Building a Home Care Automation System, Part 1: Upgrade Your Wi-Fi
In high school, an older gentlemen told me “Troy, put your money into two things–your mattress and your shoes.” That stuck with me and I actually do spend a little more money on my shoes and mattress. But if I can also update this for 2019-2020, let me add wi-fi router to the list.
Spend a minimum of $150 on your wi-fi, but ideally around $200.
Now I haven’t even mentioned brand names or anything technical, so how can I make a blanket statement like that?
As technologies have stabilized over the years, certain price points have been consistent year-over-year. For example, if you look at TVs, you can now buy a decent 60″ 4K TV for around $300-400, whereas 10 years ago, you may have spent thousands on an HDTV. And going forward, the $300 price point will probably be pretty consistent if you want to buy a decent 60″ TV.
So when it comes to wi-fi routers, you can definitely buy a cheap “black-and-white TV” wi-fi router for $50, but when building a reliable care automation solution, we want a “60” 4K TV” wi-fi router.
This is what I have and love.
And I also have a few of these.
This is an add-on to the Synology router. So you know how you install your router and there’s that one shitty area of the house where the signal just doesn’t quite reach?
A mesh router is an automatic extender for your wi-fi. But it’s a really, really smart extender. As you walk through the house, your devices will automatically switch routers, but you only ever see your one wi-fi network. It’s really damn cool. In the past, only large office buildings, stores, etc. could afford these, but they’re only $139, so you can gradually add more over time.
But why is a good router so expensive, and is it worth it?
Your wi-fi router is nothing more than a super-smart air traffic controller. If any of your devices want to get out to the Internet, the air traffic controller must allow it. The same holds true for any incoming traffic. This creates a fucking ginormous amount of traffic, and that little black box with the antennas is responsible for all of it. Just like any computer, it has memory and a CPU, and depending on how much and how fast determines how well it can perform.
Basically you are paying for your router’s ability to efficiently and reliably handle the massive traffic flowing through your network. That’s the nuts and bolts of the cost. Yes, there are lots of other features and cool technical stuff, but that’s really the main issue.
Have you ever had to frequently reboot your router because it started slowing down? That indicates that your router was overloaded and wasn’t powerful enough to handle the traffic. Or, it could mean that the router poorly handles error situations.
If you have multiple TVs streaming video, does that slow down your network? That also indicates that your router was slammed with video traffic and is probably struggling to keep up.
I never have network slowdowns. I have no dead or weak signals in my house. I never have to reboot my router.
A care automation system on poor wi-fi is pulling a trailer with a VW Bug.
This is why I’m starting with wi-fi as the first step to build a care automation system. We’re building systems that demand performance and reliability. Imagine not getting a smoke alarm alert for your mom because her wi-fi stopped responding. Or more typically, you get a motion alert and when you look at the camera, the image is frozen or you get an “unable to get video stream” error. It’s just not worth it.
Solid wi-fi is more costly than many are willing to spend, but when it comes to care automation, it’s pennies compared to a life.