The Interconnected Home of Today
Once a homeowner has chosen the protocol of their choice, they can start purchasing compatible smart home devices or a smart hub. Smart hubs provide a central hub to manage and monitor one’s smart home, and are designed for homeowners who already have or are considering buying multiple, connected devices. Smart hubs funnel all devices into a single interface and come in a variety of different packages. Homeowners can buy just a hub and add their preferred gadgets, or purchase starter kits that come with various sensors and extras included.
While the majority of smart home products have been controlled by smartphones or hubs, the newest trend to hit the market, is voice-activated personal assistants. Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, which are outlets for the company’s Alexa AI assistant, were first launched in the US in 2015 and 2016, and recently, Google also launched its own competitor ‘Google Home’, powered by the search company’s Assistant AI. While Amazon’s Echo is currently ahead due to its broader skill set, third party support and larger number of connected services, Google Home is quickly closing the gap and it won’t be long before it integrates with more smart home platforms, more Google services, and gets better at understanding context as a conversational assistant.
As for smart home devices, which cover a wide variety of products, most fall under the following three categories:
Smart appliances, gadgets, and fixtures: Several companies have started launching smart appliances, fixtures and gadgets that include features such as remote control and monitoring. While some give homeowners the ability to turn the appliance on or off, or adjust and monitor settings, others can adapt to suit a user and their home. Smart/connected appliances and fixtures include washing machines, dishwashers, ovens fridges, toilets and showers whereas smart gadgets include robot vacuum cleaners, kettles and coffee machines.
Energy and lighting: Smart thermostats, which put homeowners in control of their heating and electricity, claim to help homeowners save money on their energy bills and the same applies for smart radiator controls. Smart lighting systems mean homeowners can turn their lights on and off from wherever they are, helping them save energy, as well as dim them or change colors. Some can also be scheduled ahead of time to suit a user’s routine or for security purposes.
Security measures: Many security devices can be bought on their own or as part of a smart security system or a hub that enables homeowners to connect a number of different devices that include smart cameras, smoke alarms, sensors, burglar alarms and locks. A smart security system is a burglar alarm (with motion sensors) and a wireless camera in one with the ability to connect to a smartphone or tablet.