You have heard the term smart home. It comprises two things. First, the smart devices with specific purposes and second, the control system it and you talk to. Want to benefit from our hundreds of hours of research – read on.
GadgetGuy has spent hundreds of hours testing smart home devices – security cameras/sensors, door-bells, locks, robot cleaners, lights, home appliances, speakers, temperature/air monitors, air appliances…
I am sure it’s the prime reason for my ever-thinning pate. We also acknowledge Sam Hoffman who is the inspiration for this lengthy tome. He writes about trends in home automation and security and gave me the framework to flesh out! And, flesh out we did – from his 849 words to around 2,500 carefully researched and attributed words.
Most of the smart home devices do precisely as advertised
A security camera records security incidents, a thermostat measures temperature etc. But, the trick is getting them to work together in a meaningful way – a smart home. Regrettably, there are no DIY out-of-the-box systems yet that work well.
In 2019 the variety of smart home gadgets and control system has skyrocketed – almost every device from headphones to toilets now has some smarts.
Smart speakers can play your favourite music, but they are also the doorway to speaking with the AI machine. These include Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri/Homekit, LQ ThinQ, Samsung Bixby and the host of other smart ecosystems out there. You can read more on the smart home explosion here.
Then we see the symbiosis between the smartphone (Android or iOS) that allows for geofencing (knowing where you are) and IFTTT (if this then that) programming to open the garage door on arrival, switch on the air conditioner, open your front door, play your favourite music and switch on the coffee maker.
Smart homes are about convenience – or routines
They should free up precious seconds, minutes or hours by thinking for you. The next generation of smart homes is not about using your voice to do something but about setting routines that do it for you. If you walk down a hallway, it needs to use an ambient light sensor and motion sensor to switch on and off the lights for you.
If you bid your voice assistant good night, it should lower the blinds, play sleepy music, monitor temperature to keep the room at 22° and put the rest of the home into sleep mode to save precious energy.
These are called routines. You tell the smart controller what you want to happen when you go to bed. Alternatively, when you wake up (get the weather, read the news, turn on the coffee maker). When you are rummaging through the fridge deciding what to make for dinner, it should tell you what recipes you can make with what is in the fridge and order additional ingredients for delivery in time to make the meal.
Well, you have heard those smart home promises – they are still pipe dreams. Here is what you can really do in 2019.
Here is a rundown of the smart devices we have tested and how they interface to a smart controller. All our testing has been on Google Assistant, but I am sure Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri have comparable devices.
Smart Light Bulbs
According to Forbes, investing in smart bulbs is the best way to enhance your home security.
Philips and LIFX are the closest in terms of purpose and performance. All work with Google, Alexa and Siri as well as a range of smart home controller hubs and IFTTT.
Philips uses a HUB (maximum two) that sits between the lights and the router, and that can be slightly limiting for outdoor use around the home. Still, its range of lights is impressive in Bayonet cap, Edison screw or downlight sockets.