A guide to smart home hubs and devices
As use of smart home technology continues to grow, it's hard to keep up with what's out there, what's compatible and how it all works together. Setting up your smart home can be as simple as putting a device in your living room or as complicated as installing a system of interconnected devices that speak to each other; how intricate you want to get is completely up to you. Keep in mind, however, not every system will be compatible with every product.
Check out our guide to setting up your smart home and control your lighting, security, thermostat, music and more with these smart devices and hubs.
Entertainment and assistants
The simplest “smart devices” are voice command speakers. Consumers can choose from an assortment of smart home systems, including Amazon's Alexa and Echo, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Samsung's Smart Things and more. These devices are typically voice command-activated and can do things like stream music,read news headlines, set reminders or tell you what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. In some instances, you can link up your smartphone and make hands-free calls, send messages and even answer calls. You can also find nearby open houses with the REALTOR.ca skill for Amazon Alexa. For those of you not using an Amazon Echo, no problem, simply download the Amazon Alexa app and enable the REALTOR.ca skill for Alexa to use on your phone!
Security products like cameras and alarm systems tend to be most people's first foray into home automation. Smart door locks, alarm systems, cameras and movement sensors can offer peace of mind when you're away from home. August Smart Lock is an easy way to lock and unlock your doors remotely through a phone app, making it popular for offices and shared workspaces. The Skybell Doorbell lets you see who's at your door and speak to them through your phone, even if you're not home. Plus there are many alarm system starter kits out there, like Nest Secure, Go Abode, SimpliSafe and more.
Energy savers and automation
It's nice having things done for us, isn't it? One study suggests 1 in 6 Canadians have invested in some kind of home automation. Some of this automation makes our lives a bit easier—like scheduling the coffee maker to brew when your alarm goes off in the morning—but some can help save energy, too. LIFX smart light bulbs are Wi-Fi enabled and can be programmed to illuminate whenever you want, in a variety of colours. Smart thermostats like those from Nest, Honeywell and Ecobee, use sensors to help improve your home's energy efficiency by perceiving how many people are in a room and adjusting the temperature accordingly. They also allow you to make adjustments remotely from your smartphone. (In larger homes, you may need additional sensors).
The “home hub”
All of this technology can get overwhelming pretty quickly. If you want to be able to control everything from a single interface rather than delving into a dozen different apps, you're going to need a home hub. Smart speakers can only communicate directly with devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so if you're trying to automate your light bulbs or thermostat, you might need a software hub to unify your devices.
Most home hubs will be able to discover your other devices. Although technically not classified as hubs, Amazon Echo and Google Home have “Works With Google Assistant” and “Works with Alexa” programs so you'll know which devices will be compatible. (For example, Honeywell, Nest and Ecobee are just a few smart thermostats that work with Alexa). In addition, the Amazon Echo Plus works as a ZigBee hub. ZigBee and Z-Wave are alternatives to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and operate on a mesh network to control your devices.
It's important to note that while these devices can be helpful, you will need to do your research, as no one app controls every smart device on the market. Prioritize which features matter most and build from there. Before long, you'll have the smartest house on the block.