The trend in the tech industry is smart home. These can get complicated very quickly. So, this is our guide on how to get started in the smart home world.
What Is Smart Home & How Does It Work
The first thing you guys need to know is what smart home is. Well, basically smart home consists of multiple devices. The thing that makes these devices smart, is that they can be controlled automatically, through your voice or phone. For example, a smart light bulb can be turned on and off via your phone instead of a switch.
Like your smartphone or smart TV, these devices are pieces of tech that don’t need physical interaction to work. All of these devices are connected to the internet and most of them, depending on compatibility, can talk to each other. The technical aspect of this is very complicated and not important for the average user to know.
So, let’s cover the simple aspects of how smart home devices work together. Like mentioned previously all devices are connected to the internet, which is how they communicate with each other. The way all of these devices link is through a hub, which can be your phone, external hub or voice assistant. Then you can tell each device to do something via your phone or voice assistant. There is also a tool called IFTTT that can automate and link devices from different companies, but we will cover that later on in the guide.
Types Of Smart Home Devices
Smart lights are basically lights you control via the internet. The most popular ones are the Philips Hue lights. The benefit of having smart lights is that you can control everything via your phone or voice assistant. If you have RGB light you can also control the color of each light which means you don’t need the old school remote. You can also automate a lot. For example, you can set your light to turn on as soon as your smart lock detects you opening it. While this is not necessary it enables us to do some pretty cool stuff.
The most useful smart device is a voice assistant. You can control everything smart home-related by using your voice only. The 3 voice assistants, Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Homekit, also have an app, which you can use to group multiple devices. This has a lot of advantages such as turning on everything in one group. All voice assistants are built into a speaker, which is why some people call them smart speakers. Each of the 3 voice assistants has their own advantages and disadvantages so there is not a number 1 voice assistant.
Smart plugs allow you to turn your a lot of your non-smart devices into smart devices. These things plug into your power outlet and act as a passthrough. They are connected to the internet so you can turn them on and off via your voice assistant or phone. This means, that you don’t need smart lights all around the house. You can connect your existing light into the smart plug and then use it as a smart light. These smart plugs can be very useful for lamps with multiple bulbs, as buying a lot of smart bulbs would be a waste of money.
Smart Thermostats & Smoke Detectors
A smart thermostat and smart smoke detector are part of the same thing for us, as both detect something. The thermostat only works if you have grouped heating in your house. For example, if you already have a central device to control the temperature. The smart thermostat does exactly the same but can be controlled via the internet. The smart smoke detector detects smoke and carbon monoxide levels. This can then send you a text message as well as sound an alarm once it detects one of those things. You can even automate the smoke detector to turn all of your smart lights on and send a text message to your neighbors, for example.
Smart Doorbells, Locks
Like the previous device, we see the smart doorbell and smart lock as one. This is because both become much easier to use if you have both of the devices. A smart doorbell is basically a doorbell but with a camera. So, once the doorbell rings, you can check your phone to see who it is. If it is someone you know, for example, you can let them in using the smart lock and don’t need to go to open the door physically. The smart lock can be opened via the internet or the numpad on the outside. This means you don’t need a key anymore so you will never be locked out of your house again.
Smart cameras are pretty much security cameras with fancy features. They act like normal cameras but can give you a message, or turn on the lights once it detects movement. If you are not home and the cameras detect movement you get a message on your phone. You can then check on the live feed of your cameras who is in your house. You can also automate them to do certain things once it detects movement. Most smart cameras also have a microphone and speaker so you can talk with the person in your house. If you would ever want to do that.
What Is IFTTT
Coming to the previously mentioned IFTTT. IFTTT, which stands for “If This Then That”, is a program that lets you automate and link a lot of your smart devices. As it says in the name, it works by creating a simple command. You tell the program that if something happens, then make something else happen.
You can use this for a lot of different things, ranging from making your life easier all the way to making your life more secure. For example, if the smart lock gets unlocked, then turn on the lights. Commands don’t need to be between 2 smart devices though. You can also tell IFTTT to send you an email once a weak containing the current bitcoin price. The opportunities are basically endless.
The thing we like about IFTTT is that no coding is required since it works with cells. This means that you only need to select what you want your smart device to detect and what the action should be once this happens. If you don’t want to make your own commands, there are a lot of commands made by other users and IFTTT themselves which you can use.
We think that anyone who wants some kind of automation should really look into IFTTT. Combining this tool with smart home devices enables us to do so much cool stuff.
Benefits Of Having A Smart Home
So let’s talk about the advantages of having a smart home. The obvious one is that it can make our life much easier. Mainly because of automation and ease of use. Think about it, we can control our light, door, temperature and a lot more just by using our voice. You can also control everything in the same place. This can be very useful for elderly people since they can then control everything in their house using their phone or voice.
These devices can also make homes more secure. The smart doorbell, for example, has a built-in camera which allows you to see who is at your door. The same counts for smart cameras which allow you to watch a live feed of what is happening in your house. All of these devices in combination make houses more secure, as you can automate them to do certain things when things go wrong.
Lastly, smart home devices allow you to customize your house. You can choose what parts of your house are controlled by smart devices and what parts aren’t. This means you can have a smart lock and doorbell but ordinary switches to turn your lights on and off.
Downsides Of Having A Smart Home
As always, there are also downsides to smart home devices. Privacy has been a major problem recently since companies have made it public that they store a lot of user information. This mostly affects the voice assistants, as these are always on and listening in case you want to use them. Everyone is free to have their own opinion on this topic and you should maybe take this into consideration before picking up smart devices.
The price of these smart devices is also astronomically high. Smart lights are about 70$ per piece, and those are relatively cheap smart devices. Just keep this in mind before you jump into the ecosystem as your wallet might not be happy after a spending spree. A good idea is to build up your smart home step by step and not buying everything at once.
Lastly, getting the hang of smart devices may be difficult for some. We have to say, people who aren’t handy with technology should not start using smart home devices before having a good understanding of them. Otherwise, you might not be able to use all of the features of the smart devices, which would be a shame.
This has been our guide to smart home. We hope you have a basic understanding of smart home and know if you want to be part of that ecosystem. If you do, you might want to check out our list of the 10 most useful smart home devices.