If you’ve recently shopped for home appliances (even light bulbs!), chances are you upgraded to something “smart,” meaning it connects to the internet and can be controlled by a phone or computer. Smart-home devices rely on the data they collect from you and your lifestyle to do their job, making them “smart.” While the innovation in smart home technology is intended to deliver convenience, there is a bit of a learning curve, so we’ve rounded up some key learnings on the right products and appliances to get you started.
An Ecosystem of Ease
The cornerstone of a smart home is an ecosystem or “central hub.” Right now, the leading choices on the market are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple Home Kit. Choosing your ecosystem is essential, as it will inform what other appliances you buy. For example, if you want to use Alexa, you must purchase smart devices labeled “Works With Alexa.” This article compares the three systems and is a recommended read to dive deeper.
Another consideration is to look at your lifestyle and identify key priority areas. For example, if you’re away from home often, you may want to start with smart-enabled security measures or thermostat controls. On the flip side, if you are a homebody, you might want to focus on the things you use daily, like lights, music, and your communication-enabled devices that help you stay in touch with family and friends.
If you’re new to smart-home tech, here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Voice Assistant: Voice assistants are a great place to get started. With a smart speaker, you can get started by using your voice to make commands like setting an alarm, a timer, requesting music, or looking up facts online. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, or Google Assistant is the most popular place to start. Once you get comfortable here, you can connect other (compatible) smart devices and use your voice to control them through the speaker – for example, turning lights on and off or adjusting the thermostat.
- Smart Plugs: You can smarten up many of your current devices by swapping to a Smart Plug. A smart plug transforms ordinary devices such as lamps, fans, and coffee makers into smart devices you can control with your phone. Simply plug them into a wall outlet, download the app, and connect your non-smart device. Some are compatible with your voice assistant, like this one and Amazon Alexa.
- Smart Thermostats: The convenience of adjusting the heat or AC in your home, whether you’re there or not, is priceless and will save you some money too. This is an excellent choice for those who travel frequently and anyone who rents out a vacation home and wants to ensure renters aren’t burning through too much oil. The Nest thermostat is a leader in this corner of the market and has many favorable reviews.
- High Security: Get started with a video doorbell – it will save you from running to the door unnecessarily and allow you to monitor what’s going on at home, whether you are there or not.
- Stay Safe: Take it up a few notches with a smart-smoke/CO2 alarm for peace of mind (did you know that adults ages 65-74 had 2.2 times the risk of dying in a fire?) or a full-service security system.
In addition to smart devices, there are also surveillance-enabled subscriptions like Amazon Together, which provide caregivers with activity alerts, to keep an eye on what their loved one is up to. This tech is marketed to caregivers to stay connected from afar while keeping elders independent and at home longer. Ethically, it’s important to discuss using this sort of technology to protect privacy while empowering elders to maintain independence.
Smart-home technology is here to stay. The key to getting started is to do your research and then, depending on your comfort level, consult with experts to ensure a smooth installation or to troubleshoot help as needed. When set up correctly, smart-home tech can save you time, money and deliver convenience and peace of mind.