With Christmas coming, what could be a better time to start thinking about your IoT and wireless enabled home? With so many Internet of Things devices available, and your Christmas list still looking scant, maybe ‘new tech’ should be your standard answer whenever anyone asks what you want. Better to ask for a smart home hub and get a smart switch than saying ‘Oh, I don’t know, anything you get me would be lovely’ and ending up with another ugly Christmas jumper.
With Smart home technology you can take complete control of a vast range of different gadgets and consumer durables from anywhere on earth with an internet connection. Or you can sit in the comfort of your own front room and control everything from blinds, lights, air conditioning and heating, CCTV and an intercom, all by simply calling out and telling the house what you want it to do. (If you’re struggling to justify the cost of replacing perfectly good tech that you bought five minutes ago which isn’t Smart, offset the cost by selling your superannuated goods on Gumtree or eBay. You make a bit of the money back, save landfill and someone gets some lovely gadgets for a great price.)
Which Are The Best Smart Devices For You?
But with so many things being Smart, wifi, Bluetooth or otherwise connected, what should be on your starter pack wishlist? Well, first of all you need to start off with the key components. But what should those key items be if you’ve never lived in an automated home before? There’s a trick to that, so before you really get started, invest in a set of smart switches and If This Then That devices. Smart switches monitor power use, can be controlled by a central hub, and can be timed or geofenced, meaning they detect proximity and come on and off accordingly. If This Then That (IfTTT) devices are Smart Tech’s not so smart sidekicks which do things in response to other events.
For example, If you’ve set your lights to come on when you, and only you approach the house an IfTTT coffee machine can start at the same time, meaning that by the time you’ve got your coat and shoes off there’s a jug of steaming fresh coffee brewed ready and waiting for you. So you can’t control an IfTTT device directly by voice, but you can set off a sequence of events which make it come on as a consequence, or you can just go over and turn it on normally.
Lights, Cameras, Heating
Philips Hue gives you voice control of lights, their brightness, even their colour, with millions of different options available. They can be activated and controlled by Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa and IfTTT. They also come in a simple brilliant white and weatherproof outdoor varieties giving you convenience, and security.
Some people assume that this is just laziness, but that’s to miss the point. After all, isn’t all effort to be efficient or labour saving inherently ‘lazy’? Smart switches monitor power consumption, Smart washing machines regulate and heat the optimum amount of water, saving power and water at times when electricity is cheaper. Forget to turn things off, or habitually leave them on when you know it’s a bad idea? Smart tech will shut it off automatically or allow you to control it remotely, on your commute, from your desk or from your lounger if you suddenly remember you left the heating on while you’re on holiday.
Smart tech also allows people with mobility problems to get more out of their home, enjoying their independence for longer and doing things that might otherwise have been difficult tasks. From simply getting up to answer the door to callers or operating switches, thermostats, and other fiddly tasks, if these can be done by simply saying what you want, that’s an incredible example of household technology making life easier.
Making Life That Little Bit Easier
Not having to jump up every time the doorbell rings brings us on to security. With a smart entry system you are able to see who’s coming to your door on your phone or tablet, you can get alerts to anybody coming to your door wherever you are, even if they don’t ring the bell. Smart CCTV cameras often come with motion sensors and two way communication, meaning that wherever someone is outside your house, if you can see them, you can talk to them.
Cameras don’t only cover the exterior of the property, there are stylish, well designed cameras which sit on shelves letting you monitor what’s happening in the home too. You might want to chat to the dog, yell at the kids when they misbehave, or keep an eye on the babysitter when you’re not home, or capture footage of any intruders who enter your home uninvited.
I Camera Keep Pro is a fully featured home security camera which seamlessly incorporates into your home security system. Along with the usual motion detection, it has sound detection too. There could be all kinds of other noises happening, but if it detects breaking class or a loud bang which might indicate a door being forced. Once these sounds are detected, video capture begins, the unit has motion tracking, and the footage can be stored on the cloud or on an internal SD card.
Combining Prevention With Wireless Detection
Simplisafe Home Security is a home security system which detects fire, carbon monoxide, flooding and sub zero temperatures, however, depending on your point of view, the absence of any built in cameras could be a positive or negative. (Cameras are available from Simplisafe, but they don’t come as standard with the Home Security Package.) If you already have cameras, you won’t miss this them, and, if your privacy and data security are as much a concern as securing your property, not having a visual feed will be a bonus. Simplisafe doesn’t incorporate any 3rd party devices, so if you do have additional cameras they will need to be configured separately. It has a very basic mobile app control which is easy to understand, but not very adaptable via your phone. One stand-out advantage is that it is scalable and price competitive. The full package has a base station, wireless keypad, keyring remote, door and window sensors, a panic button, and signage to alert potential intruders to the fact that you’re covered.
Home Hubs Connect All Of Your Smart Devices For Universal Control
Because there are so many different manufacturers making different IoT devices there are a number of different signalling platforms in use. These include WiFi, LiFi, BlueTooth, and IR. In order to get all the different devices to run smoothly as your home network develops, it’s going to be necessary to invest in a home hub, which, as the name suggests, is a device which operates as a crux for all of your IoT things. Alexa works with a number of devices directly, and, as we’ve seen above, these can set off a chain of other events via IfTTT ‘recipes’ which can be downloaded or created yourself as you get used to having things happen in automatic response to other things happening.
Alexa isn’t your only option. Echo Dot is a device which can operate on its own or be plugged into headphones or a speaker via a 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth , making it a Smart speaker. Echo Spot is a handy alternative. It’s a connected alarm clock which also acts as a base station and has a camera if you want video calls and, if you want a swipe screen interface as well as voice control there is the Echo Show.
Wink Hub 2 works on Z Wave, Zigbee, Lutron, Kidde, Bluetooth and WiFi, making it the most widely supported and versatile hub. As different manufacturers begin using the same connectivity solutions the Wink’s capacity will become overkill. One day this may change, until then, if you want to install any IoT device to your home network without having to compromise based on which wireless network it uses, this is the hub for you.
One Remote For All
Another universal solution for those who like the feel of a remote control is the Logitech Harmony Elite. It’s got fewer buttons than most TV remotes, but allows you to control all your home entertainment systems, networked devices, IoT and Smart goods. There’s a small touch sensitive LCD where you can find the menu of all the active devices, scroll through, select, and operate just like you would with any normal remote. If you’ve already got remotes piling up and spilling over the edges of your coffee table, this is the solution for you!
The joy of an integrated home is that you can add environmental controls to the system as well as entertainment and security. The Tado Thermostat is battery powered, making it possible to take around the house, or place near where you are, meaning that you feel the benefits of the heating. It is compatible with Google Home or Echo and you can buy it outright or rent it by the month, depending on your needs. The Nest Learning Thermostat is wifi connected to your tablet, PC or phone so you have a versatile, clear display. It has a wide sensor array and also supports geofenceing and boiler control, so you don’t just turn the radiators off but the entire central heating system can be turned off and on via your mobile device given your location.
Making Light Work
The Echobee is a smart light switch which does what Amazon Echo does. It doesn’t have a swipescreen interface, but it will control not only lights, but all other smart devices connected to it by voice. Additional room sensors are available which you can put in other rooms from the main Smart switch, that work with other Smart thermostats. These then prioritise the room or rooms which you’re or your family are in. They claim to save between 20 and 25% of your energy consumption, so, depending on your usage, they will pay for themselves.
Naturally, as an installer of over 30 years standing, Briant Communications offer a wide range of expertise when it comes to smart home installations. We offer a comprehensive CCTV home security planning and installation service, access control, wireless home and business solutions and environmental controls.