What Is Smart Home Technology?
What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, doorbells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands?
Home automation is exactly what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house—from window shades to pet feeders—with a simple push of a button (or a voice command). Some activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your whim, are simple and relatively inexpensive. Others, like advanced surveillance cameras, may require a more serious investment of time and money.
There are many smart home product categories, so you can control everything from lights and temperature to locks and home security devices. They also happen to make fantastic gifts, whether you’re shopping for the holidays or buying a housewarming present.
From video doorbells that can tell you who’s at the door to smart thermostats that intuitively create temperature schedules based on your habits, when it comes to creating your own smart home, the possibilities are (just about) endless.
However, in the early stages of constructing your smart home, you may feel confused and overwhelmed by the sheer variety of smart home tech available. Which smart home devices are best for beginners? Which smart assistant should you choose? And are smart speakers really listening in on private conversations? There’s a lot of information swirling out there, but our handy guide to creating a smart home setup lays a solid foundation for bringing your home into the 21st century.
Picking a smart assistant
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the two most popular smart assistants and each works with most smart home gadgets, while other devices are meant only for use with Apple HomeKit, Bixby, or Microsoft Cortana. If you’re unsure about compatibility, check the product’s packaging or description for specific details.
Alexa and Google Assistant can be accessed via their respective apps on your smartphone or tablet, but we recommend investing in a smart speaker for optimum control over your new smart home. Most smart speakers are built with multiple far-field microphones to hear you from the next room.
Smart plugs are one of the easiest smart home gadgets you can use, which is why we think this is the perfect place to start building your smart home. A smart plug converts basic small appliances and electronics into devices that can be controlled remotely or via your smart assistant. The plug inserts into a standard electrical outlet and comes with one (sometimes two) front or side facing outlets that can be controlled independently.
While smart plugs can be used to control “dumb” lights like lamps, smart bulbs and smart switches are a better option for light fixtures.
Smart doorbell cameras have exploded in popularity over the last few years—they are a perfect addition to your budding smart home.
There’s more to a smart home than smart lights, plugs, and doorbells, but those categories are easy jumping-off points into a more connected home.
As you build out your smart home, there are plenty of other smart home devices to keep in mind, like indoor security cameras, pet cameras, water leak detectors and more.
Smart thermostats are also an excellent addition, though they can sometimes be a bit more complicated to set up.
All smart home devices require a stable internet connection to function properly. Some homes may have areas where WiFi can be patchy, working better ins some areas of your home than others. With a mesh WiFi router, you can solve your spotty internet woes and help your smart home stay connected.