How to choose the right Smart Home Devices
By: Yelekal Mengistu
According to Business Insider, the number of smart home devices installed in US households by 2022 will be upwards of 800 million. Estimating that the US population will be at 340M with about 130M average households by that time, that's over 6 smart devices per household.
Given these statistics, more and more people are pushing to get a piece of the pie, wanting to create more secure homes, enjoy wireless commands, be more energy efficient or just simply to have some fun!
But this commitment doesn't come without underlying doubts. Especially for a first timer: do you find it hard where to start when it comes to smart home devices? Are the options too many, do you find yourself so overwhelmed that you delay the thought of buying one? Well you're not alone.
There is a plethora of smart devices out there, yet it's not always clear what works with what or if it's compatible with other devices or even if the trouble of buying one is even worth it.
This is a short insight on what to expect when you're expecting to dive into the smart home pool!
When buying any type of product, pricing seems to be the number one aspect that gob smacks us. Obviously the lower the price the likelier we are to buy it.
However, when it comes to a product that we are trying to 'invest' in, we tend to take into account other aspects, looking beyond the price point, when making our purchasing decision.
Smart home devices can range in price like any other product but like most products, generally, as the price goes up, the quality of the device becomes more apparent too.
Hitting that sweet spot is always the trickiest thing to do. We have found that most purchases are made based on the problem they solve. If the problem is of a high importance, the price you're willing to pay for the product is higher too.
If security is the number one priority in your smart home project, then dealing with relatively high prices shouldn't put you off. Most smart doorhandles or doorbells are designed to be used remotely, adding a wireless connection component to the mix.
In addition, we see that in most cases, they replace a part of your door (notably the door handle). Adding sophistication to an other wise dull house component can justify why we might go for a relatively pricer smart device.
Take the SAMSUNG Keyless Door Handle for instance. At $599.99, it tips the scale but we have found that it offers the best possible option of any Smart Door Handle in the market.
SAMSUNG's Keyless Door Lock is redefining Home Security
(image source: houzhack.com)
Features like fingerprint identification, remote app access, automatic indoor proximity sensor, 5-way authentication method and its soft touch open capabilities really stood out to us.
Smart Devices can present a daunting task when it comes to setting them up. Most hub-less devices are easy to set up, just connect the device to an outlet or a power source, download the corresponding app, create a routine and voila!
Your smart light bulb can show you more colors than you can imagine or that smart socket can turn on your coffee maker in the morning.
Easy set ups are not an indication of a low level sophistication from the product, on the contrary, the sophistication is done on the interface, linking a device remotely and enabling it to work according to your preferences.
Amazon and Google have been pushing their voice command hardware: Echo and Google Assistant, respectively. These devices offer another dimension to wireless control. Using voice activation, it's possible to conquer another level of laziness, one that doesn't even require taking out your smartphone.
The Google Home's slick design and wide range compatibility is proving to be popular.
These devices are seen more of an extension that need to be considered when buying a smart device. Typically, brands will highly advertise whether or not they have voice command compatibility. This is becoming a deal breaker for smart home shoppers.
Amazon Echo Alexa's ability to adapt and learn new skills puts it ahead of its competition
But the hardest part of implementation is when there are existing smart devices already at work, like smart switches which are only operated on a specific application. These restrictions can overturn buyers. This is also the case when a lot of great smart devices are considered but there is uncertainty whether or not they can work in unison.
Compatibility with other devices
Smart devices lead to smart homes. Automating one aspect of the house triggers changes in habits, especially when the number of devices goes up.
As more device are being considered, we tend to create an ecosystem, a pool of automated products linking with each other to create routines. Routines that we subconsciously follow in our lives.
Smart Device makers usually try to build around a hub that integrates all of their smart devices in one. You name it: LED light bulbs, light strips, sockets, AC Unit, motion sensors etc.
This move, while it appears logical, presents an inconvenience for some users. For instance, if you prefer to have a eufy smart LED bulb, a TUYA Smart Switch, the Aqara Door Sensor and a Sherlock M1 Door Lock, the probability of using a common smart application is very low.
Hence, building a control center around your differently branded smart devices can become difficult. Owning a set of devices of different levels of complexity is tricky within itself, however, the best move here is to start with a great hub.
Sitting at number 9, the Samsung SmartThings Hub has earned rave reviews.
Tom's Guide list of the best Smart Home Devices of 2019
Its main appeal is its built-in Wifi so the need for a router connection goes out of the window. But it was also found to be compatible with some of the most widely used wireless devices including ZigBee and Z-Wave products.
Besides the cool features offered by smart home devices, there is another aspect that is typically overlooked and that is its energy efficiency capabilities.
Consumption is becoming an issue for most households and a lot is being done to counter the problem. This is where smart devices come in: forgetting to turn the lights, AC or any other home appliance off is not going to be a worry anymore.
By building a routine that toggles those appliances OFF when usage is not needed (or detected), it's easier to reduce the usage of main appliances and preserve their lifespan.
Although the idea of creating a routine is commended, some devices offer a no intervention design, solving most of your everyday common sense problems. We identified the Xiaomi Infrared Touchless Faucet to be a prime example.
The device is designed as an extension for any existing faucet. It controls the flow of water by detecting any motion. So no motion, no water.
The Xiaomi Touchless Faucet is simple yet clever
(image source: houzhack.com)
Folks over at Eartheasy.com have great consumer advice when it comes to energy saving. The article entitled Energy Efficient Lighting claims that 'The electricity used over the lifetime of a single incandescent bulb costs 5 to 10 times the original purchase price of the bulb itself'.
Furthermore, they emphasize on the efficiencies of an LED bulb: 'LED light bulbs use only 2-17 watts of electricity (1/3rd to 1/30th of Incandescent or CFL).
As we move away from traditional fluorescent bulbs, the benefits of LEDs become clearer and clearer: numbers don't lie. "30-40% of the non-directional light being emitted by a fluorescent tube is wasted" claims Cory from LED Lighting Supply.
What's even great about these stats is that you get more for less, if there was ever a motto for energy efficiency, this would be it.
The future is set for smart home devices. We are constantly looking for ways to find short and long term solutions to problems we didn't even think we had.
Taking the decision to dive into the smart home device pool might seem a little nerve racking. Yet its clear to see that he benefits outweigh its inconveniences (And subsequent worries we might have)
But besides overlooking minor pain points, we should base our decisions upon four main factors. Price Point, Implementation Complexity, Compatibility with other home devices along with voice command hardwares (such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home) and whether or not they have an influence on energy savings.
Being new in the smart home world, it's encouraged to go hub-less first, getting acclimatized to an environment where devices have somewhat a mind of their own can get a little getting used too.
Then comes the part of integrating more products, start small and then go big. At this stage, it is recommended to find a brand (Samsung SmartThings, Xiaomi, Aqara, Broadlink, etc.) joined by a hub, that way, it is easier to centralize all its smart devices in one hub (Case in point the Aqara Home Kit).
So whether it is to set up your home for security, adapt to more convenience or just to have some fun, there are aspects of the smart home process that need to be understood before pulling the trigger.
But if you're curiosity is always getting the best of you, the facts suggest that the benefits almost always outweigh the costs.
Tell us your story! Share some of you first home devices with us. And if you're new to the smart home platform, what is going to be the first device you will be buying after reading this article?