We can't lie to you, we are still trying to get our heads around smart home devices. It sounds like something from a futuristic film, expensive, and all in all a bit of a faff.
However, we looked into it a bit further and in fact, it's quite genius. Ok, we might have to get used to talking to a gadget, but the fact that you can check CCTV if you're out of town, watch the new puppy that you've nervously left for the first time, turn the heating on so it's warm for when you return home, put lights on if you're on holiday and want to warn off burglars, water the garden and let the cleaner in (amongst other household jobs), all from your office desk, or even a beach in the Caribbean, is really quite impressive.
Also, it's fantastic for entertaining: you can choose the 'mood' by changing the lighting with a click of a button or play a dedicated playlist in a specific room.
Still not convinced?
It's ok, we're a bit skeptical about all these technological advances that we can't seem to keep up with too - but we're totally on board with making living and life at home easier, simpler, more time efficient and streamlined, after all, that's kinda what we do.
In addition to making your life easier, smart homes can also be hugely beneficial for the environment, and also help you be more conscious about living a more eco-friendly life. You can have way more control over when you're using heating, lighting and other appliances and automating them so that you're not being wasteful.
Are you now wondering how to even get started with a smart home? Don't worry, we're giving you a simple whirlwind tour to open your eyes to the world of tech-savvy homes so you don't get left behind.
Your smart assistants
A smart assistant is a bit like the brains of the operation, as well as the middle-man messenger and the know-it-all that always has all the answers. You speak to your smart assistant, asking them questions or telling them to turn the heating up or turn the garden sprinkler off. You don't need a smart assistant to have a smart home with other gadgets, but they're good for connecting everything and streamlining the process.
Image credit: Wirecutter
Amazon's Alexa is super simple to get started, just plug her in and get chatting. This little gadget has more than 10,000 skills and works with the most third-party capabilities out of any smart home hub on the market. Just be aware that Amazon doesn't take responsibility for the third-party gadgets that you pair with Alexa, so make sure you're clued up on the T&Cs of any supporting products before you purchase.
Image credit: Google Home
Assistant is a smart piece of tech and understands more of your questions than Siri and Alexa because it has the support (and brains) of Google Search. You know when you don't know an answer to a question and you just say 'Google it'? Well, Assistant is Google. Do some research into what smart home features you want to incorporate into your house before purchasing a Google Assistant, as it isn't quite as compatible as the trusty Alexa.
Image credit: Lifewire
If you're already everything Apple then sticking with Siri might be your best bet, as you can, as usual, sync across all devices, plus Apple's HomeKit has a reasonable amount of third-party compatible products and they're super simple to set up on the mobile app. Another plus - Any data transferred is secure and encrypted. Although, because of Apple not sharing as much data and having stringent privacy requirements, it does take a little longer for the third-party products to reach the market, so there are fewer options available.
You've got your assistant, what next?
Image credit: Sonos
Smart speakers are perfect for music or cinema lovers or those born entertainers. With brands such as Sonos you can link all your speakers up via WiFi and control the music in each room by only lifting a finger. Children in the lounge, dinner party in the dining room, and working hard in the study? You can have a playlist for all three and allocate them to the right room at the right time.
Image credit: Lifx
Imagine being able to change the mood at a drop of a hat without a forced joke, scented candles or a blatant announcement? With smart lighting you can give versatility to an ordinary room by giving it the opportunity to fit any mood. You can lower the lights for a cinematic movie experience, change the colour from bright task lighting to warmer, cosy lighting, change colour for a party vibe or even automate your lighting to slowly get brighter in the mornings for a welcome wake up call.
Smart lighting will cost you a bit more upfront, but are generally more efficient and will save you money in the long run. They are very easy to install (there's a choice of different bulbs) and can be controlled from an app on your tablet or phone.
You can try out some smart light bulbs, such as Philips Hue, or smart-ify your existing lighting.
Image credit: Currys
Smart thermostats or handy gadgets such as products by Nest allow you to control the temperature of your home all from one clever wall device, a smart phone or an iPad. Did you get yourself a smart assistant? You could just tell them that you're a bit chilly and need to ramp the heating up.
Cleverly controlling your heating is also amazing for automating when you're going to need that extra warmth - it might be easier to get out of bed on a cold winter morning if the world outside your cosy duvet wasn't so scary (and freezing!) If you've just landed back from holiday and aren't too keen on driving back from the airport to a cold and steely home welcome, you can switch on your heating so your home is ready to give you a warm welcome.
Also, with the current environmental status of our lovely planet, we really don't want to take the mick. Automating your heating can ensure that you aren't being wasteful and you can keep an eye on how much energy you're using to heat your home. British weather can be hit and miss, but heating on in June? Grab a jumper and turn down the heat at a switch of a button.
Image credit: HomeKit News
You can now view your clever CCTV cameras from your smart device like live TV. If you're on holiday and want to keep an eye on your driveway/garden or any part of your property for that matter, then this would be a perfect device for you. Just want to keep an eye on the kids in the playroom, or the dog downstairs? You can use them indoors for this too.
If monitoring deliveries and who's coming to your door appeals to you then you may want to invest in a Ring Doorbell. These clever ding dongs work with a motion sensor and will send a live-cam link straight to your phone when someone is detected in your porch or taps the doorbell. Genius!
Image credit: Yours
No matter how hard you try, you just can't get your head around those people who LOVE a spring clean? We get it. When you have a million other things on your mind, getting your trusty Henry the Hoover out of the cupboard and around the house feels like a giant effort.
You can now get robot hoovers, who are clever little guys working with sensors to navigate your home whilst hoovering up dust and dirt as it goes - smart, right? Let's get this straight, robot hoovers aren't for the lazy, they're for the time efficient!
There are loads of other handy gadgets to make cleaning less of a chore, such as bins that have a clever suction device at the bottom so those little bits you can't seem to scoop onto a dustpan can be brushed straight in!
Image credit: The Gadget Flow
In most cases, around 50% of water is wasted due to over watering and inefficiencies when it comes to irrigation in the garden. By using smart irrigation technology you can make sure you keep your grass green and ensure your plants don't starting drooping, without worrying about being wasteful.
You can make sure the right amount of water is going to the right parts of the garden, i.e. more water to the plants that need more soil moisture and less to the plants that aren't quite so thirsty. You can also base your irrigation against monthly average rainfall or even set it based on the coming forecast.
Want to get really smart? Invest in some soil moisture sensors so you can be absolutely sure what needs watering and what is doing just fine without a splash from a sprinkler.
So, are you going to upgrade to a smart home?
We definitely see the benefits of a smart home when it comes to being more Eco-friendly and efficient, but if you don't want to jump right in, just dip your toe in the water with what suits you best. Green fingered? Think about making your irrigation intelligent. Big music fan? Set up a Sonos. There are plenty of products on the market that can make your life easier and once you get comfortable with one, it's easier to move onto other devices.
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