SMART HOME PRODUCTS BUYERS GUIDE
Those of us who grew up watching The Jetsons cartoons, most likely when it was resurrected once more in the 80s, are now living in a technology driven-age where the once futuristic smart home is now a reality.
The release of voice-controlled smart speakers and more recent mainstream marketing and integration of these devices has ensured the Jetsons' future is here and now. But for those that haven't embraced the smart home concept yet, which devices should you buy?
Here are our recommendations for bringing your home up to today's tech-spec for a small outlay this Christmas.
ALEXA OR GOOGLE?
While Google Home may have been the first horse out of the gate in Australia, at least officially, the Consumers Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas at the beginning of 2018 proved Amazon's Alexa clearly has the market share.
Our money is on Alexa to emerge as the voice-control platform champion as more and more manufacturers license and embed Alexa control within their hardware.
Unlike the format wars between VHS and Beta in the 70s and 80s where there could be only one winner, today's technology may even allow the integration of more than one voice control platform simultaneously, which would be a win for consumers if so.
With that said, we still swing towards Alexa.
All you need to get started with a connected smart home is one of Amazon's Echo smart devices. Run through the simple setup process on your smartphone, connect the device to your home Wi-Fi network and you're good to go.
Amazon's Echo product range starts at just $39.00 for the 2nd Generation Echo Dot (which can operate standalone or plugged into to an existing Bluetooth speaker or Hi-Fi system), through to $349.00 for the 10” HD Screen Echo Show (perfect for a kitchen or study desk).
DING DONG - RING DOORBELL
'Ring' was one of the first smart doorbells to the market and have remained the market leader since. With its range of long-life battery powered doorbells, you can conveniently answer the doorbell and speak to a visitor even when overseas from your smartphone.
Add the Ring skill to Alexa, and your Echo devices will repeat the doorbell chime throughout your home, even announcing “someone is at the door”.
ALEXA, LIGHTS ON - LIFX SMART GLOBES
When it comes to smart lights for your home, there are only two real choices. From the big name in consumer electronics, Philips comes Hue, and its range of lamps, bulbs and LED strips. It also requires an additional 'Bridge' which links all the globes together, wirelessly.
The other consideration is LIFX which is originally a Melbourne-based company, now with offices in Silicon Valley and around the world.
LIFX globes and LED strips differ to Hue as each product has Wi-Fi built-in directly and connects directly to your Wi-Fi router. Through its dedicated iOS and Android app, the installation and setup process could not be more straightforward.
The range includes various globe fitments, and most can directly replace your existing lights. Just replace your globes, adopt them in the app and create 'rooms', then enable the LIFX skill in Alexa.
Before you know it, you'll be walking throughout your home, “Alexa, Loungeroom Lights On”, or, “Alexa, Bedroom Lights Off”.
KEEPING COOL - SENSIBO
Sensibo is an external thermostat that automates your split-system heating and air conditioning, turning into a smart device.
As long as your split-system has a remote control, then Sensibo can intelligently monitor the room's temperature, operating the device more efficiently and saving you energy with scheduling, geo-fencing and many more smart features.
Place the Sensibo Sky in the visible range of your split-system, add the Sensibo skill to Alexa, and you can then ask Alexa to turn your air conditioning on and off or to set the desired temperature.
Sensibo Sky sells for $148.99 for one device.
ALEXA, COFFEE TIME - WEMO SWITCH
Is there any better way to start the day than with fresh coffee? If you've got a more substantial coffee machine than one of Aldi's specials or a Nespresso, proper 'boiler' machines often consume quite a lot of power.
No one wants to wait a good 30 minutes for a coffee machine to warm up before the morning brew, but now you can automate that process. Thanks to Belkin's Wemo Switch Smart Plug, plug the small device into your power point and plug the coffee machine in.
Head into the Wemo app and set schedules for the plug to automatically switch on and off, and then add the Wemo skill to Alexa. The La Marzocco Linea Mini in our office switches on at 6 am every morning and stays on just long enough to satisfy our daily espresso desires (in our case, 10 PM!). But, for that odd chance you need a hit outside of Wemo's schedule, ask “Alexa, turn on coffee machine”.
A Wemo Smart Switch will set you back $49 although Belkin says a new range of smart switches is coming soon.
HOLD THE DOOR - AUGUST SMART LOCK
The August Smart Lock Pro is a smart door lock that works with Alexa to unlock or lock the door as required. When combined with the Ring doorbell, you can remotely view who is at the door, and open the door accordingly (or not).
Control or monitor your door from anywhere and keep track of who comes and goes via the smart app.
The August Smart Lock Pro can automatically lock as you approach and lock again behind you, and can be retrofitted to most single cylinder deadbolts.
You'll never need to get off the couch again just by asking “Alexa, unlock the door”.
The August Smart lock Pro + Connects sells for $345.
Between lighting, surveillance, security, and heating and cooling, Amazon's Alexa voice control platform offer an affordable way to automate much of your home's functions. All Echo devices also double as smart speakers too so you can also fill your whole home with music from Spotify, Amazon Music and many more. Thanks to a new app from Commercial Radio Australia, you can also stream over 300+ Australian radio stations via Alexa now as well.
There are thousands of Alexa-enabled products available right now to automate and turn your house into a Jetsons-approved smart home this Christmas.
More Information - Amazon Alexa
Futher Reading: Smart Homes & Automation Forum
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