Digital Trends – Smart Homes

Posted on Posted in Tech & Gadgets

Everything’s becoming smart these days; smartphones, smart watches, smart TV’s, even homes have become smart.

Like most of the latest trends we have today, the concept of a smart home is nothing really new. In fact, we could argue that such homes has been available for quite some time now, even before 2016.

But what makes a smart home smart? And what are the technologies that makes one smart? Well for starters, a home can have several features and/or appliances that can make it smart.

Automated security, temperature monitoring, high-tech theater systems; these are just some of the many things that you can add to make one more smarter that your neighbors. But installations of these several devices, especially before, were expensive; not to mention the technical-know how on maintaining one.

So unless your technical enough to install one, or at least can afford a technician, installing and maintaining a smart home can be a daunting task – before at least.

Nowadays, there are several useful home devices that could be leveraged to make your homes or room smarter, while not costing more that your monthly mortgage bill. Here’s some of my recommendations:

1. Amazon Echo


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could control our home using our voice? Speech-to-text technology, while amazing and everything, didn’t really made much sense for public use, unless you want to look weird. On our homes on the other hand – it makes perfect sense, and Amazon Echo may be closest in giving us that solution, without breaking the bank.

We already have voice-command capabilities in our phones, so why not our homes? And apparently Amazon executives thought of just that. The Echo is an ambiguous product that lets you control your home appliances though voice commands.

It excels at things like controlling your music or setting appointments and googling stuff, but all these stuffs are already achievable using our smartphones. What makes the Echo special is its ability to control and send commands to our digital appliances – automatically.

So turning on the TV, setting the oven timer, or maybe even brewing your favorite espresso – by voice is now made possible with devices such as the Amazon Echo, provided that they are integrated properly through Alexa-compatible devices (that’s how Amazon’s voice assistant is called – a la Siri).

And for $179.99 (and free shipping), there really isn’t much you could argue for, considering the prices you’d pay before just to make this possible before.

So if you have spare cash, get the Amazon Echo, call Alexa and your wish is it’s command.

2. Google Home


Apparently, Google’s been taking notes at Amazon. And just this Google I/O 2016, it unveiled the Google Home – one of its newest products that will soon be available in the market, hopefully in Q4 2016.

Its the same pod-like speaker the Amazon Echo already is, and you could probably point a finger or two at Google for coming up unoriginal with their newest smart home offering.

But make no mistake, with Google’s advanced API and technologies, such as speech-recognition, translation, AI and more, not to mention integration with its other several services and products – especially Nest products (more on this on Smart Home Appliances), Google’s has a lot going on in it’s upcoming smart home device to captivate hopeful buyers.

And it needs to do so. With Amazon Echo’s amazing success and reviews, not to mentions its competitive retail pricing and availability, Google needs to step up its game if it is to directly compete with the Echo whilst basically offering pretty much the same functionality and services.

It remains to be seen whether it will perform better than the Echo. What’s clear is Google’s take on the smart home industry and all of its potential as a profitable market.

And whether or not Google sticks on the smart home industry greatly on the Home’s success.

3. Apple HomeKit


We’ve already established that a good smart home requires a great voice assistant to make it smart. And its really hard to imagine a great voice assistant without thinking of Siri, Apple’s very own voice assistant.

With that in mind, its also not hard to image Apple with its own uptake in the smart home industry – and sure enough, in 2014 it launched HomeKit, Apple’s very own smart home solution.

HomeKit is an Apple software solution that lets users control HomeKit-enabled appliances – somewhat like Alexa-enabled products for Amazon.

But Apple’s early start at the smart home industry did not pay off. It had fewer 3rd party partners compared to its rivals – and this may be attributed to Apple’s strict and expensive 3rd party compliance and certifications, like how it is on its apps.

But with the HomeKit app announcement for iDevices, as well as rumors for a direct competitor for Amazon Echo and Google home, this may soon change for the better.

Along with the latest macOS Sierra now having Siri built-in, its not hard to see the potential a Siri-controlled home gives you, and one that can be controlled using either your Mac, iPhone/iPad, Apple Watch or even an Apple TV.

Apple’s uptake on smart homes using the HomeKit is indeed very appealing, especially to those heavily invested in Apple products. Just make sure you won’t lose your iPhone anytime soon..

4. Smart Home Appliances


Lets face it, your smart controllers and speakers are only as smart as the appliances that you have. So chances are, even with either Amazon Echo or Google Home in the future, you still won’t turn off the lights automatically – not if their not smart enough to do so.

Luckily for consumers, several smart home appliances are readily available in the market, and they can interact smartly though your phones (via app) or through specialized home devices like the Echo or Home.

Special credits also goes to companies that specializes in developing smart appliances, like Nest. Nest is a company now owned by Google that specializes in making smart home products and appliances. A smart smoke-detector: check √ . Smart thermostat: check √ . Smart cameras: check √.

These devices are also Alexa-ready, and such, can be controlled by the Echo and soon by Home in the future, since the company is owned by Google.

Of course, other top manufacturers are also making these smart appliances compatible with the latest phones and gadgets. So its up to the consumers which ones he or she wants to be smart first.

Were just lucky today that these kinds of appliances are now accessible, and while it still would still cost a fortune as compared to its much simpler appliance counterparts, they still are sure hell much cheaper compared to how similar offerings were a decade ago.

It is indeed amazing how far we’ve reached compared to a few decades ago. Now, everything, from homes to appliances, are now slowly transitioning from manual to automated, from smart, to smarter.

Along with the constant advancement in technology, I hope that as our homes keeps getting better and smarter, so too will our intelligence and productivity in everyday tasks.

Disclaimer:  All products showcased above are of my personal recommendations based on my reviews – and in no part will I claim any responsibility for any mischieving provided by any of the showcased devices above.

All YouTube video credit goes to CNET respectively. You can check out more on their content on the link provided here.