The smart home of the future is modular, custom tailored, and decentralized.
If you want to control your whole house – both manually and setting up home automation – through one all-powerful app on your phone or tablet, you can choose a hub and platform like Samsung’s SmartThings or Wink. More likely is that you will choose to take the plunge with one of the big three smart home ecosystems below. (Note that Alexa integrates with both SmartThings & Wink)
With privacy in mind, Apple worked directly with home accessory makers to ensure that the data transferred between accessories and Apple devices is secure and encrypted.
The integration of Apple’s HomeKit into its mobile devices makes it much easier to set up Siri with home accessories.
Partly because of Apple’s stringent privacy requirements, it has taken longer for smart home accessories supporting Siri to reach the market, meaning there are fewer available.
Siri sometimes has trouble understanding what you are asking it to do.
Siri is exclusive to Apple products.
If you want to quickly get started with a smart home, buying an Echo product is your best bet.
Amazon’s Echo products are easy to set up and plug in anywhere that you need to summon Alexa.
At $50, Echo Dot, the smaller speaker, is one of the cheapest smart home controllers in the market.
Alexa has more than 10,000 Skills, or third-party capabilities, making it the most broadly supported smart home hub.
The smartphone apps for setting up Echo products work with Apple and Android devices.
Amazon’s Alexa app for iPhones and Android phones, required for setting up some smart home products, can be clunky.
Alexa sometimes has difficulty responding to what you are asking it to do.
The speakers on Echo products are generally mediocre.
Google’s Home speaker and smartphones running newer versions of Android include Assistant.
At $130, Google Home costs $50 less than Amazon’s standard Echo speaker.
In terms of artificial intelligence, Assistant is generally smarter than Alexa and Siri because it is powered by the brains of Google search, meaning you can ask a broader array of questions and are more likely get a correct response.
You summon Assistant by saying “O.K., Google,” which gets annoying.
There are far more smart home products supporting Alexa than Google’s Assistant.
Google Home’s audio quality is just mediocre.
While Assistant is slightly smarter than other virtual assistants, it is still flawed and has trouble responding to some requests appropriately.
The nice thing about going with a Google or an Alexa based Smart Home is that you can start small and add to it, or go for the whole enchilada all at once. For example, if you simply want to turn some lights on or off, or have them change color, you’re looking at a fairly low entry fee. However, if you want all of the above to be Smart, you can easily invest $5,000 – $10,000 or more.
Existing companies in the Valley who install and setup Smart Homes often charge tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for advanced Smart Home systems. With a Google or an Alexa based system, you can easily add single devices or entire rooms to the ecosystem as your budget, time, and enthusiasm allow.
Now that you’ve picked your Assistant, and decided what you want to be Smart, it’s time to purchase and install your gear. However, deciding what to buy can be a tricky endeavor – there are soo many options to choose from. We typically start off by going to Amazon.com and searching for Smart Home in the search bar.
Notice the menu of options on the left hand side. If you scroll down towards the bottom, you’ll see an option that says, “Works with Alexa”. Click that button and start browsing.
There are a lot of brands to choose from – pick a few items that meet your budget and rating requirements, and just go. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what brand you want, because everything in this list will integrate with Alexa.
Once you receive your new Smart Home device, follow the installation instructions on the box or in the manual to get it up and running through it’s own respective app on your smart phone. While setting up the device, try to be mindful of what you are calling the device and where you are locating it (bedroom, kitchen, etc.) This information will flow into the Alexa app and is very important to get right if you want to have a good Smart Home experience.
Once the app is installed and the device is set up, you can then migrate to the Amazon Alexa app to install the respective skill and get the device adopted into your ecosystem.
Once your new device’s application is linked to Amazon Alexa via the skills section, the fun begins. After adding the skill, Alexa will do an auto discovery process to find any new devices. Once devices are added, you can assign them to specific rooms or groups in your home. Devices can be assigned to multiple groups. For example, say you have a light in your living room that you like to turn on for entertainment purposes. You can have a group called Entertainment lights and a group called Living Room. Alexa will be able to control the light by saying, “turn the entertainment lights on/off”, “dim the entertainment lights to 20%”, or “turn the living room lights on/off”, etc.
In addition to groups, Alexa has what are called Scenes and Routines. A scene is a way of interacting with a specific device – like a Philips Hue Lightbulb – you can have a scene that activates when you say, “turn on the nightlight in the living room” or “make it bright in the kitchen”. Routines are sets of activities that you can combine together when you say a certain phrase. For example, you could say, “Alexa, Goodnight”, and the system could turn off all of your lights and TV’s in the house, change the temperature, and turn your bedroom fan on.
Once again, the trick is making sure you’ve named everything properly. Naming conventions often flow from the smartphone app to the Alexa platform, which means you’ll want to have a good idea of what you want the end result to be before setting anything up.
If you’ve tried making your home smart but are hitting a dead-end, give us a call at 970-871-8500 and ask for Josh or send him an email. For an hourly fee, we could come out to your home or business and provide some insight into how we can help make things easier for you.
We’ll need to make sure you 1) have enough bandwidth to support your needs, 2) have a rock solid internal network with little to no interference, and 3) are setting up the system in a way that makes sense to the building occupants.