While we don’t live in floating buildings or drive spaceships to work (yet!) we’re not too far off from the world that the 60s cartoon The Jetsons predicted. Smart home devices are more widely available than ever before, making our day-to-day tasks easier in so many ways.
In fact, things like robot vacuums and smart watches are so commonplace that we hardly think of them as innovative anymore. With no shortage of products that promise to change the way you live, let's take a look at what makes it “smart”.
What is a smart home?
In its simplest form, it is a home that is equipped with devices that can be controlled through the internet by your smartphone, tablet or computer. Smart home technology allows us to automate or digitally control the functions of our home, further integrating internet connectivity (also known as IoT or Internet of Things) into our lives.
Turning your home into a smart home is now affordable on any budget, with a huge range of home gadgets with a variety of functions to choose from. Integrating smart home technology is even easier in modular homes, with built-in structured wiring systems to support a greater variety of devices and automation features than in regular homes.
But if you’re shopping for smart home products in Australia, you need to know which ones are right for your home. For example, smart thermostats are generally designed for US residences, and the wiring may be incompatible with most Aussie ducted systems.
And if Energy efficiency is a top priority for you, then investing in a smart meter before anything else can help you conserve energy. You will be able to monitor your energy usage hourly, which can help you determine which appliances and electronics consume the most energy and how much smart home tech you want to invest in.
If you’re looking to upgrade to a smart home, here are five must-have smart home gadgets to get you started.
Finding the best smart speaker for your home is the first step, as it links all your smart devices in one hub through the in-built virtual Assistant. Activated through voice assistance, a smart assistant is like the brain of the house, controlling the rest of the body and telling all the connected electronics what to do and when to do it.
A good starting point is to narrow down which smart assistant or brand you want to stick with, as compatibility is something you want to remember when buying smart home devices. The most popular ones are:
● Alexa (Amazon): The most well-known home assistant worldwide, Amazon’s Alexa dominates well over half of the market shares in the US alone. The popularity of devices like the highly in-demand 4th gen Amazon Echo is largely due to its compatibility with a wider number of smart devices than any of its competitors.
● Google Assistant: Like Alexa, Google Assistant is compatible with most devices and comes in a range of options. From the classic Google Home to the newer Google Nest Mini, there is something to suit every budget.
● Siri (Apple): Ideal for those with multiple Apple devices, the Siri-enabled Apple HomePod Mini functions through the Apple-specific HomeKit platform.
Whether you decide to go with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant(or even a smaller brand if you want to explore cheaper options), it is advisable to lock this in before investing in other smart devices, so you can guarantee they sync up perfectly.
You don’t have to break the bank by swapping out all of your old devices for smart home-compatible ones; you can transform any wired electronic appliance in your house by plugging it into a smart plug.
Forgot to turn off the iron again? Not a problem any longer. You can turn it on or off through your smartphone, or through voice command if you have a compatible smart hub connected.
There are plenty of options out there to suit any need, any number of appliances and any budget, from the cheaper end of the spectrum like the single WiZ Smart Plug to the highly in-demand TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Power Strip that can support multiple devices.
It’s best to do your research and find out what features you need, whether it’s compatibility with your smart assistant of choice, energy monitoring, specific functionality and so on.
With the meteoric rise in popularity of entertainment options outside regular free-to-air channels or cable networks, TVs have had to adapt to support smart devices and internet connectivity with vastly superior picture and sound quality.
Modern smart TVs can offer multiple features similar to smartphones, such as:
- Access to multiple streaming subscriptions like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Stan and many others, all in one place
- Apps for other media streaming services such as YouTube and Spotify
- Ability to access social media
- Video game console compatibility
If you’re keen on improving your media experience while having it all connected in one centralised place, investing in a smart TV won’t disappoint. Many newer models support voice commands through your smart speaker as well, while complementary devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick can simplify the experience while giving you the ability to access other smart home devices like security camera live feeds.
With the introduction of LED bulbs that can be turned on/off or dimmed from anywhere, energy efficiency has never been this convenient.
Though pricier than average light bulbs, smart lights tend to last longer and have many advantages that make them a better investment in the long run, making them a perfect addition to your smart home automation list.
There are multiple colours and options available to suit your needs, whether you want a basic single bulb like the LIFX Smart Lightbulb or a dazzling array of ambient lighting like the expensive but highly recommended Philips Hue range.
Once connected through Wi-Fi to your smart home system, they are easy to install and can be controlled through voice commands. Some lights may have companion apps that you need to download to your smartphone to operate, but ensure that you can control them no matter how far away you are.
Smart home security system
Investing in your safety is always a smart choice. From simply monitoring any suspicious activity at your door to keeping a close watch on your home while you’re away, smart home automation lets you have greater control over your property. Smart home security also adds greater value to your home, making it easier to sell at a high price.
There are plenty of devices with a variety of functions that allows you to customise your home security system the way you want. Some of the most popular and effective options include:
● Home security camera: These smart devices can help you monitor your home in real-time no matter where you are, through live or recorded video feeds sent straight to your smartphone. Most smart cameras can also include features like Google Nest Cam’s facial recognition and alerts or the TP-Link Tapo C110’s night vision, motion detection, two-way audio and more.
● Video doorbell: No more unpleasant surprises when you answer the doorbell. The camera and microphone functions send a live video feed straight to your smartphone through the Wi-Fi connection, allowing you to interact with whoever is at your door. Devices like Google Nest Doorbell also include helpful features like intelligent alerts that can distinguish people, vehicles, packages delivered and more.
● Smart lock: When coupled with a smart security camera and video doorbell, you can greet your guests and unlock the door without ever getting off the couch. High-tech options like the popular Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro even include 6 kinds of keyless entry, auto lock and timed entry functions.
While the sheer volume of products, choices, features and brands can be overwhelming, it all comes down to your personal preference and budget. Upgrading to a smart home can be a costly investment, but is guaranteed to make life a little easier in the long run.