Do you flip a switch to turn a light on or off? Manually set your thermostat? Pull out a key to lock and unlock your front door? Tug window shades up or down? Drag a vacuum cleaner across your floors? If your answer is yes any to these questions, then you’re a candidate for a smart home.
Having a regular home isn’t a bad thing – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – but as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we increasingly expect our abodes and belongings to behave more intelligently like in The Jetsons or Star Trek.
If you want to make your home smart, where do you even start? We recommend you start by listing out what smart home features you want to implement, such as smart locks, lighting or media control, then pick a smart home ecosystem that is the most compatible with the devices you’re looking to purchase. Let’s learn more about the best smart home systems.
The Big Three, Plus A Couple More
At the top of any smart home organizational chart are the big three smart home ecosystem vendors: Amazon, Google and Apple. All three are largely defined by their voice control assistants – Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. All three smart home ecosystems enable you to voice control your compatible smart home devices via your smartphone or third-party devices such as a smart watch, headphones/earbuds, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, cars (Echo Auto, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay), even some bathroom mirrors, smoke alarms and appliances.
Unfortunately, all three dominant smart home ecosystems are incompatible with one another, and are metaphorically referred to as “walled gardens” or “silos” to illustrate their restrictive natures. Fortunately, most third-party smart device makers try to make their smart home gadgets and apps compatible with as many of these siloed ecosystems as they can.
While Amazon, Google and Apple have built the largest siloed smart home ecosystems, they are not the only ones. There’s Samsung’s Bixby and SmartThings, Microsoft’s Cortana, and LG’s ThinQ, to name a few. Out of necessity, all of these lower-tier smart home ecosystems share some compatibility with one or more of the big three.
It’s Time To Get Smart!
Once you have decided on which voice assistant system to use, you’re ready to start building your smart home ecosystem. We recommend you take your smart home journey a step at a time. Not only will your wallet thank you, but you’ll discover what features you like or dislike.
Some great starter smart home devices we recommend are:
- Smart Plugs
- Smart Locks
Lighting is an incredibly easy, and instant visual change you can make to your smart home. Philips Hue bulbs are a great starting point, allowing you to control brightness, turn individual bulbs off or on and, if you spring for the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance starter kit, you can change and assign over 16 million Colors and shades of White to your bulbs. Philips Hue products (starting with A19 and BR30 light bulbs released in June 2019) can be used with Bluetooth without a hub for up to 10 lights in a room. Some smart home owners like to use Wi-Fi enabled light bulbs. These bulbs can be controlled through your home’s Wi-Fi network, eliminating the need for a specialized hub and app.
Smart plugs are the modern version of “The Clapper”, the sound sensitive switch from the 80s – and still around today! – in that they allow you to control power from an outlet to an electrical device. Smart plugs are great to use with lamps, televisions and other electronics that you would normally turn off and on with a switch. You can find smart plugs ranging from affordable prices with fewer features to pricey multi-featured plugs that can be scheduled to turn off and on automatically at certain times.
Much like smart plugs, smart locks do one thing and do it well. As you’ve probably guessed, smart locks lock your doors. But wait there’s more! Some smart locks feature Bluetooth connections that open automatically when you’re in range – great for when your hands are full of groceries or kids and you can’t get your keys out of your purse or pocket. Using a voice assistant you can lock or unlock a door from any room in the house with a compatible speaker or through the manufacturer’s app. Smart locks may seem simple and straightforward, but they are a true convenience.
This is just the beginning of your smart home journey. Be sure to check out our other smart home articles like How to choose a smart home system, or The Best Smart Home Devices That Are Compatible With Alexa to learn more about how to make your house a smart home.
See also: What Is A Smart Home?