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The idea around the whole smart home revolution is convenience. It’s about automating everyday processes and making it easier to control and monitor your home.
Instead of turning the lights on when dusk arrives, you can have a system that lights them automatically at a certain time. Or maybe one that switches them on only when someone walks into the room.
Instead of standing up to fiddle with the thermostat every time you want to change the temperature, why not tell a virtual assistant to do it?
You can have a door lock that connects to a camera. You can see whoever is at the door and let them in using your phone from wherever you are.
Getting Started on Your Smart Home
Building a smart home is easier than you think. As long as you have a strong WiFi network, the rest is easy-peasy.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to building a smart home.
Side note: I’m going to mention smart devices or appliances quite a lot. These are simply machines that can talk to each other (usually wirelessly) or to you via an interface like your phone, laptop or smart speaker. They are almost always internet-connected.
1. Get a virtual assistant
While you can still build a smart home without a virtual assistant, it’ll go a long way in helping you get the best out of your smart home. The two most popular ones are Alexa and Google Assistant.
Virtual assistants make it much easier to control different smart appliances and devices like your thermostat, lights and robot vacuum cleaner. Think of them as some sorts of smart home hubs.
But they don’t just help you control your smart home. Smart home speakers like Echo (powered by Alexa) and Google Home (powered by Google Assistant) also come with plenty of functions of their own. You can listen to news briefings, see the weather, ask questions, check your calendar and even call other people.
To choose the best assistant for your home, use our smart speakers buying guide. Or read our Amazon Echo review and Google Home review.
2. Get a smart home hub
As you add more and more smart gadgets to your home, it will become more tedious to control each individually. Not all those gadgets will be compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant and even if they are, you may not be able to control them completely through a virtual assistant.
More often than not, you’ll find yourself jumping from app to app.
Get a smart home hub to bring all those devices under one roof for easy control and monitoring.
One of the best smart home hubs around is Samsung SmartThings. It supports numerous third party devices and can even be integrated with both Google Home and Amazon Echo.
You can start with their basic SmartThings hub or try the 2-in-1 Samsung Connect Home that combines a smart router and smart home hub in one device.
Other smart home hub options include Wink Hub 2 and Apple’s HomeKit.
3. Start with the basics
Don’t jump into the deep end with too much smart gadgetry that requires complicated setup. Start small; the basics.
Get an Echo or Google Home first and get a feel of smart stuff. Then add the appliances and devices that will help you most. Maybe a smart thermostat like Ecobee or Nest, a couple of smart lights, a smart coffee maker and so on. It all depends on your needs.
If you don’t want to risk your money on a gadget you are not sure will be worth it, buy a smart plug or switch. You can plug in any appliance and it becomes ‘smart’.
Plug in an ordinary lamp and you can control it from your phone. Plug in your kettle and you can switch it on or off wherever you are.
As you get used to the basic smart stuff, slowly move on to bigger ones like a smart fridge, a smart security system (cameras, doorbell, lock etc.), a smart robot vacuum and so on.
Remember to always check compatibility with your virtual assistant or smart home hub before buying any smart device or appliance.
4. Automate your home
This is a bit more advanced but totally worth it.
You have already bought a few smart gadgets and appliances. You have an Echo or Google Home speaker to control them by voice. You also have a smart home hub from where you can control and monitor all of them from one place.
But what if you could get your smart gadgets to talk to each other and work together in sync. Some smart home devices come with this functionality.
For instance Ecobee smart thermostats come with extra room sensors. If you enter a room, the sensor tells the main thermostat to make the room more comfortable. If the sensors sense that there’s is no one around, they will tell the thermostat to save energy.
Some doorbells are designed to trigger your camera when depressed so that you can see who’s at the door.
You can do the same with other smart devices. Set the lights to come on when you enter the room. Set the fan to come on when the temperature reaches a certain point. Get a notification every time it’s about to rain. The possibilities are endless.
The best way to automate your home is through IFTTT (If This Then That). To interconnect devices, you can download existing applets online or make your own.
It’s pretty easy to get started on ‘smartening’ your home and there is no limit to how far you can go. Start with the basics, focus on what you need most and feel free to try out new things like this smart cat feeder.