Do you wish your home was smarter? From optimising household security to controlling lighting and temperature, smart home technology boasts huge potential. So, how can you turn your home into a smart home?
In the 21st century, the modern home should be a machine for living since we now have access to countless smart devices, which can make that statement more possible than ever before.
The advent of the internet and wireless technology allows for greater connectivity of smart home devices, thereby facilitating automated systems in homes.
Before investing in a smart home, there are a few things to consider:
What do you want from the system?
How many people are using the system?
How much are you willing to spend?
Speaking of expenses, let’s take a more in-depth look at how much building a smart home will affect your wallet.
How much does it cost?
The price can vary greatly depending on the number and scope of the functions you wish to have. However, the quantity of smart devices in your home is not necessarily proportional to the overall cost. This is because some individual devices may be on the pricey side, while others are relatively affordable. Subscription fees are also to be considered for certain devices.
So, for an introductory smart home, assuming you already have the basics like an internet router and smartphone, you can purchase a mini speaker and a smart TV for as low as RM2,000. Then you will already have two central smart home devices that could handle multiple tasks. You need not spend too much on an expensive TV as these expenses can go towards other useful, smaller items like smart lights for under RM200. Collectively, you would have to spend around RM2,500 or less for a minimal, smart home. A mid-range smart home would cost somewhere around the RM5,000 to RM10,000 mark and on the highest end, expect the cost to be in the five digits or more.
With Internet of Things (IoT) devices, you should also take into account that it is easy to incur extra costs when you start buying add-ons. For example, many smart speakers do not have a smart display. You may find that you would like to add devices that support spoken commands or video chatting capabilities. You may end up paying more in the long run if you choose to get such devices separately. Likewise, many smart devices offer optional add-ons that can be pricey. There is often more than meets the eye when planning a smart home setup.
Choosing your smart home system
One of the essentials many people choose when starting a smart home is a voice-controlled device. This tool can serve as a central hub from which many other devices can be controlled. The major tech giants like Google, Amazon and Apple make these devices. The most commonly used smart home systems are Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri.
Each of these devices comes with pros and cons. It all depends on how you plan on using your smart home. Other factors to be considered in implementing the smart home system include compatibility with third-party software and hardware, functionality, and the human touch.
- Building your smart home system
Not only is a given smart device more capable than it may first appear, but there is now a very diverse array of smart devices in the market. Though it may initially seem tempting to automate nearly every household item you own, you should consider whether these new devices are practical for you. Many analogue appliances can still beat their modern version due to their simplicity. So, it is probably best to stick to the essentials.
When connected to your Wi-Fi network, smart home devices can even be controlled by an app via a smartphone while you are away from home.
- Smart lighting
While a smart bulb is much more expensive than a regular one, it will save energy and last longer. Like most IoT devices, smart light bulbs have useful features. For example, lights can be switched on before you arrive home or automatically set to switch on while you are away to mimic that someone is at home to deter burglars.
The ability to dim or brighten the lights using your phone or voice commands is also an option. Changing colours is probably less necessary, although many people find this a charming aspect of smart lighting.
If you are really into automation, you can customise your smart lighting. This means that you can set timers for the lights to go on or off so you will never forget to turn them off again when leaving your home. More sophisticated bulbs have sensors and can tell when you enter or exit a room and adjust the lights accordingly.
- Smart security devices
The field of smart home security devices is rather diverse. You may choose to invest in a whole system or a single device. Some are do-it-yourself (DIY), while others require professional installation. Then, some systems require you to monitor them yourself, and others involve a subscription fee where you pay to have your home monitored round-the-clock by a security firm.
Video doorbells are becoming very popular. Yes, the days of the simple peephole are over. Now you can look at your smartphone screen to see who is standing on your threshold. This may save you the time of pretending to not be at home and skip the going-to-the-peephole-to-decide stage. Upgraded versions can also record the coming and going of your visitors.
Having a home security camera does not mean hiring a security guard to monitor the system. IoT security cameras have sophisticated motion sensors that can be tweaked to overlook the movement of pets, falling leaves and other minor disturbances. In the event of an actual threat, they will notify you via your smartphone.
- Smart household appliances
Fridges, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and everything mentioned earlier can be smart devices these days. Samsung, for example, is producing more sophisticated washing machines than ever before. Have you ever scratched your head in front of a sophisticated control panel? Well, their smartphone interface makes it easy to select exactly the kind of wash you want, including notifications when your laundry is done. No more having to listen to that sad buzz coming from your laundry room.
Smart vacuums are a trendy type of IoT device, so they are worth mentioning here. These machines use their sensors to learn the layout of your house. You can then control them on an app to enable them to clean certain parts of your home at certain times. Figuring out your habits is what makes a good smart device tick.
There are now many types of smart home appliances from coffee makers to slow cooker pots but, of course, the refrigerator is always a leading contender for the main home brain. With this in mind, Samsung has perhaps attempted to disrupt the smart speaker market by outfitting its family hub refrigerator with its own voice assistant: Bixby. Samsung’s fridge is indeed an overachieving goliath of technology. It has a vertical flatscreen television embedded in its door. This screen is where you can track the produce in your fridge, along with expiration dates and planned shopping lists. You can even interact with a multitude of other apps like ridesharing, food ordering, recipes, or watch your favourite TV shows on its screen if you do not want to miss that episode while cooking.
- Smart plugs
Many smart plugs are compatible with Amazon and Google products, but as you may suspect, fewer work for Apple. So take a closer look at the specifications of the smart plugs that you want to buy. Some smart plugs let you monitor how much energy you are using, but beyond that, the conclusions you reach are up to you. The great thing about smart plugs is that they let you control non-smart devices without buying whole new devices. You can even program devices to activate in unison, for example, turn lights down low, turn music on, and turn on the air-conditioner... well, you can use your imagination. Such unison programming is referred to as scenes, and with them, your home will start to approach the charming levels of automation that are once reserved for the jaded protagonists of sci-fi movies.