Smart Home Devices: Hubs and Compatible Devices
by William Gray
Smart Home Devices
Smart Home Devices are the rising stars of the tech world, bringing us one step closer to being able to control our lives with the help of a wifi connection and a smart home hub. With the ability to control our lights, door locks, appliances, blinds, and more, these devices bring a new level of convenience to our lives. The companies that are making these devices are continuously devising new tools to make our daily lives more convenient, here are a few of the tools they have come up with.
There are a few major players in the market of Smart Home devices with the big three being (unsurprisingly) Google, Amazon, and Apple. Each of these companies has a line of smart hubs that keep all of your home automation in one, easy to use, place.
Google’s contribution is in the form of Google Home. Featuring the Google Assistant this device is the hub for the Google-based home automation system. Featuring three different hub options to seamlessly integrate it into any room in your house. The Google Home Mini is perfect for rooms that you want integration in, but that you don’t plan on doing too much with, like your bedroom to control the lights and check your schedule in the morning. The Google Home, the base model, is a larger device that includes a better speaker for listening to music and/or projecting into larger rooms, perfect for a living room or entertainment room. The third, and newest, is the Google Home Max which functions as a large speaker making it the best sound of the three, great for an entertainment room, den, or backyard.
Amazon is currently the front-runner in terms of options for your hub. Currently boasting six different options for your hub, all featuring their assistant Alexa. The Echo Dot is the small out of the way device, comparable to the Home Mini, and the Echo is their flagship hub, comparable to the Home, but that is where the similarities end. The third in the Echo line is the Echo plus, a slightly larger version of the Echo that includes a built-in hub to connect to many other products that typically require a bridge, most notably the Philips Hue lights. The next additions Amazon brought along included a video screen to increase functionality. The Echo Spot includes a small screen, boasting the ability to view to-do lists, show lyrics as you listen to music, and make video calls, among other options with the screen. The larger alternative, the Echo Show, has all the same features as the Spot but boasts a larger screen and more powerful speakers. The last, and newest, addition to the Echo family is the Echo Look. The Look is designed specifically with style in mind, using a handsfree camera built into the Look it can take pictures of your outfit and even give you a second opinion. The Look is currently available “exclusively by invitation”.
Apple HomeKit seems to have gone in a different direction. With only one hub, the HomePod, which is marketed as a speaker that just happens to also have a connection to Siri, Apple has gone with the idea that your smartphone is your hub. The HomePod boasts great speakers and spatial awareness so it can direct the sound for best effect in any room. The speakers are able to connect to each other in order to play the same music in every room or be used independently to play different music.
One of the best-known functions of the Smart Home devices is their ability to control your lights. This feature extends past the basic on and off functions, the smart lights also allow you to control brightness, intensity, and even color depending on which lights you purchase. These lights are all LED so they typically last for longer than traditional lights and boast a low energy usage. All of the companies that make smart lights have similar types of lights but each has a few differences, the two most popular are discussed below.
Philips is a huge name in lighting and they did not miss a beat introducing the Philips Hue line of smart lights. Covering all of the basic lights they also introduced a portable light as well as string lights that can be attached to the wall. Using their app you can create premade light settings that can be activated by saying whatever you named the setting. For instance, one of the premade light settings sets your colored lights to imitate the sunrise. This line needs a bridge in order to connect to your home hub unless you’re using the Amazon Echo Plus, but this comes with any of their multiple starter kits.
LifX is a slightly more expensive alternative than the Philips Hue but does not need a bridge to connect to your home hub. It seamlessly connects to any of the hubs without any additional hardware. The standout product here is the LifX Tile, which is exactly what it sounds like, a tile-shaped light that can be stuck on any wall to create lighted designs. The kit for the Tile includes 5 tiles and the power supply, so you can plug it in and get started as soon as you open the box.
Many home security devices are available to link to your home hub allowing you to feel just a little more secure. The biggest products here are smart locks, that let you lock and unlock your doors using your home hub, video doorbells, which are able to display on the Amazon Echo devices that have a screen, and even smart baby monitors. There are also alarm systems that can be activated and deactivated using the hub and garage door openers. The Nest Thermostat is the big name that comes to mind when you talk about temperature control. The device will learn your habits and adjust but can also be linked to a home hub in order to verbally set your home to whatever temperature you want. Nest also puts out a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that will save you the headache of trying to figure out which one is going off by telling you the specific device. You can also prevent issues before they happen by monitoring the battery life on your phone, and even feel secure while away by checking the status from anywhere.