Wednesday, February 28, 2024

How to Make Your Home Smart: A Beginner’s Guide

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Design your smart home

In the 20th century, it was said that a house should be a “machine for living”. Now we have access to countless smart devices that can make this statement truer than ever.

Smart home devices, also known as IoT (Internet of Things) devices, are designed to wirelessly connect to each other, creating an automated system in your home.

Before you start investing in a smart home, you should consider the following:

  • What you specifically want from the system.

  • The number of people who will use the system.

  • The budget you have.

How much does a smart home cost?

The price of building a smart home can vary greatly . The variety of connectable devices on the market is now wide enough that you can actually bring most functions in your home online. And maybe your ideal smart home setup would just need one or two essential devices (sometimes one device can do a lot), thus keeping the cost down.

However, the amount of smart devices in your home is not necessarily indicative of the overall cost of your smart home. While some individual devices can be quite expensive, a host of others are more affordable. Subscription fees for some devices are also a consideration, as they are usually required to unlock additional features.

So for an initial smart home, assuming you already have a home internet router and a smartphone, you can buy something like the Google Home Mini speaker for around $40. A decent smart TV can be had for around $500, and then you’ll already have two central smart home devices that can handle a lot of tasks, although TVs spawn subscription services. Maybe you’ll forego the expensive TV and prefer a few useful little items (which we’ll talk about later in this article) like smart light bulbs for under $50 or even a smart thermostat for around $250 – so expect that a minimal smart home will cost you around $600 or even less.

With IoT devices, you also need to consider that it’s easy to incur additional costs when you start buying add-ons . For example, many smart speakers don’t have a smart display. Once you start using the device, you may find that you want to see your voice commands, the results of your voice searches, or people’s faces while video chatting. You may end up paying more in the long run by choosing to get the display separately. Likewise, many other smart devices offer optional add-ons that can start to get expensive. Planning a smart home layout

Since smart speakers are the most basic IoT element, we’re now looking at some of the best options on the market so you know where to start when setting up your new smart home.

Choose your smart home system

One of the essentials that many people choose when starting a smart home is a voice-activated speakerphone . This device can serve as a central hub from which many other devices can be controlled. Big tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple manufacture these devices. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each of their products.

Google Assistant

If you do some research, you’ll see that Google’s smart devices, which use the Google Assistant AI, are really impressive in some areas, and somewhat lacking in others. Here’s an overview of Google Home smart speakers.

Benefits :
  • They have an excellent ability to answer questions and use Google’s huge Knowledge Graph. That means Google Home speakers are designed to provide fact-based answers to a wide range of questions, answer your follow-up questions, and understand fluent English. In their current version, they can recognize different user voices. They seem more “human” and able to hold a conversation than their competitors.

  • They are indeed speakers, so they can play music from YouTube, Google Play and Spotify, or send audio to other speakers in your home. Moreover, they can send videos from online platforms to your TV. They also support Bluetooth functionality.

  • You can give instructions that involve other smart devices like “turn on living room lights”. You can make hands-free calls in the US and Canada (but the speakers cannot receive calls).

The inconvenients :
  • If you’re looking to make a Google Home speaker the center of your smart home, you might want to consider its limited compatibility with other products compared to Amazon’s (though still considerable ).

  • There aren’t enough buttons on simple speaker models (for that, you need to invest in a model with an integrated screen, the Google Home Hub). Yes, voice recognition is one of the advertised benefits of a smart home speaker, but sometimes you just need view and input functionality.

  • Google speakers can’t send emails , which even some cars can. If you want to act like Iron Man wandering around his cyber-mansion, and send sarcastic messages using only your “golden voice”, then better keep looking.

Smarthome-system_Google

Amazon-Alexa

Alexa is Amazon’s AI interface, which is used in their Echo series of smart speakers. Echo speakers are currently quite affordable and some models are priced under $100.

Benefits :
  • Alexa offers a wide and ever-growing array of “skills ,” which are the equivalent of third-party apps for things like weather, traffic, homework help, car control, and just about anything else you need. can think of.

  • You can give instructions that involve other smart devices like “turn on living room lights”. You can make hands-free calls, but you will need additional equipment (Echo Connect) to receive calls.

  • Alexa systems are compatible with award-winning Sonos speakers if you really want a hands-free, high-fidelity listening experience.

The inconvenients :
  • Compared to Alexa, Google Assistant devices are better suited to quickly answer factual questions because they have this huge knowledge base. If you dream of walking around your living room, flooded with discreet information, better use the Google system. However, the compatibility of Alexa skills partially compensates for them.

  • Unlike Google’s speakers, Amazon’s need to be prompted to switch users so they can integrate different voices.

  • The sound quality of many Echo speakers is considered lacking compared to its competitors.

Smarthome-system_Alexa

Apple Siri

Apple products have a certain cachet, and their dedicated followers don’t go anywhere else. And, since they’re a big company and have launched a competing product from Amazon Echo and Google Home, we feel compelled to compare it. However, you should know that the functionality of Apple’s HomePod is less compared to the two previous products.

Apple’s Siri is their AI assistant, built into many devices. Let’s see what it can do in the HomePod speaker.

Benefits :
  • Apple HomePod arguably offers the best sound of the three smart speakers featured here, and includes built-in volume controls. It is therefore more of a real enclosure than the others. Its main function is to play music. If great audio quality is your hallmark in a smart speaker, you won’t have to buy any other gear like a Sonos speaker to get good sound.

  • You can create custom commands to control smart home features, but keep in mind that if you’re centering your smart home around this Apple product, then you’ll need to be prepared to invest in the more limited range of compatible devices. with HomeKit , which is Apple’s software for connecting various smart devices.

  • You can stream music from your phone to HomePod simply by placing your iPhone near the device, it also has a sleek touch surface to adjust the volume. Or, if you prefer to keep your distance, the HomePod’s microphone offers the ability to pick up your voice from afar.

The inconvenients :
  • Limited compatibility. HomePod is the most expensive and least compatible brand of the three featured here. While both Google and Amazon speakers are compatible with Apple phones, the reverse doesn’t work: you need to use an iPhone or iPad as the display for HomePod to work, and those will each cost you dearly. Plus, since there’s currently no model with a built-in display for HomePod, you’ll end up paying a lot more than you would for a compact model with a built-in display from Google or Amazon.

  • Limited functionality You can’t get meals delivered or ride with it, set calendar events or make phone calls.

  • If your main interest is interrogating your smart speaker as if you were a game show host, then you probably wouldn’t go for a Siri device: it wouldn’t be as proficient as the two competing AI systems mentioned. here. This lack of sophistication also includes not being able to distinguish between different voices; anyone can activate it by speaking, which can cause problems.

Smarthome-system_Siri

It should be noted that the pros and cons mentioned here generally apply to the given range of smart speakers. Different models from a brand vary, but we aim to give you the best general overview of their different capabilities. Also, like all technologies, smart speakers are a rapidly evolving field, so if you’re planning to invest in one, start by comparing its pros and cons, but always check the most popular versions. recent, as some features and prices are changing.

Build your smart home system

Not only is any given smart device more efficient than it first appears, there is now a very diverse range of smart devices on the market. While it may initially be tempting to integrate and automate almost any piece of household equipment you own, you have to ask yourself if these new devices are actually well-designed and useful. For many products, the original analog version still beats the new generation version when it comes to simplicity and efficiency.

So it’s probably best to stick to the basics. We’ve already talked about smart speakers, which are the hub of many smart homes, but in the following sections we’ll cover several other fundamental smart home devices. When connected to your Wi-Fi network, smart home appliances can be controlled by voice or an app through your home smart speaker, whether you’re at home or on the go (using your smartphone).

And remember: safety first! Your smart home basics aren’t complete without good security like Avast One. Connect it to your router to protect your online devices at home or on the go.

Smart lighting

Although a single smart bulb is much more expensive than a regular bulb, it will save energy and last longer. Consider, however, that you’ll need to get a good number of smart bulbs so that your smart lighting isn’t just another gadget in your home.

Like most IoT devices, smart bulbs have some very useful features and some that are more fun. The ability to dim or dim the lights using your phone or even a voice command is probably the most central and useful feature. The color change is secondary, although many consider it a charming aspect of smart lighting.

If you’re really into automation, you can customize your smart lighting. This means you can program timers for the lights to turn on or off (so you’ll never forget to turn them off again when you leave the house). More sophisticated bulbs use your smartphone’s GPS (the main controller for most IoT products) and can tell when you enter or leave a room and adjust the lighting accordingly.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostat systems work on the same principles as smart lighting: the more sophisticated ones are designed to know what you want and automate much of the standard manual adjustments one has to make with non-smart thermostats.

For example, smart thermostat company Nest, which recently partnered with Google, created a “learning” thermostat that learns what your preferences are and adjusts them accordingly, after collecting enough data about your habits. This way they can maintain the right temperature and save energy while you’re away.

Plus, many companies like Nest or Google that make just one type of smart device also make related devices work flawlessly with them, saving you hours of checking compatibility between different brands.

Connected security devices

The field of smart home security devices is quite diverse. You can choose to invest in a complete system or a single device.

Some are do-it-yourself, others require professional installation. Then, some systems require you to monitor yourself, while others involve subscription fees to have your home monitored 24 hours a day and the police or fire department contacted when alarms go off.

Videophones are one of the most popular unique security devices. Yes, the days of the simple peephole are over: now you can look at your smartphone screen to see who is standing outside your door. In some people, this device can trigger a certain paranoia; for others, it may be a sensible way to avoid going all the way to their front door and pretending not to be home.

And having a home security camera doesn’t mean you have to hire a lone guard with coffee and a newspaper to stand guard. IoT security cameras have sophisticated motion sensors that can be modified to ignore the movement of pets, falling leaves, etc. If there is a real threat, they will notify you via – guess what? – your smartphone.

Smart Home Appliances

Refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners; yes, as we mentioned earlier, almost anything can become a smart device these days.

Samsung, for example, is producing more sophisticated washing machines than ever before. Have you ever scratched your head at a dark control panel? Well, their smartphone interface makes it easy to select the type of wash you want, including notifications when it’s done. No more listening to that shrill noise coming from your basement.

Smart vacuum cleaners are a very popular type of IoT device, so they are worth mentioning here. These machines use their sensors to discover the layout of your home. You can then control them on the app to set them to clean certain parts of your home at certain times. Figuring out your habits is what makes a smart device work well, so if a vacuum cleaner’s data collection seems invasive to you, as has been reported, then you may not be in the right section of the Online Store ; or, consider the security options that we will detail later in this article.

There are now many types of smart home appliances (garbage cans, coffee makers, slow cookers), but of course the refrigeratoris still the main competitor of the home core. With that in mind, Samsung may have tried to disrupt the smart speaker market by equipping its Family Hub refrigerator with its own voice assistant: Bixby. The Samsung refrigerator is indeed a monolith of outdated technology, which essentially has a vertical flat-screen TV built into its door. This screen is where you can track your product expiration dates and plan shopping lists. You can also interact with a host of other apps like carpooling, meal ordering, recipes, and you can even watch your favorite TV shows on its screen if you don’t want to miss that wonderful goal while you watch the cooking a pork roast.

Smart Plugs

Many smart plugs are compatible with Amazon and Google products, but as you’d expect, less so with Apple products, so take a look at the specs of the plug you want to buy. Some smart plugs allow you to control how much power you use, but after that the conclusions you draw are up to you ( yup, no more Nintendo! ). The great thing about smart plugs is that they allow you to control non-smart devices without having to actually buy new devices.. You can even program devices to turn on in unison, for example, turn off the lights, turn on the music, turn up the heat, and more. You can use your imagination. Such unison programming is called “scenes,” and with them your home will begin to approach the charming levels of automation once reserved for jaded sci-fi movie heroes.

Securing your smart home

Let’s face it: smart home devices have come under a lot of criticism for the security risks they pose While it’s understandable that these concerns can all combine in some form of paranoia, one Note that there are different types of IoT security issues: those that are fundamental to the operation of IoT devices, and those that represent more exceptional flaws of this equipment.

On the elementary or fundamental side, there is the issue of your data and how it is used by the creators of smart devices . While big corporations don’t want to plunder your bank account (at least not directly), they want to make money by knowing your habits and maximizing all the personal data collected by your smart devices. In all honesty, if this idea scares you, you should probably refrain from investing in a smart home. While companies should pay more attention to the security of your data, an issue that will grow in importance over the next few years, collecting data from your home and your habits is what makes home devices smart .. This is related to how they work, so don’t expect this situation to correct itself.

And more exceptionally, there is the possibility of getting hacked And since all of your smart devices will likely be connected, one attacked device can compromise your entire system Smart devices are particularly vulnerable to inclusion in a botnet because they do not usually lack strong security features.

At a basic level, you can take different precautions. At a deep level, securing smart devices is the new frontier for companies like Avast. Unfortunately, many smart devices were not built with security in mind, as it would be quite expensive to equip each device with the necessary security feature. This is where a powerful cybersecurity application like Avast One comes in. Detect threats in real time and ensure the security of your home network and all the devices connected to it.

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