'll be making the mistakes so you don't have to.

The complete smart home diary

TAGGED    smart home

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