One of the top home trends of 2018 is something that seems familiar to most of us by now: smart home devices. In the last few years, there’s been an explosion of “smart” technology that promises to automate and simplify our lives by connecting appliances and functions to the internet. These upgrades allow homeowners to control their lights, thermostat, locks, sprinkler system and much more from anywhere via an app or web interface. More recently, tools like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Siri provide a centralized hub to connect many smart home devices and control them using voice commands.
While installing one or two smart home devices isn’t too complicated, making several of them all work in concert can be more challenging – but it is possible. If you’re looking to make your home a lot smarter this year, here’s how to get started:
Choose your system
To make multiple smart home devices as intuitive as possible, you will need a system that can connect to them and provide a single access point. Otherwise, every device you buy might require its own app or interface, which is hardly convenient at scale. However, the system you choose will also determine which smart devices you can control with it, to a degree. With so many different smart home products made by different companies that use various modes of communication (whether it’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or something else), aspiring smart home-owners can be quickly overwhelmed.
That’s why some tech experts recommend starting with a voice control system like those offered by Amazon, Google or Apple. Each of these connect easily to products and services many of us are familiar with already, as well as a wide range of smart home devices that you might buy in the future. Writing in a guide for The New York Times, Brian Chen listed some of the biggest advantages and drawbacks of each:
- Amazon’s Alexa, the voice assistant installed with its Echo and Dot speakers, might be the best pick for people who want to get set up quickly. Alexa supports the broadest range of devices and commands, although it sometimes has trouble understanding what you say.
- The Google Assistant, installed on Google Home products and Android phones, is among the most adaptable when it comes to voice commands, but it may not support as many devices or services as Alexa.
- Apple’s Siri is probably the most familiar for those who already use other Apple products like the iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. While Siri works near flawlessly with Apple products, according to Chen, it doesn’t support many other smart devices from different manufacturers.
Pick your devices
Once you have something to connect them all, you can start to collect any smart home devices you want and that are compatible with each other. Install smart lights that can be controlled with voice commands to quickly turn them on, dim them and even change color. A smart thermostat is another popular smart home device because it can be controlled remotely or programmed with sophisticated rules, like saving energy while you’re away from home but automatically recognizing when you return.
As you learn more about the possibilities of smart home tech, you can get creative with how you integrate them into your daily routine. Keep experimenting and tinkering to find the devices and setup that work best within your lifestyle.