The foremost thing that comes to mind when we hear of “Smart Home” is; Internet. This is not surprising given the importance of the internet in our everyday lives. But does a smart home work without the internet?
The good news is that, a smart home can still work without the internet or, Wi-Fi connection, but you will still require internet connection to perform some functions. The smart home devices like smart locks, smart thermostats, and smart smoke alarms will still work perfectly fine as a dumbed-down version when the internet connection loss.
Without the internet, the smart home devices like Philips hue smart bulb, Hubitat Elevation hub, and, SmartThings hub will work, while, the nest wifi camera won’t work, but the Arlo Pro camera can record video locally. Amazon Echo and Google Home won’t work without the internet connection.
Reasons that make internet indispensable
The smart home will not be as “smart” without the internet. You are already familiar with the periodic updates that happen on your smartphone for various apps.
The smart home devices are no different. You must download the latest firmware to secure your smart home appliances. For doing so, you have to connect the device to the internet.
Think about the smart assistants, Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri; these assistants hone the performance of smart devices that would become dumb without internet.
The main reason that makes the smart home concept exciting is the ability to control various devices remotely. Without connecting to the internet, you cannot do so.
Even though I mentioned earlier, smart home appliances use a different technology for establishing communication with each other locally; you will never get the flexibility of controlling them when you are not at home.
Can a smart home run without internet?
It primarily depends on the device functionalities you are trying to operate. Expect some smart appliances to stop working altogether, while some of them may still work. But, you will always miss the “smartness” that you seek from them.
The urge to transforming the so-called “dumb” home devices into smart is captivating the imagination of most people. As you continue to add more devices with your Wi-Fi network, you run the risk of overloading the network.
Alternatively, not everyone drools over the convenience provided by the cloud-based services of a smart home system. The reason being, they are concerned about privacy and prefer the local processing system (offline workability).
The developers have thought long and hard about it, and they have come up with some alternatives, which are referred to as hybrid devices. Additionally, the advent of new technologies ensures you do not overload your Wi-Fi network.
Say hello to Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy, and Z-Wave; all of them are capable of running a wireless smart home system.
Some smart home appliances just won’t work
The name Nest needs no introduction in the smart home arena. If for some reason the internet goes down, the Wi-Fi cams from Nest will stop functioning.
It will not let you do anything; you even cannot view the past recordings. Some other Wi-Fi cameras will work partially. For instance, you can enable local video recording if you plug in a USB flash drive.
Some smart lights like Philips Hue (click to see current price on Amazon) can still work locally without the internet. The device uses a hub as the mediator that helps it in functioning even if the internet is down.
Then there are certain safety devices like smart thermostats, smart smoke alarms, and smart locks will continue to work when the internet is down, but as I already mentioned, they will become dumb and will not be at their optimum best.
The smart thermostat will operate like the conventional thermostat, and the same is true for all the other smart devices you can think of.
Again specific alarms and timers will still function. If you had set up the alarm to wake you up at a particular time and the internet is down, it will not fail, and ring the alarm at the right time. The voice control, which makes the smart home concept so compelling, will be dead.
Wi-Fi connection alone does not define connectivity to the internet
Not many smart home enthusiasts are familiar to this name. But, you may have spotted some smart home devices that run on Zigbee.
Remember, a bit earlier I mentioned about the Philips Hue smart lighting system? It uses this technology for communicating with the other devices.
The concept of Zigbee is contrary to the traditional Wi-Fi network. It will not become overburdened as you continue to add more devices to it, as it works with the help of a mesh network.
So, the more devices you add to it, the system gets better. At the present day, you will find a plethora of Zigbee-compatible smart home appliances. Apart from the Philips Hue, you get the Yale Assure Lock (click to see current price on Amazon) that uses this technology.
Bluetooth Low Energy
Bluetooth Low Energy is also known as BLE; it was initially called the Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart. But, the BLE boasts of improved performance in comparison to its predecessors.
The smart devices running on BLE will efficiently run for years that too, with the help of a single battery. It is widely used for specific home products like door locks, and sensors.
It works unlike the Zigbee technology as it directly connects with the smart devices supporting BLE, which eliminates the need for installing a hub.
The Z-wave technology works identically like the Zigbee but has specific differences. Z-Wave requires a hub for controlling the smart devices, and it uses a 918/600 MHz band unlike the 2.4GHz band of Zigbee.
Thus, the chances of signal interference are considerably less. The range of Z-Wave is also better than Zigbee. While the former can reach distances of more than 100 feet, the latter works only at a distance of 30-60 feet.
Therefore, homes with larger spaces will find using Z-Wave technology more convenient. However, Z-Wave has standardization issues. So, all the Z-Wave-compatible devices should have a unified standard.
This is where Z-Wave becomes more appealing, as Zigbee does not include such strict rules, it suffers from compatibility issues sometimes.
The smart home devices that work locally
Some of the manufacturers seem to have realized the need for a hybrid solution. So, you may have devices that do not depend on the internet entirely. I had introduced some of the names earlier while discussing the various technologies, here are some more:
There are smart home hubs like Hubitat (click to see current price on Amazon); it can function even when it is offline, and includes features like manual smart home control, geofencing, and rule-based automation.
They have specific apps stored in the SmartThings hub. Thus, when the internet is down, the hub has no difficulties in administering them, albeit with limited features.
Precisely speaking, it will work with only select devices, ensuring your smart home system does not come to a complete halt.
Names of some of the other smart hubs that can operate offline are Oomi Camera, WigWag, Mixtile, Vera, and nCube Base.
You can own a smart home devoid of an internet connection; the smart home hubs are there to fill up the vacuum as you can see. But, you will still require an internet connection for completing essential functions like downloading updates, latest features, and security patches.
However, a smart home without the internet is similar to a bottle of soda without the fizz. How many of you want to miss out on controlling the smart devices remotely?
There will be some people who want to incorporate the smart home system and reside in a remote area.
Again, if you think it is too much for your aged parents to understand the intricacies of handling a smartphone or the Wi-Fi network, you need not compromise with your desire. There are several hybrid devices that you can choose.