It’s no longer enough just to have a home anymore, as the homes of 2021 and beyond have all become ‘smart’.
A smart home can be intelligent in many ways, whether it’s adjusting your lighting for you as you walk in the door or knowing how to monitor heating and cooling to get the temps just right.
What are the essential smart home devices, though?
The most common and practical smart devices include thermostats, lighting, plugs, smoke detectors, speakers, and smart home hubs.
From there, you have those on a need-only basis, including smart security surveillance smart locks, with plenty of options to get as technical as you like.
Making the shift from a regular home to a smart home doesn’t have to happen overnight though, and it’s best to just begin with one or two products to make the transition.
With this guide, we’ll show you the benefits of living in a smart home and how to differentiate between the purpose and capabilities of today’s devices.
- 1 What Are Smart Home Devices?
- 2 Cloud-Based vs Local Control Devices
- 3 The Role of a Smart Home Hub
- 4 The Must-Have List of Smart Devices
- 5 Smart Home Security
- 6 The Future of Smart Tech
- 7 Benefits of Living in a Smart Home
- 8 Potential Downsides of Smart Living
- 9 A Smarter Home For a Simpler Life
- 10 Related Questions
What Are Smart Home Devices?
With all of the talk about smart homes and smart devices, you might find yourself wondering what these terms even mean.
The official definition of a smart device is a context-aware electronic device that is connected to other networks or devices within the home. Having more than one of these electronics might qualify for the ‘smart’ label, although there’s no clear definition.
These smart electronics usually have the ability to operate automatically and intuitively, but they can also be operated manually if you choose.
For example, your home’s air conditioner might turn on when you get close to home so that temperatures can be just right when you arrive. Otherwise, you can access its controls through an app and request it to do so.
They can also usually connect with other devices in the home, and they do this through the Internet of Things. The premise of the Internet of Things is that everything essentially can be connected through various networks, and virtually any item in the home can become ‘smart’ with a little bit of ingenuity and some technology.
Cloud-Based vs Local Control Devices
Within the realm of smart devices, you can categorize devices and products into either locally controlled or cloud-based.
To help differentiate between them, here’s a quick rundown on what they mean:
- Cloud Control: These are devices that can be controlled remotely, and when you’re not at home. They require an active internet connection to work, can take some delays in sending a message, and come with minor security risks. However, you’ll be rewarded with a convenient way to control and monitor your home, even if you’re not there, and always updating firmware with the most modern devices.
- Local Control: Some devices don’t need the internet to work, but this means you’ll lose functionalities like remote access and voice control. However, local control smart devices are quick to respond, will work even when there’s no internet, and there’s no risk of data breaches.
The Role of a Smart Home Hub
The Internet of Things is responsible for connecting all of your smart devices and allowing them to communicate over a network, and a smart home hub is a mechanism that lets you control them all from one place.
If you have a few smart devices at home, it makes sense to consolidate the control by using one of these hubs, but how does it work?
This control is achieved by using a mechanism that relies on the many wired and wireless protocols that a smart device uses and connects them all.
Some of the most common ones you may have heard of are Z-Wave, Zigbee, X10, Universal Powerline Bus, and Insteon, and a smart home hub is usually capable of working with more than one protocol.
The type you use will determine how quickly and effectively they communicate with each other, and how this communication is done, including through radio waves and using electrical lines to send signals.
A good smart home hub will be one that connects all of your devices together, so it depends on your existing setup as to which is best.
This hub is like the nerve center of your smart home and it’s what keeps them connected and in sync. Although most of your smart home devices will come with their own app and control center, having this type of hub means you can control them all from one place, so the convenience factor is huge.
The Must-Have List of Smart Devices
Smart homes are becoming more common every day, but we’re not yet at the stage where all parts of a house are automated.
In 2021, the most common smart tech devices you’ll find in the average home includes:
There are two common types of smart lighting: the smart module and the smart bulb, each with something on offer to bring your lights into the smart era.
The smart lighting module is retrofitted to your existing light switches to turn it into a smart light, and you then control the light through the app, with voice control, using your smart home hub, or with the traditional method of flicking it on and off.
A smart light bulb is a piece of tech that already has this automation built into it, and it’s the hopes of smart developers that these will replace the traditional lightbulb altogether one day.
The light is controlled predominantly from an app or voice command and has features like dimming and colorization all possible. However, once the light is switched off at the wall, it can no longer be controlled by the app.
Smart lights can be accessed remotely, giving you the ability to turn them on when you’re not home or turn them off if they’ve been left on accidentally. It also offers a way to monitor your electricity use so you can see potential trouble and waste areas, and the LED bulbs are more energy-efficient as well.
A smart thermostat is a device installed at home that helps to monitor, control, and automate the various heating and cooling systems you have in place. These devices can be connected to heaters, air conditioners, fans, and even blinds and curtains, giving you an easier way to access them.
The automation features of a smart thermostat allow it to make adjustments to temperatures based on room occupancy, past habits, and the weather conditions outdoors. You can create a schedule that turns on the heater one hour before you arrive home so it’s comfortable, or have everything shut down automatically when you leave the house.
The biggest benefit of a smart thermostat is the energy savings, as you no longer have to worry about empty rooms and houses being heated or cooled. You can ensure the temperature is always correct without doing a thing, and that no more energy is wasted through your HVAC systems.
A smart speaker is a type of virtual assistant that can be controlled with voice commands and interactive actions. In some models, these speakers can also serve as a hub for the rest of your smart devices, and use WiFi, Bluetooth, and the other protocols in your home to connect everything and control them.
The capabilities of a smart speaker will depend on a few things, and it might be able to perform basic duties like turning on music or telling you a weather update, or as advanced as requesting all of the doors of the house to be locked or to turn on the air conditioner. If you have many smart devices already at home, choosing a compatible smart speaker is best.
The interface of each of these smart speakers differs also, and they might also be controlled by an app or home automatic software, as well as the user commands. They’re quite simple in design with a speaker and microphone, and some feature a digital screen for displaying information.
A smart plug is a power plug that can turn other appliances and electronics into a smart device themselves. These powerpoint adapters plug into the power socket and then you plug the appliance into that, giving you a way to control their on/off switch automatically and use other smart features through an app or smart hub.
With a smart plug, you’re able to remotely control the appliance and set schedules so that it turns on and off at specific times. If you’ve left the house and forgot to turn something off, you can check it through an app and shut it down remotely, or if you want to turn an item on while you’re not home, it’s possible to do it remotely.
Smart Smoke Detectors
A smart smoke detector goes above and beyond what a regular one does and makes for a safer home. These detectors are hybrid devices that are able to detect carbon monoxide as well as smoke, and they connect with your household internet to notify you if anything goes off.
With a smart smoke detector, you’ll be alerted on your smartphone or other device when something is detected. If you’re not home, you could use one of your smart cameras in the home to check on the issue and call the fire department if needed. Otherwise, the detector can be shut down remotely via the app if you find that it was a false alarm.
Smart Home Security
The home surveillance system of today is a smart one, and this includes products like locks and cameras that keep your home safe.
These products can be used as standalone protection and prevention methods or together for a complete security system, and with all of the benefits that smart devices bring.
- Smart Locks – A smart lock can be installed on any of your home’s doors and can be retrofitted to the existing one or replaced altogether, usually in the form of a deadbolt lock. These locks can be accessed remotely by an app, opened automatically when you get close enough or bolted shut when you leave the house.
- Smart Cameras – Smart cameras are installed inside and outside of the home and can send direct notifications to your smartphone or tablet when activity occurs. These smart devices signal the new era of home security where everything is automated and there’s no need to have them professionally monitored anymore.
- Smart Doorbells – The modern doorbell combines the surveillance measures of a camera with the convenience of a traditional doorbell. With a smart doorbell, you can monitor visitors to the house, detect packages, have two-way conversations, and activate an alarm if you notice an intruder, all from the remote comfort of your smartphone.
The Future of Smart Tech
The house of today is smarter than ever, but these automated and intuitive technologies are only just getting started.
Although we don’t know for sure what’s possible in the future, predictions have already been made about what smart homes in the next decade will look like, and it appears that AI integration will play a major role.
With AI integrated smart devices, you’ll see more automation and smart devices and homes that start to predict their owner’s requests, thoughts, and emotions, and complete tasks without assistance.
Lighting that changes with your perceived mood, a bath that fills up to the perfect temperature, and robotic chefs that create nightly dinners are a few devices on the horizon.
Other predictions include a heavier reliance on sensors, including wearable items like bracelets that let you make commands and gestures to dictate what you want. More household items will be fitted with sensors themselves as a way to predict what users want, with less reliance on apps and other forms of remote control.
Benefits of Living in a Smart Home
The future is bright for smart home technology, but there are still some skeptics out there that doubt its worth and safety.
If you’re on the fence about living in a smart home, here are some of the benefits you might not have considered:
- Convenience: The biggest incentive to getting a smart home device is how convenient they are, and how much easier they can make your life. When you don’t have to manually turn on and off appliances and lights, or you get direct notifications about what’s happening at home, it saves you a lot of hassle and worry. Also, having one central command center for everything is helpful, and even better when you can control with voice commands.
- Energy-saving: Most smart devices come with some form of energy-saving benefit, and this can be applied to anything that uses electricity in your house. Even a change as small as an LED smart light will make a difference, and when you go all out and start managing your heating and cooling systems, you’ll see a huge difference in cost and energy use. These devices reduce the risk of wasting energy heating room when you’re not there or leaving lights on, and they can automate the process to make energy efficiency an effortless task.
- Safety: There are lots of ways that a smart device can make your home safer, and it doesn’t always have to be about installing a whole suite of security cameras. Smart tech allows you to keep an eye on your front door, get alerts if there’s smoke or carbon monoxide detected at home, and lock your house up in case you forgot to. A smart home is a safe home, and even the most basic gadgets will improve security
- Accessibility: Those with accessibility issues like elderly or disabled persons will find a lot of assistance from smart home devices. There’s no need to climb stairs, walk, or move around the house just to do certain things because you can control them from an app. If you have young children and can’t leave them, monitoring and controlling things like lights and appliances can also be helpful.
- Peace of mind: There’s something comforting about knowing that you can monitor all aspects of your house from one place and everything is as it should be. There’s no risk of leaving the heater running, not locking your door when you leave, or being able to keep an eye on your house while you’re away when you’ve got a smart home.
Potential Downsides of Smart Living
It’s not all roses with smart homes, and there are still some negatives worth considering.
Ponder the potential drawbacks that today’s smart devices have before you start transforming your home into an automated haven:
- Expensive: The initial investment in these smart devices makes it a more expensive option than keeping your household how it is. Although there are long-term savings to be made, you won’t see them for some time, and even the most basic smart device can cost a couple of hundred dollars. To kit out your entire home will be thousands and simply not within the reach of everyone.
- New technology: Smart devices are updating and evolving constantly, so as soon as you get the latest one, there’s already a newer version in the works. Having to pay for new devices and updated systems can get expensive and frustrating, as compared to a manual doorknob or standard appliance, there’s a lot more replacing and upgrading required.
- Connectivity: Compatibility can be a big issue when installing smart devices at home, especially if you have more than one product or brand. Because they connect on different protocols and require various things, you might find issues with having all of your devices sync up, and what you had planned for a convenient way of running your household has now become complicated.
A Smarter Home For a Simpler Life
Smart tech was developed as a way to make life easier by taking some of our most common daily tasks and gadgets and making them automatic and intuitive.
There’s no limit to the number of smart devices you can use at home, nor are there too many, and it’s all about finding the right smart setup to suit your lifestyle and everyday requirements so that you can reap the benefits.
In the future, every home will likely be a smart home, and if you want to get a head start on everyone else, there are some truly innovative products to try.
If you’re still feeling unsure about the premise of an intuitive, digitally-based home, read on to see some questions that beginners have about smart tech that can give you a better understanding.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things is a network of different objects and systems that connect online, like the devices one would have in a smart home.
These physical objects usually have software and sensors that allow them to communicate with each other, the rest of the systems in the home so they can all be controlled in synchronization without human interaction.
What Does a Smart Home Cost?
A smart home could consist of just one or two technologies in place, costing only a few hundred dollars.
Otherwise, at the advanced end of the scale, a home fitted with all of the latest technologies like smart lighting, temperature control, locks, appliances, and irrigation system, can cost upwards of $20,000.
Does Smart Home Increase Value?
If a home’s smart devices are integrated into the property, they could potentially increase its value.
Automated systems like lighting, security, temperature control, and irrigation could be factored into an appraisal for a home and make it not only more expensive but in higher demand than a similar property without smart systems in place.