Five ways to create a smart home
Smart home upgrades enhance your household safety, cleaning, cooking, and entertainment. Here's how to enjoy the benefits of the latest game-changing tech.
Like anything unfamiliar, there can be a sense of unease in embracing new technology. Think computers that share a single network, phones that display our faces, houses that talk.
We’re roughly six years into the introduction of Alexa, Google Home and the emerging suite of in-house ‘internet of things’ accessories that make our lives easier, keep us more informed, and assist with our day-to-day life.
Ready to start exploring how you can give your home a tech upgrade? We’re here to break down some key steps towards a domestic revolution.
Get smart: what is a connected home?
You may have come across the term ‘home automation’ – it’s all about interactivity and push-of-a-button abilities of a connected home. From doorbells to speakers, televisions, fridges and even ovens, you can connect a variety of smart appliances to your home network and control them with a digital wall hub, tablet, or even your smart phone.
In nearly every instance, these are voice automated and activated by ‘trigger’ phrases – like “Hi Google” and “Okay Alexa”. Simply ask aloud to open blinds, turn lights off, or change the channel on your smart television.
1. Smart locks: stay safe at home
An increasingly popular element of the smart home experience starts at your doorstep. Where you would once have found a plain, old doorbell, many houses are now embracing new technology with intercoms that allow you to view your visitor, guest or delivery person via video link.
As well as being a safeguard against potential intruders and ward off would-be criminals, smart intercom systems offer a bonus level of protection in the pandemic era. Let’s not forget, it also gives you a heads up when your loved ones pop over unannounced!
There’re a variety of models to choose from, many of which you can set up to send instant alerts to your phone when the doorbell is activated, complete with a live video stream so you can see who’s at your door.
Some also come with smart lock capacities, which are proving increasingly popular at bed and breakfasts and Airbnb residences. They’re easy to find online or at Bunnings.
2. Smart bulbs: light up your life
Once you’re within earshot of your smart home devices, you can activate them by voice command. Upon entering the house, the most obvious place to start is with the lights.
Devices like the Philips Hue Bridge V2.0 or the LifX range are compatible with Google Home, and let you set the mood via a variety of customisable settings. Choose from dimly lit ‘dinner party mode’ or a bright and bubbly ‘kid’s setting’ and everything in between – each can be altered from preset recommendations to suit your preference.
On top of the choose-your-own ambience, you can also monitor your home’s energy consumption and even solar intake, should you have panels installed. It makes smart homes not just cost effective, but also environmentally friendly.
3. Smart hubs: Get right at home
The heart of the smart home experience are devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, which are slowly but surely integrating themselves into everyday modern life. You can hear your latest playlist on Spotify, find the recipe you’ve been salivating over, shop online, and get the latest news just by asking aloud.
The Google Home is popular in Australia, and at around AU$200 for a Google Nest Hub and AU$49 for a Google Mini, they’re surprisingly cost effective. You can also get a starter kit from AGL. Choose your preferred assistant – Google Assistant or Alexa – and select whether you want to pay it off over 12 or 24 months. It’s that easy.
But it’s by no means a two-horse race; on the higher end of the scale there’s also the Sonos One, which retails for AU$249 and has its admirers.
Syncing up your house to ensure connectivity in every room is remarkably cheap compared to how much it would have cost only a few years ago. And because all devices are remoteless, you can control everything from an app on your smart phone.
4. Smart TVs: “where’s the remote?”
With a smart TV, questions like ‘where’s the remote?’ are a thing of the past. By the time you find the remote, you can now just as easily communicate with your television.
As smart TVs become the norm – led in the market by the likes of Samsung, Phillips, and Hisense – you can stream Netflix, Stan and the near infinite library of YouTube on command.
On the low-to-medium end of the scale, AU$500 will get you a 40-inch smart TV – again, a rapidly shrinking price points compared to a few years ago.
In terms of definition, smart TVs are very much a get-what-you-pay-for product. The difference between HD (high definition), UHD (ultra-high definition), 4K and 8K is in the pixels that each model has the capacity project. With all the bells and whistles, you can quickly jump to a five-figure cost for top-of-the-range smart TVs.
5. Too smart: now to enjoy
With a completely connected home, you can dim the lights and queue up your favourite movie without having to leave the couch. If only you also had a gadget to help with the cleaning – a smart vacuum does exactly that, so you can put up your feet and relax.