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Building automation (BA) and smart homes (SHs) have traditionally not been a unified field but varied by their origins, legal foundations, different applications, different goals, and national funding programs for basic research. Only within the last years that an international common focus appeared. The following overview gives not only an introduction into the topic of BA but also the distinction to other areas of automation, in which networks of the field level (the sensor and actuator level) play an important role. Finally, the scientific challenges will be mentioned. SHs are referred to when the differences to BA have to be explicitly stressed. This paper is an introduction for the special IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics section on BA and shall introduce the reader to this new topic. BA not only has a huge economic potential but also is of significant academic interest today.