Smart homes have had many definitions in the past few years. The defining words change as the technology evolves, adding more functionality to the home themselves. One of the most popular definitions that are used to define Smart Homes goes like:
“A setup where a house uses interconnected devices that can be remotely monitored and controlled by the user with the help of a computer or a smartphone.”
Another popular definition explains Smart Homes as “The usage of smart appliances that work using a centralized system (A.I) to control home appliances to increase efficiency and facilitate power management.”
But in 2018, we can undoubtedly say that modern Smart Homes are a culmination of both these definitions. It is a setup where the user can control and monitor home appliances remotely, and the devices themselves have the intelligence to structure their working to increase efficiency. Let us have a look at the vital elements that make up a Smart Home!
Voice control is the center of attraction in 2018! No more fiddling with button or touch screens, say what you need, and the virtual assistant takes it from there. Virtual assistants have become so advanced that they are now able to successfully recognize different slangs and execute the commands laid out to them by the user. Google, Amazon, and Apple lead the pack when it comes to voice assistants, and they all have their respective offerings.
Alexa is the famous creation of Amazon Labs. Nowadays you can get Alexa support on your phone, and Amazon’s range of smart home speakers named “Echo”, thanks to Alexa’s cloud integration. Since Amazon has its arsenal of premium services like Prime video and Amazon Music, users can play music or ask Alexa to play a video for them on the TV. Other commands include weather and general questions. The addition of humor is another factor why Alexa has a massive user following. One can also order products on Amazon through Alexa. All these features are to be expected as reports suggest that more than 5000 people work on Alexa development.
Google’s AI is fittingly named Google Assistant, and over the years, it has grown a lot in terms of its overall capability. The major selling point of Google Assistant is its versatility. You can find that Google has integrated its AI into their major services like Google Allo, Google translates and even Google Photos. On Pixel devices, the AI Assistant even shows the user which song is playing in the in the background. Google has invested a lot of money and research into their AI tech and the customer reaction shows that it is all paying off. Google is now busy building their own ecosystem with in-house hardware like Pixel and Google Home. They have even extended their AI services to Google Pay, where you can initiate payments with voice.
Apple’s virtual assistant has been in the game for a long time encased in our iPhone. Now Siri is broadening its horizons by entering the smart home space. Siri has been around long before Alexa and has been a major part of Apple’s ecosystem. In our phones and tablets, Siri does the usual things like updating about the weather, play music, make appoints or jolt down reminders, etc. Since Apple has also introduced Siri in their home automation hardware, users can do more with Apples’ in-house Virtual assistant. Apple has made their own hardware for smart homes called HomePod. Siri then ties everything together in the Apple ecosystem. This means that the user can manage their smart home devices using their iPhones, iPads or HomePods.
Since we have already stated that one of the most important elements of a Smart Home is interconnectedness, it wouldn’t be possible just by using a smartphone as the central node. We need something that stays perfectly at home monitoring everything and sending the data over to the user’s mobile and PC. The answer comes in the form of a Smart Hub. It is a hardware or software implementation that controls home appliances under one banner. Smart hub is the central structure that is used to control smart home devices from one spot.
Amazon enjoys a strong foothold in the smart home industry. They also have the most versatile range of smart hubs when compared to the rest of the competition. The range starts with the small and compact Echo Dot that costs $50 to a much larger Echo Show that comes at $230. Echo product range went through numerous updates over the years, making them better and more useful. The latest update gives free calling capability to every product; this makes them adept to call others on their phone, either landline or mobile. The smart home capabilities of Echo enables it to control smart home devices paired with it. Amazon’s collaboration with third-party companies helps them to undertake additional tasks like ordering a pizza from dominos and booking you an Uber ride. All these things can be done through Amazon echo without even picking up your phone. Check more details about Amazon Echo by clicking here.
Google developed their own smart speakers, the Google Home. Google’s offering also provides smart home capabilities and has support for a multitude of apps from the play store. Therefore, you can control many apps on your phone through the Google Home. The latest updates allow Google Home to recognize up to 6 voices. It also has hands-free calling feature. The Google Home acts as a really good smart hub as it supports almost all of the major smart home appliances like thermostats, lights, music players, etc. Google Home is available in three variants – Google Home Mini, Google Home, and Google Home Max. While Google Home Mini serves as a compact smart hub, the Google Home Max, however, justifies its “Max” nametag as this one speaker has more than enough juice to drive a party in a regular sized home!
When comparing with Google or Amazon, Apple was a little late to the game, announcing their version of Smart Speaker/Smart hub on June 5, 2017. However, the preorder dates for the HomePod saw a delay to the end of January 2018. The retail price of the HomePod at the time of launch was $349. Having being released after the offering from Amazon and Google, and having a higher price did not help with the HomePod sales like Apple had envisioned. According to reports published in May, Apple HomePod market share sits at 4.1%. This is nowhere close to what Google and Amazon have in this field; nevertheless, the growth sure looks promising, as the product entered the market in early 2018.
Since we have covered Smart hubs, let’s turn our attention to the smart devices that turn a home into a smart home. These devices are the reason why smart hubs exit and completes the experience of Home Automation.
Ever wanted the lights in your home to switch on when you in it and off when you go out, without even flicking a switch? Smart lights can do much more than that. Like their name suggests, these devices are connected to a central node most commonly using Wi-Fi. With the latest generation of Smart lights, you can control them with voice commands using a smart speaker or using your phone. Smart lights are very versatile because the modern ones can change the color of the light, temperature, and brightness based on the users’ input.
Want to add some ambiance to your rooms by lowing a brightness a bit or add a dawn effect with some yellow-toned light, or go completely bonkers by changing the color every second? Smart lights will let you do it!
- Endless customizability
- The user can control the lights using a smart hub or a smartphone
- No more complicated than regular light bulbs when it comes to fixing them on the holders
- The user can control the lights from anywhere around the world, provided that the lights are connected to a hub
- Modern smart lights can be paired with smart speakers or other audio devices to create interesting effects
- Offers the same or even better energy efficiency as LED bulbs
Usually, Air conditioning takes the spot of being the most expense-causing element in the monthly electricity bill. With traditional air conditioning devices, adjusting temperatures is a task that is reserved for the user. With modern smart air conditioning, things start to change;
They are an all in one package. Smart thermostats can regulate the temperature inside your home or room by itself. There is no need for the users to fiddle with the controls. The modern thermostats are made in such a way that they can even study the routine of the occupants inside the house. Hence, if it can turn off the air conditioning after the user leaves the house and turn it back on again before the user comes home.
- Fully automated in its operation
- The ability to create profiles based on the occupants’ routine
- The ability to turn the air conditioning off or on if the occupant is absent or present respectively
- The automated operation can be overridden using a smartphone
- Saves on the energy bill and creates usage reports
Wi-Fi Thermostats: they can put as the less smart version of a smart thermostat. With Wi-Fi Thermostats, the device doesn’t adjust the temperatures by itself or learn the occupant’s patterns. Wi-Fi Thermostats lets the user control the airflow and other Air condition setting from their smartphone anywhere from the world. Many users opt for Wi-Fi thermostats as they are easier to manage and if used optimally, can save more when compared to smart thermostats.
- The user has more control over the operation of the Air conditioner
- Control the systems through a smartphone
- Less complicated when comparing with smarter options
- Timely maintenance reminders and other alerts
- Savings on energy bills
Plugs are an essential part of any home, let alone smart homes. However, even plugs need an upgrade when everything that plugs to it changes to smart; the result is the inception of Smart Plugs. Smart plugs are used on existing wall outlets, giving your ordinary outlets a versatility boost. They are also easy on the bank when compared to the major smart home additions, hence making them the best place to start in your smart home endeavor.
Smart plugs come with the plug adapter and an app that you can install on your phone. After that, you can switch the plug on or off from your smartphone. You don’t have to have a smart light bulb if your ordinary lamp is plugged into a smart plug as it can turn it on or off based on your inputs.
The real use of a smart plug comes in controlling devices that don’t have smart capabilities. Modern smart plug apps even let the user set use profiles where they can set time limits. This feature comes in handy on controlling appliances that usually skip your mind and keep on working throughout the whole day, adding to the electricity bill.
- App support; can also work without needing a Smart hub by directly connecting to Wi-Fi
- Gives ordinary devices the capability to turn on or off using a smartphone
- The user can turn devices on or off even without being in the house
- Set custom working times
- Helps to curb unnecessary electricity wastage
Smart homes must excel in every regard and security is one of them! Hence, there has been a significant increase in the number of smart security system available for smart homes. Smart Doorbells and security cameras are the prime choices for buyers who want to have security whilst staying connected.
Smart Door Bells come with a camera embedded in its form factor and will be linked to the homeowner’s phone. If a visitor uses the smart doorbell, an alert will be sent to the homeowner’s phone along with a video feed. Smart Doorbells that come with two-way communication allows the homeowner to speak with the visitor and vice versa.
Smart security cameras provide a real-time video feed to the homeowner’s smartphone in addition to the central server. This solves a major drawback of conventional security cameras that had to do with the homeowner not knowing what’s going around the house when they are not at home. Smart Security Cameras are also compatible with popular virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.
- Remote monitoring and answering
- Addition of camera systems to provide video feed
- Modern smart security systems work on both battery and wired platforms
- Virtual assistant and Smart hub support
- Cloud storage and two-way communication support with top-tier products
Television was an area where the waves of the Smarter change first started hitting. Nowadays, TVs have become thinner, sleeker by far more technologically advanced. The minimum benchmark for a smart TV is the support for an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. With access to an internet connection, a smart TVs open the windows to the world of online streaming, app support and gaming. Also, other perks come in the form of an auto shutdown feature than turn the TV off when no one is in the room for extended periods, Voice recognition, internet surfing, etc.
- Internet access made directly available from the TV
- Access to popular TV streaming services
- Smart sensors that help with energy efficiency
- Integration with popular virtual assistants
- Can pair with other smart entertainment devices for a more immersive experience
The technology around is undoubtedly getting smarter, to a point where they can take care of thing around the house even without manual input. When reviewing the current state of home automation, we can clearly see that smart device are the future and ultimately give all the freedom to the user themselves. There is no better time to get into Smart Homes like the present as competition between the tech giants are going in full swing. Choosing any product from our list is a good place to start in the “Smart” ecosystem. When our daily devices are getting smarter, why shouldn’t our homes be?