The thought of living in a smart home is very satisfying but setting up a so-called ‘smart home’ can be mind-boggling. There is an abundance of different accessories that work only with certain products, and some work better than others. But, before you start freaking out and think that you won’t be able to enjoy the perks of a smart home, we are here to help you sort through the clutter and make you comfortable with your first voice-controlled smart home.
What is a Smart Home?
The definition of a smart home depends to a large extent on what you want from it. There’s a difference of day and night between controlling the TV with your voice and fully automated lighting, security, and thermostat system. Home automation allows you to control basic functions in your home at the press of a button. Depending on how you go about things, you can take charge of your smart devices using an app on your smartphone, voice commands using a digital assistant or a physical controller.
Getting Started with Smart Home Automation
When you have finally decided that you want to switch to a smarter living you would obviously want to know from where to start. Before you start completely decking out your house with all sorts of smart devices; it’s important to establish why you want a smart home in the first place. Is it for convenience? Then you might want devices that support voice control through something like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Do you wish everything was automated? Then you will probably narrow down products with good automation features or IFTTT support. Do you want good home security? Then you will want a line of products with sensors and sirens. Maybe you want a bit of everything. Once you have answered these questions, you will have a better idea of what kind of things to look for as you shop.
Choose a Voice Assistant
The very first step when automating your home is to choose your smart home hub and platform. Some of the most popular ones are Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. Each of these virtual assistants has their pros and cons, so it’s a case of picking what works best for you. We will highlight the pros and cons of each assistant so that you can see at a glance which digital assistant you prefer.
1. Amazon’s Alexa:
Since debuting back in 2014, Alexa just keeps on getting more intelligent and adaptable while Amazon’s Echo range shows no signs of fading either.
- Amazon’s Echo products are easy to set up and perfect for the beginners who quickly want to get started with a smart home.
- Echo Dot is one of the cheapest smart home controllers in the market.
- With more than 50,000 skills worldwide, Alexa is the most broadly supported smart home hub.
- Apple and Android devices support all the apps that are required for setting up Echo products
- The sound quality of Echo speakers are generally mediocre.
- You can’t operate Alexa by speaking to a smartphone, you have to talk to the speaker itself.
2. Google Home:
A pocket-friendly option from the legendary Google Assistant keeps going from strength to strength. For Android users, this can be a go-to choice of digital assistant.
- Google’s Home speaker and smartphones come with built-in Assistant.
- Ask a broader array of questions with more chance of a correct response.
- In terms of Artificial Intelligence, Google Assistant is smarter than Alexa and Siri.
- Less number of products that support Google Assistant as compared to Amazon’s Alexa product range.
3. Apple HomeKit:
If you belong to Apple’s ecosystem, you will be well aware of Siri.
- Privacy is unmatched with Apple’s HomeKit. The data transferred between home accessories and Apple devices are secure and encrypted.
- HomeKit is integrated into Apple mobile devices making it easier to set Siri up with your smart home accessories.
- Siri is exclusive to Apple products.
So now as per your liking and requirements you can choose any voice assistant from the above stated.
Choose your Hardware
After you pick your virtual assistant, you will be able to choose a piece of hardware that will become your primary smart home controller. It can be a smart speaker, smart hub or a combination of both. Using a smart speaker like Amazon Echo, you will be able to control a surprising number of appliances using your voice. Whereas by using a smart hub, you can control a range of devices from a single app.
Connecting to Other Smart Home Devices
So, once you’ve determined whether to use a smart speaker, a hub, or both, it’s time to think about how you can actually control devices and systems in your smart home.
- Smart Lights: A wide variety of smart lights are available in the market. Smart light bulbs that come with a built-in Wi-Fi connection are the easiest to set-up. The bulbs are multi-colored and dimmable, but because they rely on Wi-Fi, their reliability will depend on your Wi-Fi router. Smart lights such as the Philips Hue let you control individual lights or groups of lights from your phone and set up different “scenes” with specific brightness levels and color temperatures.
- Smart Fans: There are many plug-in appliances, like fans, electric water kettles, and coffee makers, that you probably wish were a little bit smarter. You can plug these appliances into a smart plug and use a personal assistant to do things like set a specific time for the coffee maker to brew a cup in the morning or switch the fan on or off remotely. These rely on Wi-Fi to work, so their reliability will only be as good as your signal where they are located.
- Smart Locks: There are a different variety of smart door locks. Some allow you to lock your doors from your phone, some can give a friend or family member temporary access, some can use smart cards or your fingerprint.
- Doorbells and Cameras: Smart doorbells come with cameras so you can see who’s at the door without opening the door and ignore those suspicious solicitors. Some doorbells can even save recordings in the cloud so you can check if anyone came to your home or not.
- Security systems: Cameras are just one aspect of home security. For those looking for a full system with door sensors, indoor motion sensors, and a siren can buy from various companies available in the market. You can monitor your home through your smartphone by sitting anywhere in the world.
So as you can see, once you strip away the science and take the time to frankly analyze your needs, it’s really very easy to get started with home automation and it doesn’t need to cost as much as you think. We very much hope you are better placed now to move from theory to practice and actually start automating your home.