There’s a lot of smart technology on the market. We’re going to let you in on a little secret: we love smart tech. The ability to quickly and easily interface everyday devices with your smart phone, tablet, or other device is pretty awesome.
The possibilities are really astounding when it comes down to it, and many people haven’t even considered some of the stuff which is on the market. It seems like for every smart device with a lot of use, there’s also something a little bit dumb but the idea of a fully integrated home is an attractive one. If you’re looking for ideas, or even just to explore the idea of improving your quality of life with smart tech then you’re in the right place.
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Table of Contents
The Core Concept: Smart Home Technology Integration
The key behind all of this is the integration of technology. While a lot of devices seem a bit overkill, smart LED light bulbs for instance, they’re only a single piece of the puzzle.
A single piece from the middle of a jigsaw looks a little bit ridiculous, right?
So do many of the “lesser” smart devices out there when you’re giving them a look over on their own.
Instead, you need to think about how you can integrate your devices into a cohesive whole while using as little software as possible to control everything.
Really, everything about integrated smart homes comes down to a few core concepts.
Automation is one of the core principles that most people are looking for. Whether it’s a lock which automatically locks and unlocks as you pop in and out of your home or light bulbs that turn on as you enter a room, there’s a lot of different items out there that make tedious tasks automatic.
Even if you’re not the “lazy” type, they can come in handy.
Automation is limited by both hardware and software, but it’s getting better and better as time goes on.
It’s one of the main things to love about smart tech, but it’s definitely not the only thing.
Convenience might seem, on the surface, to be pretty much the same thing as automation. It’s really not, when we’re talking about convenience we mean being able to do little things that you couldn’t accomplish normally.
This might be one of the best things around. You can, for instance, change your thermostat while you’re out of the home, remotely access a nanny cam while at work, or just have a centralized way to fire up the coffee maker so the pot is ready when you get up without having to leave bed.
Convenience is the focus of many of the simpler smart appliances out there, rather than automation.
Centralized controls exist in a few different forms.
It seems like each major electronics manufacturer has their own form, whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa or whatever you might see fit to add to your home.
This is part of the integration concept, allowing you to control as many devices as possible from a single central source.
Since many of the devices use their own apps, centralizing your integrated tech as much as possible will allow you to control more things from one area.
Of course, smart tech isn’t perfect.
There are some inherent limitations to the core concept that you need to understand before you begin to build a comprehensive plan for improving your quality of life utilizing this fantastic new technology.
Chances are, that if you’re reading about how to get an integrated smart home going… you have devices which are able to handle the apps included in the whole package affair.
You don’t need something super to control your devices, but the less centralized your system ends up being then the faster you’ll want things to respond.
Just be aware that you’re probably not going to be able to control a whole lot if your phone is on the verge of being completely outdated and a slow phone can make these devices more inconvenient than you might think.
While smart technology is always improving, we’re not quite living in the world of the Jetsons just yet. That means that you’re still going to be limited quite a bit in what exactly you can do.
Software is just as limited as the devices themselves, especially when it comes to a fully integrated home. You may have to make some compromises in order to make sure that everything ends up being easy to control.
Buggy software is a serious problem with some of the knock-off brands of stuff out there. You’re going to want to look for tightly coded devices to make sure you can get the most out of your stuff.
The hardware isn’t quite there for some of the things people want to do with smart technology just yet, but keep your eyes out and you’ll be surprised at how nifty some of this stuff is.
Whether or not it’s financially efficient to invest heavily in smart hardware just yet is kind of in question. Truth is, many of these devices are only going to go down in cost and some might even become mainstays in the majority of homes quite soon.
It’s fairly expensive to start an integrated smart home at the moment. It’s prohibitively expensive to go with smart everything.
We’ll go over the different kinds of devices out there soon, but the truth is most people aren’t going to be able to afford everything they want so you’ll have to make some compromises when building your system.
Planning Smart Tech Products Out
When you’re looking into creating an integrated smart home… we strongly recommend that you have a plan.
This can lead to a cross-comparison of a lot of different products. Thankfully, we’ll be sure to link you to our guides as things go on to make sure you can quickly find the products which we think are the best.
There are a few different primary concerns when forging your system.
If you’re aiming for a super high-end smart home, then you’re going to want some kind of centralized control.
Many people like to go with Amazon’s Alexa via the Echo simply for the convenience. Amazon has been making a real splash in the smart tech world and they’re beginning to integrate the technology in exciting new ways.
Of course, that’s not the be-all, end-all of the central control world. Those who favor Apple products have different options and there really are a ton of different control hubs out there.
They’ll have varying levels of convenience for the end user, but the important thing is to find one which suits your needs.
We recommend something with voice controls and Wifi, which offer the most convenient controls for a centralized system.
While having a centralized system is nice at any rate, you definitely want to make sure that you find something which will interface with your phone and internet.
Internet controls allow you to access the devices in your home no matter where you are and stand out as the most useful of the lot.
This also means you may need to invest in a good wireless router to ensure that you get the signal you need throughout the home. Spotty connectivity will render your devices useless some of the time.
We’ll touch on the different devices which are available on the market pretty soon, but one thing to be aware of is the fact that many devices can interlink.
If you wanted to, say, have your lights come on when the door unlocks then you’ll need smart lights, a smart lock, and the right program. We’ll also touch on the programs which are available, including some which have a whole lot of functionality.
Trust us, once you realize how much automation you can get out of these devices you’ll be surprised at just how useful even seemingly over-blown devices are.
For devices which require plugged in power, knowing where you’ll place surge protectors and where you’re going to run wires is pretty important.
You should definitely plan this out before you even begin in order to make sure that you’ve got things going in the right direction.
We recommend finding some surge protectors with USB connections as well, there are some pretty impressive
Your Smart Home’s Brain: Software
There are a ton of different apps and services out there which will help you get the most out of your devices.
The main thing that we usually look for when recommending an app is that it interfaces with the different devices in your home and makes it easy to create command strings.
This is a bit more advanced than just setting up your devices, but we recommend that you find a service which will let you download premade command strings if you’re not already familiar with creating these.
IFTT, or If This, Then That, is a command string service that lets you create “applets” which link together devices and apps to increase their functionality.
It’s a pretty basic service, which will let you link devices and apps but it’s free and has quite a few different little functions which you can utilize without having to put them together yourself.
This particular service focuses mostly on software apps with your phone, but it’s linked up with some of the more popular devices like Phillips HUE.
It’s a good way to get a handle on what’s possible, and frankly it’s an awesome service for anyone who owns a smart phone.
Stringify on the other hand is mainly made for those who want to make clever usage of their smart devices. It connects with pretty much everything and it even has a built-in control panel for the majority of the smart devices which are available.
Where it really comes in handy, however, is its ability to create “flows” which can be used to quickly activate a series of devices with a single command.
Some of the examples on the website are pretty impressive.
Even better, you can interface it with If This, Then That for even more functionality then you’d be able to get with the in-built controls.
Take a look at their website and you’ll quickly find out just how useful things can be.
Smart Things is a centralized control program for those who are concerned with their devices getting too spread out.
While it lacks some of the functionality of our other favorites, this handy app from Samsung can handle an impressive amount of devices. Indeed, most of the quality devices on the market work quite well with it.
It’s definitely worth a shot, even if you’re using the other two, simply for the ability to individually control all of your devices as needed.
Different Needs, Different Systems
There are a lot of different kinds of smart devices out there, and we find it’s easiest to think of them as “systems” when you’re working for a wholly integrated smart home.
Consider the following systems when you’re looking into getting the most out of what can be done with current technology and remember that more and more devices are hitting the market on a constant basis.
Security systems are a bit too much to cover in a single article, and they’ve been the focus of some of the larger companies specializing in bringing smart tech to your home for quite a while.
Companies like Nest and August offer a surprisingly comprehensive array of devices.
Smart locks were one of the first to hit the market. We really don’t think they should be considered simple security devices, however, instead you should think of them more in terms of convenience.
Basically, a smart lock will let you get in and out of your home without having to use a key and some will let you activate the lock remotely through your smart phone to allow access to household personnel.
Unfortunately, they do suffer from some vulnerabilities and while the latest models haven’t been cracked it’s likely only to be a matter of time.
Smart doorbells are another of the early security devices. These can be used to view who’s at your front door and even make a recording when motion is detected.
Contrary to smart locks, these definitely add some security ability to your home. The ability to record is one thing, but you’ll also be able to get two-way audio with the vast majority of them which will let you give instructions to delivery people or other visitors to the home while you’re away.
Smart video surveillance comes in a few different forms. There are a lot of differing exterior cameras which are quite readily used and indoor varieties as well. The company Nest began with these.
They’ll usually have all the usual features of security cameras, plus the ability to be viewed from your phone or other device.
More advanced models will also have motion detection and a wide range of different options for the individual who truly cares about their home security.
Finally there are comprehensive smart security setups which include all of the things you normally associate with a security system and the added convenience of being able to be used from your phone.
Another of the premier devices which a lot of people don’t even consider as “smart” is the various entertainment devices which connect quickly and easily with phones and tablets.
Bluetooth speakers are the first thing that comes to mind for most people, since they interface quickly with phones. There are a variety of different high-quality sets on the market which will let you get the music flowing as soon as your phone is in range.
Even better, a lot of them work with the software we mentioned above.
You can pair your speakers with a smart light set, such as Phillips Hue, in order to create a party atmosphere with a press of a button once you have your software configured as well.
One thing that many people don’t think of is turning their phone into a universal remote control. Paired with the right software, you can set up movies and sound from your phone for a home theater experience controlled by a single device.
These are some of the most versatile products right out of the gate, since most of them were built with integration in mind.
Most of the voice control modules on the market started out being dedicated to entertainment uses and we strongly recommend purchasing one if you’re planning on enhancing the entertainment in your house quite easily.
Phillips HUE systems are out there, and when they first emerged a lot of people thought it was ridiculous.
People have come up with a ton of creative uses for them, however.
Whether it’s motion detection, dimming, or just changing colors in order to suit the mood these lights are actually quite a bit more useful than they seem at the first glance.
There are also quite a few smart dimmer switches out there, and paired with the right software they’re a versatile way to quickly change up the ambiance in a room or brighten things up when you’re coming in.
Lighting is a take it or leave it for many people, but as the technology and software gets more and more advanced we can see some definite uses for it.
The sheer variety of smart appliances is pretty astounding.
Whether it’s a smart refrigerator or smart stove they’re expensive additions to your house but they’re surprisingly useful on the convenience front.
Smart refrigerators most often have different ways to keep track of groceries, create shopping lists, and other useful amenities which can make food management a lot easier than you’ve ever seen.
Of course, many of us might not think the cost is quite worth it.
Smart ovens on the other hand are great for being able to remotely check on your cooking food. Paired with a smart meat thermometer you can keep track of all of the details while you’re making your food without any real issues.
There are also various srmall appliances you can activate remotely, but they’re usually pretty niche in their usage and not quite as important to the task of whole home integration as larger appliances.
GE has a full line of different smart appliances if you want a closer look at the convenience you can snag if you’re willing to make the investment.
Whether it’s super useful or ridiculously specialized, smart appliances seem to be here to stay and that’s pretty awesome overall. Even a simple coffee maker that makes sure you have water for your K-cups as soon as you get up can make a big difference in your life.
A little bit different than your usual security measures, home monitoring includes devices like fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
The first to hit the market were smart thermostats. While earlier models just let you set things remotely, the current ones can allow you to bypass the complicated software built into regular digital thermostats in order to make a schedule that works for your family.
Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can inform you of alerts while you’re away, and the latter can even graph things for you to allow you to know how the levels are being affected within your home.
Paired with some of the above systems, you can reach a comprehensive whole for both safety and energy efficiency.
Unfortunately, this is one area where things still fall pretty short when you compare them to a lot of places in the smart home. Even the most expensive Roomba isn’t going to completely eliminate the need for you to do some of the work around your home.
On the other hand, they’re also pretty awesome for minimizing the amount of work you’ll have to perform on your home.
Most of them aren’t great at interfacing with phones either, but the automation of these handy devices really can’t be overlooked for those seeking to decrease their workload around the house.
There really are a ton of different devices on the market. For those with hardwood floors, for instance, you can find robotic mops which will keep the floor at a high shine. If you’re willing to spend the money they’ll come with advanced navigation and dust then mop the floors.
On the other hand, many of the cheaper devices out there can still have their uses when it comes to eliminating daily build-up of dust.
Making the Most of Things
Let’s be honest here: building that fully automated smart home of your dreams is going to require a lot of work and fine tuning on your part.
We strongly recommend making yourself familiar with IFTT, Stringify, and whatever hub you may use to start with and work from there.
There’s a whole lot of different functions out there and the best way to learn is to start picking up the devices you think you’ll want and go from there. After all, hands-on experience is the best way to get started.
At the very least, we think most people will want the following:
- A smart thermostat for controlling the temperature in your home and maximizing energy efficiency while making sure your home is at the right temperature when you get back from work.
- A simple security system consisting of a few cameras, a smart lock, and a smart doorbell.
- A voice-control for your speakers and possibly your TV
Once you have those you can really start to explore the myriad of options which are available to you.
Using the information we’ve given you here, you could conceivably figure out how to do the following within an hour or so:
- Come home and not have to use a key to unlock the door.
- Have your lights come on automatically as you enter a home which is the perfect temperature already since you used your smart thermostat to warm things just in time.
- Sit down on the couch and tell your hub that it’s movie time, dimming the lights, switching on the TV, and bringing up exactly the menu you need.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s all within reach and it’s really a pretty simple application of the technology. All you have to do is make sure that you’ve got the devices and software to make it happen.
Now that you’re familiar with the basics of creating an integrated smart home, it’s time to get started on your journey. Whether you’re a dedicated technophile or just looking to make your home a bit more welcoming and easy to use you’ll be in good hands with modern smart technology.
Get started soon, and you’ll be surprised at just how much you can come up with.