The technological dream of the future is to have a fully autonomous home that is run by technology and artificial intelligence that controls robots at your command. This has been a fantasy for years, ever since the potential of technological advancement was first realized. At this very point in time, we stand at the precipice of starting the journey to attaining that dream.
Television has dramatically glamorized the concept of the Smart Home. While the reality of it may not seem quite as magical as the commercialized version, we are still at the beginning of our journey. In other words, we may not currently have a way to fully automate our homes and daily lives, but we are starting to test the waters and see just what we can accomplish in this day and age. Between 50 and 60 percent of people currently own and use a smart device in their home to complete a task autonomously, such as using a robotic vacuum to clean our floors. This is just the beginning.
If you are interested in how to set up a smart home, there are many ways you can begin to be fully autonomous by replacing some of the more mundane tasks in your life. In this article, we’ll be covering some of the different components that you can install and use to set up your very own smart home without too much effort.
Best Smart Home Devices
Smart Gadgets and the Central Hub
If you have any experience putting together a computer, you may find yourself with a similar experience when putting together your smart home. There is a multitude of gadgets out there that all come together to create a smart home or bring some smart elements into your home. It can feel like an elaborate and large logic puzzle as you try to find components or gadgets that will work well with each other to help automate some of the systems in your home.
We will be covering some of these different components in the following sections, but let’s take a moment to look at what we call the “central hub”. This will primarily be your control center, which will allow you to monitor and control all the other components in your smart home. There are plenty of different options for what we are calling the central hub. For instance, you could use your smartphone, computer, or laptop to control and fine-tune your lights, sound system, and thermostat. You could perhaps use an AI assistant such as the Amazon Echo, as well.
Whatever method you use will be the foundation for your smart home and opens up avenues to other devices that you can implement. Some devices require you to use a specific app, such as those from companies like Nest and Ring, while other devices use generic and popular apps, such as Zigbee, to control their smart home devices via wireless connections. Regardless of the app you use, you will gain control over the smart devices through your phone, allowing you to set things up by merely tapping the screen in your hand.
Keep in mind that the types of devices you use influence the app you can use, and vice versa. For example, Apple’s HomeKit limits you to only using Apple devices. While this limitation is a con for many, the pro is that you needn’t worry about compatibility, and there will be added functionality that you can expect from that compatibility.
Now that we have a foundation in how a central hub works, we can begin to look at what smart home devices you might be interested in.
As you get more and more into the smart home scene, you might have heard this term thrown around. If not, you’ll definitely have heard of Amazon Echo or Google Assistant, which are some popular examples. Smart speakers are an example of one of the central hubs we mentioned earlier in the article, as they allow you to control your smart home devices autonomously with nothing but your voice.
Let’s paint a scene. You come home to your smart home, and you are tired and grumpy from a long day at work. You don’t want to fiddle with your phone, which has barely any battery life left, so you call out, “Hey Alexa, turn on the lights.” Suddenly, your home springs to life, and you can fall onto the sofa and relax. This is the world we can live in thanks to companies like Amazon and Google, who are leading the charge with digital assistants.
These digital assistants are connected to the other devices in your home and allow you to interact with their AI. You can also command them to activate or deactivate the devices they are connected to. The primary benefit of these smart speakers is that many different devices come with compatibility or are, in fact, designed to be used alongside Alexa and the Google Assistant. Ecobee works with Amazon Echo to control your thermostat and Ecobee Switch+ smart switch for your lighting. Meanwhile, Lenovo works with Google Home devices to create its Lenovo Smart Display series.
Their use as an assistant and central hub in controlling your smart home makes smart speakers one of the most popular smart devices in homes today.
One of the most popular smart devices, automated lighting in your home, is the first smart device that many people get in their homes. This is because it is one of the easiest aspects to set up and control from your home. There are plenty of different smart home lighting systems to choose from, and one of the most significant benefits is that many of them do not require a central hub to control them and make them work for you or interact with other devices in your home.
At the most basic level, the way smart lighting works is the bulbs communicate via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to your smartphone, allowing you to directly assume control and set parameters to control them wirelessly without even needing to interact with your phone.
Other, more advanced bulbs will require the use of a central hub to control and fine-tune these parameters, such as one of the previously mentioned apps. Regardless of the central hub, you will, in the end, be able to manage and fine-tune the lighting in your home to automatically turn on and change based on various scenarios, such as time of day, mood, or activity.
If you don’t fancy changing the bulbs, there is an alternative for smart lighting. If most of your lighting comes from ceiling lights, you could instead change your old switches for smart dimmers that you control instead of the bulbs themselves.
Smart bulbs immediately become ordinary again once you flip the switch, essentially removing the smart home aspect from it. Having smart switches and dimmers may be better for you if you want to be fully autonomous. However, this is a lot more expensive in many regards. Lamps can also benefit from smart plugs that function the same way as smart switches.
Smart Audio Systems
Like lighting systems, smart audio systems are used to create highly intelligent, multi-room speaker systems to play music regardless of the room you are in. This is relatively simple to do, as you can buy a full system in a set and place a speaker in different rooms for your audio purposes. These systems then communicate with your smartphone or smart speakers and allow you to play music from your audio library or music streaming apps, such as iTunes and Spotify.
Some systems also help enhance the viewing experience for series and movies, including soundbars and subwoofers. However, you will have to control these separately, as their controls are a bit more finicky. A digital assistant will make this whole affair much more manageable, though.
While having a smart speaker control your smart lighting makes life that much more convenient and comfortable for you, smart devices can also help make life more comfortable. We mentioned before how smart speakers can control your thermostat, but this would require you to install a smart thermostat, too.
Smart thermostats do precisely what you think they do – control your thermostat automatically for you so that you don’t have to get up and physically change it each time. However, it also does more than simply raise or lower the temperature. It can also detect when you are and aren’t home and adjust the temperature accordingly to save you money on energy and heating bills by only operating your thermostat when needed.
For those who would perhaps like the alternative, you don’t need to have an entirely new thermostat installed. Instead, you can “upgrade” your normal one to have smart capabilities. It isn’t too difficult to install your regular thermostats with sensors in the rooms you use the most. The idea is that these sensors communicate with your regular thermostat and automatically toggle the heating and cooling systems based on where you are, thereby making your thermostat a smart system that can still save you some money.
Everyone enjoys a little home security, and it’s entirely possible to incorporate this into your smart home’s system. This is a relatively simple system to explain, as basically all modern home security systems have smart features implemented to some degree. Once you have this security system installed, you’ll be able to view the area around your house from your smartphone or computer, based on the app or setup you use.
Indoor cameras will also allow you to keep an eye on things while you’re away. Some models and systems include lights that automatically turn on once someone registers on their sensor to illuminate them and potentially deter them, and others have cameras hidden in objects such as doorbells. You’ll possibly have a full view of your home without even needing to be in the area.
Smart Smoke Detectors
Continuing with the theme of safety, you also get smart versions of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Traditional devices are inherently dumb, sounding an alarm once they detect something to alert you to deal with the problem or call the fire department. However, the main problem is that we aren’t always home to hear this alarm, so there is a chance your home may be damaged or destroyed when you are away on vacation or even just at work.
Smart detectors are an attempt to help remedy this issue. What they do is exactly the same as regular detectors. They will detect a fire or carbon monoxide emission and then sound a local alarm to alert anyone in the area. Additionally, they will send a ping to your smartphone so you can be informed of the danger and sort it out as soon as possible without needing to be in the danger zone yourself.
If you do find yourself trapped in your home, incorporate lighting to help you escape a burning house, leading you to safety outside. As with most smart devices, there are alternatives that you can consider, such as upgrades to your traditional devices. You can install a smart battery to make your existing detector more intelligent.
We are on the very edge of entering a fully autonomous age and you do not want to be left behind. While this prospect may be scary for many, it has many benefits and will see you in a much more relaxed, potentially more productive, and much safer environment.
Having many different mundane tasks and systems replaced with more modern and technologically advanced options can help us enter a new world that can see us running our lives more efficiently, enjoying the smaller moments, and staying safer thanks to advanced security systems.
It will be daunting at first, but setting up your smart home has never been easier. Simply start with some of the basics described in this article, and you’ll be on the road to an autonomous home!