Sysadmin, DevOps engineer, embedded Linux hacker, hardware enthusiast
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There are a few different options available to you to control your home automation system. Many manufacturers make it convenient to use their system by not only making a convenient to install their products and use their interface, but will actually host all the software portions for you. Many provide apps for your IOS or Android device and have web interfaces for your laptop as well, making the control of these devices very streamlined and simple, especially if there are many devices to be managed. Other more DIY-approach solutions also have interfaces to control your automation, although require a bit more setup. For example, with the power strip in the previous example, you first need to connect it to your wireless network, and then you'll be able to use the supplied phone/tablet app to toggle the ports on/off. As with anything DIY: The sky's the limit, although it requires more technical understanding of what's going on.