KNX: The Smart Home standard that connects your home

For around 30 years, KNX has been connecting Smart Homes around the world. The KNX Association – made up of global manufacturers from the electrical technology and building management sectors – has launched a number of campaigns to celebrate the anniversary of the technology. The aim? To clear up many of the questions and (sometimes incorrect) assumptions that still surround the Smart Home standard. In this article, we summarise all the key information for you.

What is KNX?

KNX is a technology that can be used to connect and network electrical functions in your home via a single system.

Back in the early 1990s, a group of leading European manufacturers joined forces to form the “European Installation Bus”, creating a common standard for smart buildings. The aim of this move was to ensure full intercompatibility between all KNX products. Since its inception, the technology has been continuously developed and enhanced, opening the doors to ever-more Smart Home options as the years have gone by.

How does a KNX system work?

A KNX system is comprised of two basic types of components: Sensors that issue commands and actuators that execute them. There’s also the infrastructure that makes these components work, such as the bus line and a central KNX server that connects the devices in the system. The sensors are usually measurement and input devices such as buttons, motion detectors, temperature sensors, consumption meters for gas, water and electricity or weather sensors. Sensors detect events and send the information they record to the actuators in telegraph format.

As a result of this automatic communication, your Smart Home can automatically raise your blinds in the morning, turn on the heating if the temperature falls and switch on the lights if the motion detector identifies movement. In addition to controlling your electric blinds, lighting and heating systems, you can also integrate an alarm and door communication system, household devices and entertainment electronics into your KNX system.

Make your KNX Smart Home truly intelligent with a server

A KNX system can have many thousands of participating interconnected actuators and sensors. The bus system – to use the technical jargon – is the network that gathers and transports data from multiple connected devices. Generally, this ‘system’ is just a cable laid by an electrician parallel to your standard power line, either during a new-build project or as part of renovation work.

If you want to add individual KNX functions to an existing building, you can also opt to do so wirelessly. “KNX Radio Frequency” bus technology, or KNX RF for short, is a wireless solution that is often used to expand KNX systems.

In combination with a server like the Gira HomeServer or the more compact Gira X1, the system opens up a wide range of Smart Home options. These central control units are where all of the functions and commands for the connected KNX components come together. The server is the ‘brain’ of your Smart Home, enabling you to automate even the most complex sequences of actions: You can program and save your own scenarios, connect IoT devices and control key functions via an app.

Control your KNX Smart Home via app, voice or fingertip

Alongside sensors, switches and buttons, you can also integrate touch-screen PCs and displays to control and automate your system. With just a few taps, you can call up personalised settings and scenarios on the Gira G1 control unit.

And it’s just as easy to control the KNX System from the app on your smartphone or tablet PC. When you’re not at home, you can enjoy secure remote access to your system thanks to the Gira S1 security module. You can also control your devices with voice commands, for example using Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.

ifttt Gira S1

New possibilities and connections for your KNX Smart Home

As the number of manufacturers in the KNX Association has grown, the last few years have seen not only an upsurge in new products, but also in new ways to connect devices and transmit data using wireless and IP technologies. These interfaces allow you to directly integrate devices such as door communication and alarm systems into your KNX system. This means that elements like window sensors for an alarm system can now interact with other components in the KNX network, triggering the heating or climate control system to switch to standby mode automatically when a window is opened. If an alarm sounds, the KNX system can immediately launch a predefined scenario – like switching on all the lights in the home and opening the blinds.

Alongside smart speakers like the Sonos, you can also integrate many other IoT devices and control them using simple “if–then” rules (“If this than that, or IFTTT for short) via the appropriate interfaces. As the range of devices that you can integrate into the system has grown, so too have requirements for security in data transmission. The supplementary KNX Secure standard protects your Smart Home against external attacks by unauthorised third parties. KNX Secure encrypts all data communication in the network, ensuring that all KNX telegrams are transmitted securely. KNX Secure is already available on an initial range of Gira KNX devices.

Automate your home with IFTTT. Source: You Tube / Gira

The global standard to futureproof your home

Over the past 30 years, the KNX system has become an established global standard for home automation thanks to its reliability and the wide range of possibilities it opens up to users. Over 500 manufacturers in around 190 countries have adopted the standard, joining forces to build a huge range of fully compatible products that speak the same language – which makes the installation of a KNX system significantly easier and more flexible for the end user.

Once the bus system is in place, you can easily extend and reprogram your system or replace components at any time.

If a device is no longer available, it can simply be replaced with a KNX product from another manufacturer. KNX products are also regularly updated with security patches, bug fixes and new functions – so home builders and owners can rest assured that their property will be equipped for the future.

Is KNX a good option for me?

If you’re building a new home or planning a renovation, you should definitely consider the option of installing a KNX system. If you want to make long-term energy savings and boost the comfort, convenience and security of your property, then the KNX system is generally a very good way to do it. There are also huge benefits if the home is to be occupied by the older generation, because automated technology can take care of many everyday actions that may become more difficult as you age. Instead of having to manually raise and lower the shutters or blinds each day, they can be programmed to open and close depending on the time of day and the weather.

What will a Smart Home with KNX cost?

The manufacturer-independent KNX standard opens up countless Smart Home possibilities and gives you access to a vast network of qualified KNX installers – so the format and capabilities of your KNX installation are determined solely by your needs, wishes and budget. Depending on the size of your property and the number of end devices you wish to integrate, a basic KNX installation will require an investment of around 5000 euros (ca. £4,500). If you need a more comprehensive premium solution, you should budget for up to 20,000 euros (ca. £18,200).

Do you have any other questions on KNX or Smart Home technology in general? Let us know in the comments!

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