What is a smart home? That seemingly simple question has many different answers, depending on who you ask. In short, a “smart home” is a residence equipped with a number of devices that automate tasks normally handled by humans. Some are built into the structure itself and some added later, and homeowners operate them with voice commands or by artificial intelligence.
For some homeowners, turning a house into a smart home can be as simple as buying a connected speaker. For others, it can involve linking several different products, including speakers, cameras, computers, smartphones, televisions, security systems, appliances, and more.
Why should I have a smart home?
Now that we’ve explained what a smart home is, why should you set up your house with smart or connected home products?
Saving energy (and money)
For many people, the driving force behind creating a smart home is the potential to save energy and money with automated heating and air conditioning systems. Smart thermostats, such as those made by Alphabet’s subsidiary Nest, quickly and precisely automate the heating and cooling of a home. This usually reduces the owners’ electric bill. Other products such as connected lights and appliances can use less energy by powering down when not in use. These kinds of products should be high up on anyone’s smart home checklist.
Better security and safety
While you can buy alarm systems to protect your home, smart homes can offer added security. Connected lights, cameras, and even doorbells can help make a home that much safer. If you’re home alone and someone is checking out your house to see if they can break in, having these kinds of devices might scare them off.
Handling regular household tasks
If you want to take some of the tedious tasks of home care out of your hands, connected and automated devices have you covered there too. The most obvious device is the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner from iRobot, along with similar products. However, appliances can also come with smart home functions. Picture a laundry machine that automatically starts a wash cycle, or fridge that orders milk online when it senses that you’re low.
Making the home more entertaining
What is a smart home if not also a place to hang out and relax? This technology can also keep you entertained and informed in new and exciting ways. Connected speakers, combined with AI-based digital assistants, can play music, offer news and sports scores, and can even help you control other connected devices as well. Connected devices can also find a good film to watch, either at home or in a real movie theater.
Your first smart home products
There are tons of products out there that can help make your home smarter. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of just five products we feel would be perfect for starting your journey into the world of smart homes:
Amazon Echo: Amazon just launched the second generation version of their main Echo connected speaker. Using the company’s Alexa digital assistant, it uses voice commands and automation to help you manage your home. Alternatively, if you are more locked into Google’s ecosystem, you might want to consider a Google Home.
Nest Thermostat: The leader in connected heating, Alphabet’s subsidiary has created a smart thermostat that keeps your house automatically dialed to temperatures you like. It can also respond to voice commands for both Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers.
Phillips Hue connected lights: The Hue lights, when connected to the Hue Bridge router, can not only customize the lighting in your house but can also be programmed and ordered to turn on and off when you need them to, thus saving you some money.
Ring Video Doorbell: This connected doorbell comes with a camera that allows owners with a smartphone or tablet to see whoever is outside their house. It also comes with a speaker that lets you chat with people outside the door if you’re not home. You can also check out the recently released Nest Hello video doorbell as well.
Nest Smart Camera: The Nest team, which recently merged into Google’s hardware division, sells a suite of smart home security cameras, some made for indoor use and some for outside the house. You can see and/or record any activity in your house with these cameras. Other smart home cameras are made by Amazon, with its Cloud Cam, and Logitech with its Circle 2 camera.
Read More about Smart Cameras
Samsung SmartThings Hub: If you want to have one central router that connects all of your smart devices together, you can’t go wrong with the third generation of the Samsung SmartThings Hub. It supports nearly all wireless protocols, along with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands and more, for easy home automation.