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? It’s not science fiction; it’s the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s a key component of home automation and smart homes.
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.
Alexa, make my home smart
Smart Speakers and Displays
Amazon Echo Family
The Amazon Echo is a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, Amazon’s handy voice assistant. Alexa works with a number of smart home devices directly, as well as with If This Then That (IFTTT) to control plenty of others via pairings you can create yourself. It’ll take some work, but you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house with the sound of your voice. If you already have a favorite speaker, the inexpensive Echo Dot With Clock can connect to it and add Alexa functionality. And if you want a touch screen to see search results and make video calls, check out the Echo Show 8 or the Echo Show.
2. Google Nest Hub
Google your smart home
The Google Nest Hub is another common system for setting up a home automation system. It uses Google Assistant to perform tasks using voice commands, but works mainly as a visual interface, in effect acting like a voice-powered tablet device. It can display local weather information, events and notices, daily schedules, as well as play music and video from YouTube and other services. When not in use it can display a clock across its screen, or serve as a digital photo frame by displaying images from your Google Photo account.
It also, of course, works as a central home automation hub, and easily connects with many other smart devices. You can control lighting, heating, security, and the typical range of smart home through voice commands or the user-interface by swiping or tapping screen options as required.
Where the Google Nest Hub really excels is through its integration with Google Services, not least web search, which is still more developed than most competitors, if somewhat over-whelmed by ads and Google self-promotion these days.
However, the Google Nest Hub isn’t a full media device so you can’t access digital subscriptions the way you can with Chromecast. Additionally, while the display is great for close-up interactions, the small 7″ screen means it’s not so usable when across a room.
Google Nest Hub Family
If you prefer Google Assistant to Amazon Alexa, you’ll want to invest in Google’s Nest Hub line of speakers and smart displays. The big Google Home Max offers truly room-filling sound, while the Google Nest Hub Max is an attractive, bright smart display that puts Google’s services front and center. The smaller Nest Mini and Nest Hub are also solid, more affordable alternatives for putting Google Assistant in every room of the house.
4. Samsung SmartThings
Samsung tries to get smart
Limited user experience
The Samsung SmartThings hub aims to bring the smart home system together with a single home automation hub, which is operated through a mobile app. Samsung also produce a number of peripheral devices to work directly with it, not least motion sensors, multipurpose sensors, and smart buttons. The Samsung SmartThings hub also plays well with with most third-party smart devices, though it doesn’t have so many connectivity options as some, being mainly restricted to Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols. What it does offer, though, is simple IFTTT customizations to make a home truly smart.
A notable feature of the Samsung SmartThings hub is that it comes with a built-in battery power option, so that in the event of a power failure the system will continue to run, unlike some standalone hubs. It’s also relatively simple and painless for other smart devices to connect with the hub, at least at first. However, while Samsung are known to be good with hardware, they’ve yet to established their credentials with software, and this shows with the SmartThings app in that it isn’t so user-friendly as some other app-based home automation systems.
If you find the app restrictive, you can always set-up voice commands by connecting with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to work with it, but it’s not set up to provide the same multimedia experience that other voice-powered home automation systems can deliver, unless you plan to connect with existing smart audio-visual devices.
If you can’t decided between Amazon and Alexa and Google Assistant, you don’t have to. The Sonos One supports both popular voice assistants, and sound-wise, it’s head and shoulders above other smart speakers in its price range. It also connects with other Sonos speakers like the Arc, Beam, and Move to deliver superior sound quality and voice assistant access throughout your home (and backyard).
(Disclaimer: The above information is sourced from various websites/ media reports. The website does not guarantee a 100% accuracy of the figures)
Source: techradar, pcmag