SMART AND POCKET- FRIENDLY

Business Today - - THE BREAKOUT ZONE - By Nidhi Sin­gal Il­lus­tra­tion By Raj Verma @nid­hisin­gal

SET­TING UP A SMART HOME IS NO LONGER A DIS­TANT DREAM; NOW YOU CAN POWER IT WITH AF­FORD­ABLE SMART GAD­GETS.

THE IDEA OF A SMART HOME

never fails to fas­ci­nate, es­pe­cially as a sim­ple voice com­mand to a smart speaker can get all sorts of things done in and around the house. But when alone (read no com­pat­i­ble de­vices are con­nected), these smart speak­ers could do very lit­tle apart from act­ing as your morn­ing alarm, news­reader, mu­sic player, cab-book­ing de­vice and a handy search en­gine to an­swer your queries. As for other house­hold tasks like turn­ing on or off air- con­di­tion­ers and lights to switch­ing on a cof­fee ma­chine to scan­ning a baby mon­i­tor/se­cu­rity cam­era footage, these gad­gets must be able to com­mu­ni­cate with your vir­tual voice­con­trolled as­sis­tant (they mostly do it over Wi-Fi). Home au­to­ma­tion means some ad­di­tional in­vest­ments, but it will not cost you a for­tune. Over the years, smart home tech has be­come more ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able, and you will find a wide range of pocket-friendly gad­gets which are Google Home and Alexa- com­pat­i­ble (in­clud­ing the Ama­zon Echo range and third-party speak­ers). Here is a look at the smart home bud­dies which are com­pat­i­ble with ei­ther of them or both.

Choose a Smart Sys­tem

Smart lights are use­ful without mak­ing things too com­pli­cated and Philips Hue is one of the best in this cat­e­gory. It is com­pat­i­ble with both Google Home and Alexa but re­quires a bridge when con­nect­ing to Ama­zon Echo, Echo Dot, Google Home and Google Home Mini speak­ers. Those with a built-in hub – Echo Plus, for in­stance – can com­mu­ni­cate straight­away with the Zig­bee stan­dard on which the Hue is based. But if you are look­ing for an af­ford­able prod­uct which is sim­ple to set up, look no fur­ther than Syska Smart Light 7W LED Bulb (` 1,799), EDSUN Plas­tic Smart LED Bulb (re­tail­ing at a dis­counted price of ` 1,099) and Yee­l­ight Light­strip Plus (`4,399). You can not only turn them on/off with voice com­mands but also man­age their colours and bright­ness lev­els.

A hand­ful of smart tele­vi­sions and me­dia-stream­ing de­vices also sup­port voice in­te­gra­tion. If that is at the top of your list, take a look at Xiaomi’s Mi LED TV Pro range. Even the 32-inch en­try-level smart TV at ` 15,999 is Google Home­com­pat­i­ble. One can use the smart speaker to turn on/off the TV and play movies, TV shows and YouTube. Blaupunkt LED tele­vi­sions also come with Alexa sup­port and they are quite af­ford­able at around ` 40,000. How­ever, if your cur­rent LED/LCD/ Plasma is work­ing fine, add a Google Chrome­cast 2018 (` 3,499) to the en­ter­tain­ment unit and ask your Google Home speaker to play your favourite YouTube or Net­flix show.

Not many op­tions are avail­able for voice- con­trolled air- con­di­tion­ers, but the Voltas 1.4 tonne Wi-Fi split AC (`35,990) works with Alexa and comes with a num­ber of fea­tures, in­clud­ing in­stant cool­ing, ac­tive de­hu­mid­i­fier and a four-stage fil­tra­tion ad­van­tage to re­move al­ler­gens and odours. Vac­uum clean­ing ro­bots are not yet a house­hold name in In­dia but Roomba 960 (`51,900), part of the iRobot 900 Se­ries, will fol­low your voice in­struc­tions. Used for ev­ery­day clean­ing, it works on all floor types, in­clud­ing car­pets, and has dirt de­tect sen­sors that tar­get ar­eas with a high con­cen­tra­tion of dirt. Xiaomi has also in­te­grated Alexa and Google Home sup­port in its re­cently launched Mi Air Pu­ri­fier 2S (` 8,999). Even the pre­vi­ous model, Mi Air Pu­ri­fier 2, can be con­trolled us­ing smart speak­ers. Se­cu­rity cam­eras, too, sup­port smart speak­ers for view­ing live footage. The D-Link DCSP6000LH Mini HD Wi-Fi Cam­era (`2,490) can record 720p videos and comes with sound and mo­tion de­tec­tion with re­mote ac­cess.

Old Gad­gets Made New

Act smart and buy ac­ces­sories which can bring smart func­tion­al­ity to old gad­gets at a frac­tion of the price you have to pay for new ap­pli­ances. It can be done by in­stalling smart switches and in­frared (IR) blasters. Oak­ter has a range of smart plugs (comes with the hub, a kind of uni­fy­ing plat­form to con­trol and run gad­gets from dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers) for low-power (`3,558) and high-power (`4,480) gad­gets and these plugs fit into the ex­ist­ing sock­ets. Once in­stalled, you can run your ex­ist­ing home ap­pli­ances such as wa­ter pumps, lamps, cof­fee ma­chines, TV sets, rice cook­ers and even the tiny mos­quito re­pel­lent de­vices with voice com­mands. Just at­tach them to Oak­ter smart plug, and you can sched­ule rou­tine ac­tiv­i­ties, auto on- off timers and do more us­ing the app.

If you want to con­nect more ap­pli­ances, con­sider the Oak­ter Smart Home Kit (` 13,725) that in­cludes a 6 Amp and a 16 Amp smart plug, a 5 Amp smart box, a Quadra Smart box for four low-power de­vices and a hub. The one on the slightly af­ford­able side is the TP-Link HS100 Wi-Fi Smart Plug (` 1,750) that can be used for low-power gad­gets.

You can also in­stal AIFA i- Ctrl smart home de­vice (`4,500) to con­trol your IR re­mote de­vices within a room. Set it up by us­ing the smart­phone app and then use a sin­gle de­vice to con­trol mul­ti­ple IR-based gad­gets such as tele­vi­sions, air-con­di­tion­ers, set-top boxes, fans, DVDs and more.

BUY AC­CES­SORIES WHICH CAN BRING SMART FUNC­TION­AL­ITY TO OLD GAD­GETS AT A FRAC­TION OF THE PRICE YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR NEW AP­PLI­ANCES

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