A way to make your home a smart home is to buy loads of components, like sensors, smart bulbs, security cameras, speakers, and whatnot, then connect them all to a hub that helps them communicate with each other and with you, using your smartphone. However, that can involve spending a lot of money and time asking. And for some people, it would just seem like overkill. If you are starting the process and want to take small steps in making your home a smart home, just a few relatively inexpensive products will deliver most of the conveniences a high-end smart home can deliver.
As long as you make sure the smart home products are compatible with each other, you will build a solid foundation that you can expand on over time. The key is knowing which smart home products do not depend on a smart home hub to operate. Yes, the hubs do offer advantages—the most important of which is having a single user interface to control everything; however, they are not always essential. One thing you need to have, regardless, is a good wireless router, one that can reach all corners of your home.
First, Choose a Virtual Assistant
What can be more convenient than pulling out your smartphone to dim the lights on movie night? Imagine saying “dim the lights” and having a smart speaker linked to your smart lighting do it.
Virtual voice-controlled assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant as well as Amazon’s Alexa make it easy to control smart home products by giving out simple voice commands like “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lights.” Each of these tools has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that is more likely to suffice your needs:
- If you wish to quickly make your home a smart home, buying an Echo product is your best bet.
- Amazon’s Echo products are easy to set up, just plug in anywhere that you need to summon Alexa.
- Echo Dot, the smaller speaker that costs around $50, is one of the cheapest smart home controllers on the market.
- Alexa has more than 10,000 Skills, or third-party capabilities, which make it the most broadly supported smart home hub.
- The smartphone apps for setting up Echo products work on both Android as well as Apple devices.
- The Amazon Alexa app for iPhones and Android phones, required for setting up smart home products, might feel clunky.
- Alexa sometimes has difficulty responding to what you are asking.
- The speakers on Echo products are typically mediocre.
- You cannot trigger Alexa by speaking to a smartphone; you need to talk to the speaker.
- Google’s Home speaker as well as smartphones that run newer versions of Android include the Google Assistant.
- Google Home costs, which costs around $130, is $50 less than Amazon’s standard Echo speaker.
- When artificial intelligence is concerned, Assistant is generally smarter than Alexa and Siri, as it is powered by the brains of Google search. So, you can ask a broader array of questions and are more likely to get a correct response.
- You need to summon Assistant by saying “O.K., Google,” which tends to get annoying.
- There are far more smart home products that support Alexa than Google Assistant.
- Google Home’s audio quality is mediocre.
- While Assistant is slightly smarter, it is still flawed and has trouble responding to some requests appropriately.
- As Apple keeps the privacy of users at the top, it worked directly with home accessory makers to ensure that the data transferred between accessories and Apple devices are secure and encrypted.
- The integration of Apple’s HomeKit into its mobile devices makes it much easier to set up Siri with smart home devices.
- Fewer available smart home accessories are supporting Siri, partly because of Apple’s stringent privacy requirements.
- Siri sometimes has trouble understanding.
- Siri is exclusive to Apple products, which does not help.
Now, Choose Your Hardware
For those who are interested in making their home a smart home, lighting is the entry point. Many smart lighting systems work perfectly well without a central hub, while still being capable of interacting with other smart home elements–including smart speakers as well as displays, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Nest. Smart bulbs from Cree, LIFX, and TP-Link, just to name a few, communicate over Wi-Fi, while some others, for example, the newest Philips Hue bulbs communicate via the Bluetooth radio in the smartphone.
Home security cameras & video doorbells
A quality home security camera will enable you to keep a watchful eye on your home. Even when you are away, you will be able to access your doorbell. Indoor models can help you monitor your children as well as pets, while outdoor models can catch prowlers in the act, and hopefully discourage them from coming around. Few models from Ring, Arlo, Netatmo, and Maximus—incorporate lights that can illuminate the way. Cameras incorporated into doorbells are useful to monitor your porch, they also let you interact with visitors without needing to approach the door, you don’t even need to be home at the time.
Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
If you look at it the conventional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are inherently dumb. Yes, the alarms might be loud, however, if no one’s home to hear them, what good do the loud alarms do? Whereas a smart smoke detector will sound a local alarm, too, on top of that it will also send an alert to your smartphone—and to anyone else you authorize as a contact, when some danger is detected.
Not many smart home devices can match a smart thermostat’s ability to deliver both comforts as well as cost/energy savings. These devices are not just establishing a heating and cooling schedule based on when you anticipate being home. These smart thermostats have the ability to detect when you’re home and when you are away so that your HVAC system operates only when it is needed.
The Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control has a built-in Amazon Echo speaker, this can even respond to voice commands. Nest also has some great thermostats, for example, the $129 Nest Thermostat. Wyze Labs recently joined the market with a very inexpensive smart thermostat that deserves consideration if the other mentioned models are outside your budget.
Multi-room audio systems
Sophisticated multi-room speaker systems from Sonos, Yamaha (MusicCast), as well as Denon (HEOS) are largely self-contained, these enable you to drop speakers in multiple rooms in your home so you can stream music from your collection or online services in sync. Or, if you wish you can send different tracks to each one. Amazon Echo as well as Google Nest smart speakers have the ability to pull off the same tricks.
A smart plug is a very nifty device if you have a central control hub. To learn more about Smart plug and its uses click here.
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