Visit our reference pages for an overview of which controller hubs and devices may be best for your specific system needs:

The following Home Automation Glossary describes relevant features when evaluating and comparing smarthome controllers and systems. Several controllers support multiple protocols, decreasing the likelihood that they will soon become a casualty of the Home Automation standards battle.

IFTTTA powerful capability when coupled with a home automation controller that allows you to integrate with the growing number of IFTTT capable devices and systems using straightforward “If This Then That” statements. For example if your controller supports IFTTT (pronounced “ift”), you can integrate an IFTTT weather service to add rules that turn off garden watering if it’s raining. While we highly recommend using controllers that are also capable of operating without an internet connection, cloud based IFTTT capabilities may be able to significantly enhance your system for non-critical, non-safety related operations.
API/SDKApplication Programming Interface / Software Development Kit. A well developed API or SDK for your controller allows you to fully customize your set-up and develop and integrate with bleeding edge technologies. Typically, this involves a high level programming or scripting language.
Z-WaveA proprietary wireless communication specification developed in 2004 for secure low-power and low-latency device communication. The Z-Wave protocol employs a mesh network allowing devices to relay communication to each other and greatly extend the range of the network, while minimizing power consumption. Z-Wave devices operate around the 900 MHz frequency range which theoretically allows greater operating range for a given power consumption with unobstructed sensors compared to higher frequency protocols such as Zigbee. In practice however, Zigbee devices can have a greater range in highly obstructed home environments.
ZigbeeAn open wireless communication specification standard, established as IEEE 802.15.4 in 2003 for secure low-power and low-latency device communication. As with Z-Wave, the Zigee protocol employs a mesh network allowing devices to relay communication to each other and greatly extend the range of the network, while minimizing power consumption. Zigbee devices operate at 2.4 GHz frequency range and theoretically have a shorter operating range for a given power consumption with unobstructed sensors compared to Z-Wave. In practice, however, Zigbee devices can have greater range in highly obstructed home environments.
Bluetooth LEBluetooth Low Energy, also called Bluetooth LE, BLE, and Bluetooth Smart, is a proprietary wireless communication specification developed in 2006 for secure low-power and low-latency device communication. Unlike Z-Wave and Zigee protocols, Bluetooth Low Energy devices do not currently support a mesh network topology. Bluetooth range extenders however are available, and Bluetooth mesh capability is currently in development. Bluetooth Low energy operates at 2.4 GHz frequency range, and due to it’s very low power consumption, generally has an operating range less than both Zigbee and Z-Wave. Bluetooth LE is incompatible with standard Bluetooth, although integrated circuits supporting both standards are available.
InsteonA proprietary communication specification developed in 2005 that supports both secure wireless communication and communication over power lines. As with Z-Wave and Zigee, Insteon employs a mesh network, allowing devices to relay communication to each other and greatly extend the range of the network. As with Z-Wave, Insteon devices operate at around the 900 MHz frequency range. Insteon is also X10 compatible.
X10An older device communication protocol developed in the 1970’s that supports communication over power lines as well as wireless communication. X10 devices generally cost less than their modern protocol counterparts. The X10 protocol is slower, less secure and is generally considered less reliable than newer device protocols.
Local ControlMany home automation controllers require an internet connection and a cloud service to operate. A controller that supports Local Control allows execution of your sensor rules and manual control of your sensors even if the cloud service or your internet service is unavailable. The local control user interface can be implemented with a local web browser, mobile or desktop application, or a panel UI device.
HomeKitApple HomeKit is a holistic approach to solving the home automation quandry, and includes a device database, hierarchical taxonomy, protocols, strong encryption, and MFi device certification. Currently WiFi or Bluetooth LE is required for HomeKit interoperability, although gateways to other protocols are allowed.

Last Update: September 20, 2015