Article
Smart homes might be getting a lot of attention these days, but much less is being written about how equally smart technologies can be applied to small commercial businesses. Larger businesses have long had building automation systems to help monitor and control heating, cooling, lighting and other equipment, but that approach can be overkill for neighborhood restaurants, hair salons and other small-scale operations.

How to Bring Smart Tech to Small Business

Chuck Ross
Smart homes might be getting a lot of attention these days, but much less is being written about how equally smart technologies can be applied to small commercial businesses. Larger businesses have long had building automation systems to help monitor and control heating, cooling, lighting and other equipment, but that approach can be overkill for neighborhood restaurants, hair salons and other small-scale operations.

Today, though, some of the same kinds of technology making our homes smarter are available to meet the needs of such small-business owners. Best of all, many of these solutions are also scalable, meaning they can expand as businesses expand their footprints, and even grow to include multiple locations. This means owners don’t have reinvent their networks as they grow their businesses.

As with many smart home approaches, scalable business systems generally begin with a central Wi-Fi hub. This hub is the local network’s connection to the internet – this is the device that allows users to monitor and control their lighting, thermostats and security systems remotely, using mobile apps. Local communications from the hub to connected devices can happen via Wi-Fi, Zigbee or radio-frequency (RF) technologies, or through a mix of these.

One phrase to look for in evaluating options for your own or a client’s operations is “mesh network.” No matter the technology, mesh networks create stronger, more reliable communications than point-to-point broadcasting from the hub to devices and back again. With mesh designs, every connected point is also a broadcaster. This can be an especially big advantage with RF-based systems, which require a clear line-of-sight to the receiving devices – just like your infrared TV remote often needs to be pointed directly at your TV to work. So, for example, without the mesh support, a new store display could block communication to a connected light fixture or security camera. With mesh technology, that same communication can make it to the light fixture or camera through a less-direct route, via other devices that do have line-of-sight contact.
Photo courtesy of Leviton
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