There’s a wealth of new smart gadgets vying for a spot in your home, but for a truly smart home you’ll want all your smart gadgets to speak the same language.
Wandering through your local homemaker centre you’ll find a smart device for every room and every occasion – from smart appliances for the kitchen and smart players for the lounge room, to smart home automation, security, air-con and lighting. You can control all these smart devices remotely, via various smartphone apps, but when you’re shopping for smart devices it’s important to consider whether they can all talk to each other.
Technology giants Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon each have their own smart home platform, plus gadget maker Belkin offers its extensive WeMo smart home ecosystem. Meanwhile whitegoods makers like Samsung, LG and Whirlpool are amongst those offering apps which let you talk to your kitchen and laundry appliances from afar.
Smart whitegoods open up a world of possibilities, such as checking the contents of your fridge while you’re at the supermarket, pre-heating the oven so it’s ready to bake when you get home and firing up the heating in anticipation of a cold night.
The trouble with all these smart devices is that they can leave you with a haphazard collection of smart home apps on your smartphone – just like the clutter of remote controls which can pile up on your coffee table in the lounge room.
The solution is to commit to a single tightly integrated smart home ecosystem which preferably lets you control everything from a single app – just like investing in a universal remote control for your lounge room. Not only does a tightly integrated smart home make your life easier, it also helps the people you live with who might be less tech-savvy or simply less tolerant of tech hassles.
Ensuring your smart home devices are compatible with each other doesn’t just make your smart home easier to manage, it can also make your smart home smarter. All these smart devices can work together and start making smart decisions on your behalf, perhaps linking to cloud-based smart home platforms like If This Then That (IFTTT) which lets your smart devices tap into a wealth of online services.
In a truly smart home, your smart security cameras can act as motion detectors which automatically trigger events such as turning on your lights and sending alerts to your smartphone. Meanwhile your smart thermostat can check the online weather forecast to fire up your air-conditioning just before you get home from work, then turn on the garden sprinkler to keep the grass green.
When winter comes a smart power switch can automatically turn on your electric blanket on a chilly evening, or switch on the bathroom heater and boil the kettle on a cold morning.
By talking to your smartphone, your smart home can also know when you leave the house and arrive back home – letting your smart home anticipate your needs without you needing to lift a finger.
While it all sounds great in theory, don’t assume that all smart appliances can automagically talk to each other. It’s important to do your research before you spend any money. Don’t start by setting your heart on a particular device or service, instead figure out what you want to achieve and work backwards – taking into account the devices you already own and services you already use.
The smart home can certainly make life easier, but only if you make some smart buying decisions upfront.