Home automation gives you access to control devices in your home from a mobile device anywhere in the world. The term may be used for isolated programmable devices, like thermostats and sprinkler systems, but home automation more accurately describes homes in which nearly everything -- lights, appliances, electrical outlets, heating and cooling systems -- are hooked up to a remotely controllable network. From a home security perspective, this also includes your alarm system, and all of the doors, windows, locks, smoke detectors, surveillance cameras and any other sensors that are linked to it.

Until fairly recently, automated central control of building-wide systems was found only in larger commercial buildings and expensive homes. Typically involving only lighting, heating and cooling systems, building automation rarely provided more than basic control, monitoring and scheduling functions and was accessible only from specific control points within the building itself.

Automation is, unsurprisingly, one of the two main characteristics of home automation. Automation refers to the ability to program and schedule events for the devices on the network. The programming may include time-related commands, such as having your lights turn on or off at specific times each day. It can also include non-scheduled events, such as turning on all the lights in your home when your security system alarm is triggered.