Google what now? And who’s Alexa?

So Christmas or a Birthday comes around and you’re been given a “smart” something. Or perhaps you’ve been interested in smart technology for a while and decided to take the plunge.

At ConnectIT, we often find someone’s first foray into the world of smart devices is through a smart speaker such as a Google Home or Amazon Alexa device. These devices serve as the “hub” of your smart home and are a great way to start exploring smart home technology.

That’s assuming you’ve set it up (and believe me, we’ve seen plenty of people with them still in their box!),

A smart speaker is a great to playing music, get the weather, the latest news, or set timers and reminders. With a Google Home connected to Gmail or Google Calendar, you may even have ventured as far as getting your “Assistant” (Google doesn’t give her/him a name) to tell you what’s next on your calendar and how far it will take to drive there.

For those of you with one of Amazon’s Echo devices, perhaps you’ve asked Alexa similar questions, and maybe even asked about when that Amazon delivery you placed yesterday is going to arrive.

But most stop there… and that’s a shame

Smart speakers are a great way to start building out a smart home. They essentially form the “command centre” for all the other smart devices you get in the future, While those additional devices may come from disparate brands it will primarily be your smart speaker and smart home assistant (and the app that controls them) that will be the central place they’re all organised.

We understand it can seem daunting, even Business Insider concedes:

“Companies like Google and Apple have made splashy announcements about their smart home plans, but 62% of potential consumers aren’t even aware such technology exists…

But if you take the long view, the concept of a smart home isn’t that strange, and could bring a lot of unforeseen benefits beyond just dimming your lights with your smartphone.”

The benefits can be immense

But let’s start with some ground rules.

At ConnectIT, we approach every project with a few key guiding principles in mind:

Plan for the 80%

Using the 80/20 rule, focus on the areas of the house that are used the most. This will mean you’re not only going to see your nice new shiny device more, but you’ll have more opportunities to use it.

Seamlessness

We believe that – like any new technology purchase – a smart device should fit seamlessly into your house design and lifestyle.

It should be unobtrusive.

And most importantly, it should “earn its keep”.

Make it Meaningful

Any new addition to the household has to make a meaningful impact on your life, otherwise, what’s the point?

When starting down the road to a smart home, it’s also useful to ensure enough is implemented & connected together that it makes impactful and lasting change in the household & an enthusiasm for more.

Where to start?

Photo by Stephan Bechert on Unsplash

Smart Lighting

We think smart lighting is an ideal place to start building out any smart home, but it’s not just us. Look at any smart home “starter kit” and you’ll find they will nearly always include a globe.

The reasons for this are threefold:

  • We use them…. a lot! – Think about how many times a day you’d switch on or off a light switch. Now before you think about replacing that behaviour with “Hey Google, turn on the bedroom light“ (because that’s not what building out a smart home is about) instead think about if that light came on when it saw motion, or woke you up by gently increasing in brightness half an hour before your alarm went off. That’s where the real magic in owning a smart home is.

  • They’re the place you’ll save the most in electricity costs – Sure, the light bulb that saves the most energy is the light bulb that isn’t glowing, but there are significant cost savings inherrinant in the way smart lighting works.

    • The least energy efficient bulbs are incandescent lights. In fact, 90 percent of the energy incandescent lights use is given off as heat and only about 10 percent results in light
    • Then moving our way up the energy efficiency scale there are halogen bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which you’ll find in most houses.
    • The most efficient bulbs use LED technology, and smart bulbs are almost always LED.
  • There’s an almost endless list of options – But choose wisely because the brand of light you start with should (by and large) be the one you stick with for performance and complexity reasons.

     

Photo by Stephan Bechert on Unsplash

Smart Security

Most people tend to think of back-to-base-style alarm systems when thinking about security, but a smart home should be a secure home and the world has moved on in a big way from the old-school alarm button days.

Like smart lighting, there are tons of options out there and the choice can be a confusing one, however the primary thing to consider is how nicely one particular device plays with another. While all Google Home devices will technically work well together, some play better together than others. And this is strikingly apparent when it comes to security. Google Nest doorbells and cameras will work seamlessly with Google Assistant (surprise, surprise!) while Alexa plays nicely with Ring (both owned by Amazon). This is not to say that a doorbell from one brand isn’t going to work well with a lock from another, but it’s important to go into these purchases with your eyes open.

 

Entertainment

A lot of people have a “smart” TV, but not all have the same IQ. The same goes for speakers and audio equipment where “wireless” options of various shapes and sizes have existed for a while.

Smart entertainment can be controlled with your smart assistant and you can group smart and Wi-Fi speakers together or use them individually. This allows you to control music, play, pause, stop or skip tracks via your phone or voice commands.

Some TVs have built-in smart home features, but media devices such as a Google Chromecast can often a better option. These devices plug into a TV and let you cast video to it from another device, control streaming services like Netflix & Stan with your phone, or be controlled via voice.

Best of all, when the binge is over it’s as simple as saying “Hey Google, turn off the TV”. Forget fumbling for the remote.

Photo by Stephan Bechert on Unsplash

…and more!

We could go on all day (no, seriously… we could!)

It seems like every day there is a new category of “smart” products out there. Our advice is, stick to the basics and follow the ground rules we mentioned above.

Or failing that, just have a chat with your mates at ConnectIT.