16 Feb Building a Network for Your Smart Home
By Robert Silver. February 2 2015. For http://www.electronichouse.com
Tips for better home networking.
Today’s average home has a plethora of connected devices. And all smart home products, such as laptops, smartphones, TVs, electronic door locks, and thermostats.
Require a solid, reliable networking infrastructure to function at their full potential.
SEE ALSO: WHY WI-FI MATTERS
Most home networks today are usually comprised of an Internet connection to the house, which links to a wireless router with which everything else–smartphones, smart light switches, surveillance cameras–communicates. This setup functions adequately when the only products connected to the router are laptops and Xbox gaming systems. Today, in many households these legacy devices have been joined by a new generation of connected devices, including media streamers, home automation hubs, cloud storage services, security systems, and other products which the industry has come to refer to as the “Internet of Things,” or “IoT.” As the number of IoT devices on a home network increases, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the network to function well. Problems such as buffering in video streams, latency in music streams, and signals that don’t reach their intended destinations can result. Thankfully, there are solutions:
Install a Good Wiring Backbone
A connected smart home generally starts with an incoming cable, fiber, or standard phone line (DSL). This wire connects to a modem and that connects to a router (or combined modem/router) which has Wi-Fi capability. Where that wire enters your home is important. If it comes in far from the central part of your house, like a deep corner of the basement or at the far end of a guest wing, latching on to that Wi-Fi signal is going to be difficult for devices located far from the router.
To solve this issue, leave the modem provided to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) where it is, place a router in a central spot, and connect the two with high-quality Ethernet cable.
An Ethernet Switch is intended to work in tandem with a router by connecting multiple devices in the same vicinity to your home’s network, and is able pass traffic through as quickly as possible without too much interference. A gigabit switch, when used with a gigabit router will allow you to use your local network at speeds up to ten times greater than the previous generation (10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet). If either of these components, however, is not gigabit rated, the entire network will be limited to 10/100 speeds. So, in order to use the maximum amount of speed your network can pump out, you need every single component in your network (including your computers) to be gigabit compliant.
Getting Better Wi-Fi Coverage
Today the most common Wi-Fi standard (third-generation) is 802.11n, which has a maximum speed of 450Mbps (megabits per second). The newest deployed standard is 802.11ac. It has a maximum speed of 1.7Gbps (gigabits per second). The good news is the ac standard is backwards compatible, which means that the devices you currently own (which most likely are n) will work with the newer ac-based wireless routers.
Additionally, Wi-Fi works on two different wireless radio-frequency bands. The most common is 2.4GHz (gigahertz), and the newer and much less crowded is 5GHz. People who live in congested areas, like cities or neighborhoods, will certainly experience interference when using a 2.4GHz router, so be sure to invest in a dual-band model, which supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Routers that support 802.11ac are even better.
However, even the best router won’t ensure adequate Wi-Fi coverage, so in many homes it helps to add range extenders (often called repeaters, although they don’t actually repeat) and access points. Range extenders connect to your home’s network and then broadcast a new signal with a slightly different network name (often they add “EXT” to your existing SSID). This will allow you to connect to the web, and stream video or audio to new rooms of the house that your existing wireless signal can’t reach. Range extenders should be placed where a moderately strong Wi-Fi signal already exists to ensure that they can lock onto Wi-Fi and provide a stable extension.
Access points connect to your home’s wired network, thus negating the performance issues of range extenders. They can be set to the same SSID as your main network and can provide a seamless roaming experience. Multiple access points can be added, even outdoors (be sure to look for weatherproof models). This is the preferred way to extend a network.
Know Your Limitations
Be mindful of Wi-Fi limitations and understand that the more smart devices you add to a wireless network, the more bandwidth will be used. You can beef up the bandwidth with a high-quality router and complementing it with range extenders and/or access points. Depending on your home, you might not be able to fish wire to every device, but this could still help lighten the load of your wireless network and enable it to function more reliably.
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