What is a smart home?
Smart homes connect devices such as lighting, heating, ventilation, security, entertainment, and other household appliances through the internet, allowing them to be controlled remotely or by voice. Typically, smart devices can be automated and work together with other devices in the home. The main benefits of smart devices within the home are convenience, cost savings through energy efficiency and increased security.
If you’re a gadget lover, it’s likely you’ve already introduced a smart device or two into your home, but if you find it daunting, narrow down your smart priorities with these top tips:
- Understand your needs – think about where you’ll get the best bang for your buck or the most significant value. If cost saving is a priority, devices like smart thermostats and lighting will create energy efficiencies in the home; if increased home security is a major factor for you, smart systems that can be monitored from your phone will top your smart device must-have list.
- Set a budget – new technology is never cheap, so ensure you have a budget in mind to help you prioritise your purchases. Some devices require installation by an expert, so be sure to understand all the costs involved with any new purchases.
- Go compatible – while it might not always be the most affordable option, it’s wise to stick to smart devices that are compatible with each other. This will allow you to get the most out of smart tech. opt for devices that belong to the same ecosystem, of which there are three leading players – Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit.
- Invest in a smart hub – you might think your phone has it covered, but as you add more smart devices to the mix, a smart hub is the smartest way to tie it all together. It acts as the heart of your home network, bringing all your devices and systems into a centralised platform. This makes it possible for the devices to ‘talk’ to each other. For example, you’d be able to set up a command that when you approach your home, the garage door opens, the lights come on, your sound system activates, and the oven switches on to preheat at the designated temperature for tonight’s dinner (provided they’re all smart enabled).
- Prioritise security – as with any new technology that involves your personal data or valuables, security risks exist. It’s best to choose devices and technology with robust, built-in security features like encryption and two-factor authentication.
Choose your smart tech.
Smart products are booming, and there’s no shortage of clever devices entering the market to simplify or beautify your life, make your home safer, lessen your impact on the environment or reduce your power bill. Here are 10 of our favourites:
- Keep comfortable and cut costs with smart thermostats – with some products like the ecobee promising to save you up to 26% on heating and cooling bills, smart thermostats allow you to set schedules, monitor humidity levels and even switch off when it detects a door or window has been left open, or no one is in the room. Some smart thermostats like the Google Nest even learn your preferences meaning that while it can be controlled and monitored from your phone, in a short amount of time, you can leave it to do its thing.
- Level up existing appliances with smart plugs – as the name suggests, smart plugs allow you to turn anything you plug into them into a smart device. This is an easy way to tap into the convenience and energy-saving perks on offer with smart appliances without a complete overhaul.
- Set the mood and save with smart lighting – from lighting that brightens gradually in the morning to ease you into your day to being notified if you’ve left the bathroom light on in the empty house or being welcomed home to warm mood lighting, smart lighting combines the best of convenience with cost and energy savings.
- Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the smartest of them all? – Make your bathroom mirror work a little harder with an Alexa-enabled smart mirror that will not only blast your favourite tunes in stereo sound but also adjust the lighting to your preference, read you the news headlines or tell you a joke.
- Let robots take care of the mundane – things have come a long way from the ground-breaking Roomba vacuum cleaner released in 2002; the latest Roomba (the s9+) is its smartest yet. The Roomba s9+ will map your home, empty itself, learn your cleaning schedule, and even take care of the mopping. And if you’ve got lawns to mow, its big brother, the Terra t7 Robot Mower, has your back.
- Expect more from your fridge – sure, it keeps your food cool, but how about a fridge that can suggest meals based on the ingredients it contains, show you what’s inside while you’re at the supermarket and track expiration dates to reduce wastage? Smart fridges like the Samsung Family Hub are paving the way for fridges of the future!
- The smartest curtain call – as well as privacy and security, curtains help maintain temperatures in the home, saving on heating and cooling, and now, it’s easier than ever to stay on top of opening and closing your blinds or curtains. Whether you want to control them with voice, remotely through an app or set them to a schedule, there’s a huge range of smart curtains and blinds to cover your needs. It’s also possible to retrofit existing blinds and curtains with smart operating systems.
- Save on utilities with smart energy monitors – aside from scouring your bills, monitoring your energy usage has typically been something that has happened very much after the fact. The introduction of smart energy monitors allows users to see how much energy, gas and water is being used in real-time. This makes it possible to spot any wastage and tweak your habits.
- Step up your security – smart home security is a huge growth sector, with things like cameras, intercoms, doorbells, alarms, security lighting and motion sensors all becoming more advanced and affordable. Smart security devices allow homeowners to access, monitor and control home security remotely from anywhere there is a reliable internet connection – you’ll never need to rush home to check you locked the front door or set the alarm again!
- Matter matters – matter is an open-source connector for smart home devices that promises to allow a growing list of compatible gadgets to talk to each other directly regardless of their ecosystem or manufacturer. This puts an end to one of the biggest pain points of smart home devices – ending up with a bunch of disparate devices that don’t really deliver on their promise of convenience.
Smart homes are a smart move.
Smart products are ultimately designed to make our lives easier, safer, and more efficient. And with those efficiencies come considerable savings – both monetary and environmental. While we’re not suggesting you hit the shops and switch out everything in your home for smart versions, it’s worth thinking about where your priorities lie and considering adapting existing products until you eventually move to a smarter home.