5 smart home systems you can use to automate your life
If you are just starting your smart home journey, there is a question you will need to answer immediately before proceeding any further. Namely: which smart home system are you going to use?
The decision will have a big impact on your next steps. This will affect everything from the devices you buy to the apps you can use.
The big three smart home systems are Amazon Alexa, Google, and Apple HomeKit. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each, then walk you through a few lesser-known systems that you might want to consider as well.
Amazon Alexa is one of the most widely supported smart home systems in the world. You can find it in dozens of Amazon products, as well as smart lights, cameras, TVs, thermostats, phones, streaming boxes, and more.
It has a few key features that will help you automate your life. Alexa routines are perhaps the most used. A routine can be created to allow multiple things to happen using a single request.
For example, you can create a routine for a movie night that will automatically dim the lights, close the blinds, launch the Netflix app, and turn on your surround speakers. Likewise, a bedtime routine could set the coffee timer, arm your home alarm, and set your morning alarm.
Another cool feature is Hunches. Hunches allow Alexa to remind you of things you might have overlooked and then act on them on your behalf. For example, Alexa could automatically turn off all stray lights after everyone has gone to bed, or set the thermostat to make the house the perfect temperature for when you come home if you forget to set it before you leave.
Depending on the devices you purchase, the Amazon Alexa system may also allow you to watch security cameras on your Echo Show device, stream music through smart speakers, or even detect alerts from your smoke detector or of your glass sensors. If you are unsure of the difference between Alexa and Echo, read our article.
Alexa is free to use. The app is available on all major operating systems.
Google’s smart home system is multi-faceted. There’s Google Assistant, the Google Nest line of devices (formerly Google Home), and built-in support for Google in dozens of third-party devices.
Let’s start by looking at Google Assistant. It works pretty much the same as Amazon Alexa. You can use it to set up tasks and to-do lists, communicate with other people, retrieve local information, get quick answers to questions, play Nest games, and more.
It also works with most of the most popular apps on your phone to control them with your voice (including Spotify, Twitter, Discord, Walmart, and MyFitnessPal), and is built into Android smartphones, smartwatches, speakers smart phones, televisions and even cars. .
The Google Nest suite of products started out as Google Home speakers, but the lineup has now grown significantly. It now includes a thermostat, indoor and outdoor cameras, a doorbell, a smart lock and a mesh router system. Needless to say, Google Assistant is built into all devices.
Finally, Google supports dozens of the best third-party smart home devices. They include LIFX Color smart lights, D-LINK smart plugs, Honeywell thermostats, August smart locks, Roku Streambar Pro, Roomba s9, and even Maytag dishwashers and Samsung microwaves. All devices can be controlled by Google Assistant and will integrate into the Google Nest ecosystem through the app.
The last of the âbig threeâ smart home systems is Apple HomeKit. Perhaps surprisingly for an Apple system, it does a great job of supporting third-party smart home devices. You are not limited to using Apple branded gadgets.
HomeKit is actually the name of the software framework. The app that most of the users are familiar with is Apple Home. Using Apple Home, you can find smart devices on your network, integrate them into your Apple HomeKit setup, and then control them using Siri (or other apps on your iPhone / iPad).
In addition to the Home app, you can also create Home Hubs. These allow you to control your HomeKit devices remotely as well as grant access requests and create other automations. Modern iPads, HomePods, and Apple TVs can all serve as Home Hubs. For those who don’t know, the HomePod is a smart speaker that’s Apple’s answer to devices like Sonos and Amazon Echo. Siri is built into the device.
There is a long list of third-party devices that work well with HomeKit in categories as diverse as doorbells, smoke detectors, and ceiling fans. Some well-known devices with support include the Logitech Circle View doorbell, Nanoleaf lights, WeMo Mini smart plug, August smart lock, ecobee smart thermostats, and a FIBARO flood sensor.
Let’s finish with a few less popular alternatives.
To be successful, all smart home systems must revolve around a hub. If you choose the right hub, everything else will fall into place seamlessly.
One hub worth a visit is the Hubitat Elevation. Sure, it doesn’t have a built-in speaker or screen, but it works with just about any other screen or speaker you can find. This is because the hub is Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-wave compatible, as well as regular internet connectivity.
It even has its own app that supports rules and automation routines, which means it can compete with most of the features of its more illustrious competitors.
Samsung’s withdrawal from the smart home market has left a void, and it looks like Aeotec has filled it with the Aeotec Smart Hub.
From a compatibility standpoint, the hub is hard to beat. It works with more than 5,000 third-party devices – that’s a lot more than Google, Amazon or Apple. You also get a voice assistant (although it’s not as precise as some well-known names in the industry), and will let you control your smart home even when you’re away from home.
Which smart home system should you be using?
If you’re new to the world of smart homes or aren’t that tech-savvy, we recommend sticking to one of the big three. You are on a solid footing and can be sure of a simple user experience.
If, however, you are looking to expand beyond the devices supported by Apple, Google and Amazon, we certainly suggest that you take a look at some of the best alternative hubs for the smart home.
The Nest Thermostat has some powerful features you might not know about. Here are the best features of the Nest Thermostat to get started using!
About the Author