When you’re not physically home, little nagging doubts can start to crowd your mind. Did I set the security alarm? Are my kids doing their homework or watching television? Did I turn the stove off?
With a smart home, you can switch off all these worries with a quick glance at your smartphone or tablet. You are able to connect the devices and appliances in your home so that they can communicate with each other and with you.
Any device in your home that uses electricity can be put on your home network and at your command. You can either give that command by voice, smartphone, tablet or remote control – your home will react accordingly. Most of your appliances that are related to lighting, home theatre and entertainment, thermostat regulation and home security, once linked up – you’re able to control on the tip of your fingertips.
What used to be a niche industry that produced hard-to-use applications with a steep learning curve is finally maturing into a full-blown consumer trend in 2022.
Home Automation – Advantages and Disadvantages
Smart homes and home automation provides peace of mind for the owner. It allows them to manage their homes from remote locations.
Smart homes improve home efficiency. For example, your room will be cooled by the time you arrive home, your garden can be watered while you’re away and many more.
Smart homes are able to learn and store information about your preferences and habits and in the long run, program themselves better to suit your needs.
Data security and privacy are huge obstacles. If hackers are able to break into your smart home device, they may be able to access your personal and sensitive information, making your home prone to burglary.
Smart home applications can be complicated to manage and their complexity is likely to be high, especially for people who are not tech-savvy.
In order for your smart home automation to be effective, your devices and appliances must be interoperable and well integrated, regardless of its brand or manufacturing company. Brands are definitely working towards achieving this integration in the near future, but till then – this may be an obstacle.
Smart Assistants: Voice Control: The Easy Place to Start
Voice commands are possible with voice assistants, which developers have integrated into IoT (Internet of Things) products. There are a variety of voice assistants available internationally, including Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. While in Malaysia, the two most popular voice assistants are Google’s Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. Your voice assistant connects to your devices so you can switch them on and off simply by speaking. Other modifications can also be made, such as dimming the lights and adjusting the temperature to your preferences. Let’s get into more detail with each of these voice assistants.
If you have an Echo speaker, Alexa will be your voice assistant. As of 2021, Alexa has more than 100,000 skills you can tap into. Alexa is on the top of the list with the most capabilities, as compared to other voice assistants. Moreover, Alexa is integrated into the broadest range of IoT products.
Google Assistant comes with any Google Home Hub, Nest Hub or Nest Mini speakers. Activating the voice assistant is as simple as saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google”. Google Assistant comes in second in popularity, in comparison to Alexa, with over 4,200 actions as of 2019.
Siri is a part of Apple HomeKit and is available on all iOS devices. There are not a lot of connected devices that work with Siri because of Apple’s strict regulations and integration process, hence it’s mainly used to play Youtube videos, do Internet searches or provide map directions.
A cloud-based personal assistant, Cortana, from Microsoft operates outside the scope of standard voice-activated artificial intelligence. Cortana can understand voice commands, perform tasks, and works across the entire Microsoft 365 suite of products and all Windows 10 operating systems. At the time of writing, Cortana no longer has the ability to control smart home devices.
Tour A Smart Home
Would you like to see a smart home in action? Let’s take you on a virtual smart home tour and you’ll be able to see how all of its products work together seamlessly to create a house that adjusts to your needs and habits automatically. All of the devices listed below can be commanded using your voice alone through a voice assistant. This could be either Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri or Microsoft Cortana.
Smart Light Bulbs
Smart light bulbs can be set onto personalised schedules to follow sunrise and sunset, automatically turning on and off as necessary.
Dimmable LED bulbs are able to adjust to over 16 million different colours and can last much longer than incandescent bulbs. Once you have customised your lighting, you’re able to create scenes, and groups of bulbs that you have adjusted to your preference, so that you can easily access them later.
Philips Hue is definitely one of the most recognisable lighting brands, with a variety of different smart lighting to offer. With regards to the voice assistant, you’re able to control the Philips Hue lighting with Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri.
Pro Tip: Unlike incandescent bulbs, the Philips Hue White and Colour is LED, which means that it uses much less energy. Hue has a variety of smart bulbs you can pick from, such as the Bar Light, Decorative Candle, Bloom Lamp and many more.
If you are a beginner looking to upgrade your home into a smart home, smart plugs would be the first place to start.
Smart plugs can turn any appliance that uses 1,800 watts or less into a WiFi-connected device, which is perfect for small appliances such as flat irons or space heaters. Hence, once you’ve installed these smart plugs you will be able to control these appliances to be turned on or off using your voice command, on top of creating schedules.
Smart Security Systems
Smart security systems safeguard that you will always stay on top of your home’s security. Using WiFi-connected sensors, any time your alarm goes off – you’ll be alerted via a mobile notification when your security system is armed.
From that point, you’ll be able to check in and live stream the footage, if your system includes a camera.
Smart Security Cameras
How useful is your smart security system if you do not have a camera attached to see the actual footage? With a smart security camera, you will be able to view the live stream footage from your mobile application. In addition, you are able to show the live stream footage on a smart display, Apple TV, or Chromecast – depending on its manufacture, as well as review the cloud storage.
Some smart security cameras are advanced in that they have person detection, hence you’ll receive a notification when it detects a person. Plus, some cameras even have the facial recognition feature, that allows you to name faces that the camera has detected multiple times.
Smart thermostats are able to control and adjust your home temperature remotely, as well as customise schedules. Some smart thermostats also have features that are able to sense movement and occupancy, which allows the smart thermostat to adjust the temperature based on your location even if you are awake or asleep.
Furthermore, with geofencing settings, the smart thermostat is able to just the temperature based on your location using the GPS function in your mobile phone. By doing so, you can save money on heating and cooling costs as compared to owning a regular thermostat.
Smart Smoke and CO Sensors
If you are not at home and your smoke alarm goes off, how does that help? Instead, with smart smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) sensors, you’ll instantly get notified if there is any significant increase in temperature or if a dangerous level of smoke or carbon monoxide is detected in your house.
Smart locks are extremely useful on a daily basis. Besides being able to control the locks remotely, you can set a temporary passcode so that people can gain access even when you aren’t there.
This would come in handy if you have a babysitter or neighbour that needs to be let into the house when you’re away from home in a much safer manner rather than hiding the key in a pot. To top it off, you are able to see your lock activity on your mobile phone and some locks even give you the option to open the door with a voice command.
In what ways can my smart home be of assistance?
Ultimately, convenience is the deciding factor for most people.Unlike regular products that are not connected to the internet, smart devices have a variety of capabilities and are all controlled with a single touch through an app. Here is a list of things you are able to do with IoT devices:
With smart devices, you’ll be notified on your mobile app instantly when something odd happens. For example, your security cameras and smart locks will send you notifications when someone opens your front door or approaches your video doorbell. These notifications are useful especially since they happen in real-time and this increases the security of your home.
Most smart devices are compatible with one of the voice assistants, either the two most common Alexa or Google Assistant. Hence, you will be able to command them using your voice alone, but it is vital to make sure that all the devices in your home are with the same assistant for ease and consistency.
One of the biggest highlights of using smart home technology is that you’re able to control your devices remotely through their respective mobile applications. This is especially useful if you forgot to turn something on or off before you left home and even to make sure that your doors are always locked while you are away.
It is possible to monitor the energy used by your IoT devices in order to find out exactly how much energy is being consumed. This is helpful for plugs that are connected to frequently used appliances, including smart bulbs.
Monitoring, controlling and optimising capabilities combined to allow smart, connected products to achieve a previously unattainable level of automation. At the simplest level is a self-operating product operation like that of a iRobot Roomba, a vacuum cleaner that uses sensors and software to scan and clean floors in rooms with different layouts.
More sophisticated products are able to learn about their environment, self-diagnose their own service needs, and adapt to users’ preference. Automation not only can reduce the need for operators but can improve safety in dangerous environments and facilitate operations in remote locations.
Are You Ready To Start Your Smart Home Journey?
Smart homes allow you to customise your life by automating simple actions. It could be as simple as having your coffee ready for you in the morning to getting a notification the second your kids are home from school. With a thousand devices readily available, your possibilities are endless.
If you intend to invest in a smart home hub that will pull all these components together under a single user interface, just make sure that all the bits and pieces you purchase will work with one common hub. Verify what devices each hub works with on the hub manufacturer’s website if you are unsure.
There is no clear-cut rule about which smart home component you should install, it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you based on what you want to accomplish. We hope that this article will serve as a guide for you as you move forward with your smart home purchase.