Like many things in this great land of ours, building a smart home in Australia means things are sometimes just a bit… different.

Today we’re talking about building a smart home from scratch. But this isn’t just any beginners guide, we’re focusing on what it’s like building a smart home in Australia, where stuff’s just that little bit… different to the rest of the world.

But given it’s 2020 – the year where you can do absolutely nothing but stay at home, let’s make it a smart one!.

Truth is, it’s not always easy knowing what tech products in general will be released in Australia. And ordering from overseas can be a bit of a mindfield.

There’s the obvious: we have different power sockets – and sure – there’s adapters, but if you get a faulty product warranty repairs can be a genuine nightmare.

Then there’s just weird pitfalls, like Philips Hue light globes bought in the US won’t work here. Like, at all. And they’re basically in the same packaging!

And in Australia, our weather’s different (i.e. much better) but so many smart home videos from overseas love to talk about the Google Nest thermostat. I’m sure it’s great, but I think I’ve seen a thermostat, maybe twice in my life? In Australia, it’s time we started talking about smart air conditioning, which is pretty awesome. So stick around for that

So let’s jump in and smarten up our Aussie home.

Starting out

When starting out, my recommendation is to ask yourself these 3 questions?

  • What’s the room in the house you use the most?
  • What do you already own that you can easily make smart?; and
  • Where is adding a smart device going to make the biggest impact on your life?

Let me give you an example; I, personally, hate mornings, so my first smart home purchase was a Google Home Mini and 2 Philips Hue bulbs that fit in my existing bedside lamps. When I set my alarm with the Mini, Philips Hue knew to fade up those 2 bulbs 30 minutes before my alarm went off, which slowly got me ready for the alarm, which I still hated. But didn’t snooze so much.

So, for me, my bedroom was the room I chose, I already had those bedside lamps and waking up sucked so I needed to make it better. That made a meaningful change in my life, overnight.

What’s meaningful for you, will definitely be different to me, so when starting out, give some thought to those 3 questions.

Now… the fun tech stuff!

Smart Speakers

The first and most popular thing most people start out with is a smart speaker and that’s because they’re often the simplest & easiest way to start building out a smart home, acting as a bit of a central hub.

When buying a smart speaker it’s important to know which smart assistant is built in.

There are more, but the 3 most popular are Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa & Apple Siri.

Did you know?

That 30% of Aussies already own a smart speaker?

That’s higher per capita than the US!

Source: Voicebot.ai

Which one you should pick…. is a personal choice. In the US, Alexa is by far the most popular. They got into the market first in 2014 with the Amazon Echo, but sadly for a long time it was only available in the US.

In Australia, it’s a completely different story. Google got into Australia faster and had the Assistant learn Aussie slang almost immediately. They also did some clever things, like, you can ask the Assistant how to spell Woolloomooloo (and it will, even pronouncing it correctly).

Google Assistant has a whopping 68% of the smart speaker market here, with Amazon Echo at 14% and Apple Homekit at 5.5%.

Now… Does that mean you should throw everything at Google… not necessarily.

You should take them all for a test spin, focus on how well they understand your voice, accent and what the quality of the response is like.

Also have a think about what you already own. Is your TV an Android TV? Do you own a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV? Do your existing speakers have Google Assistant or Alexa hiding in there and you just haven’t activated it?

All voice assistants are relatively easy to use and a lot of it will come down to whether you’re after a screen to display your information, or if you’re just after a speaker to give commands to run your smart home and get useful information.

But if you like the thought of a display, there are great options like the Google Nest Hub Max which doubles as a security camera, the smaller Nest Hub is also great if you don’t need the camera and want something a little more bedside table friendly.

Amazon have a range of Echo Show devices, and there are even smart bedside clocks.

Display or no display, the voice assistant you’ve chosen is the same. But with a display you’ll see the Assistant distating the command as you ask it, as well as visual feedback once it’s done.

For more detail on the products listed above, take a look at these links below:

Google Nest smart speakers on ebay,com.au
Amazon Alexa range on amazon.com.au

Smart Lighting

Now the “smart” bit in “smart home” is when you start integrating other smart products in. And the best place to start is lightning…. For 3 main reasons:

  • We use them…. a lot!
  • They’re the place you’ll save the most in electricity costs – the most efficient light bulbs use LED technology, and smart bulbs are almost always LED.
  • And the options are endless – But choose wisely.

I’ve used most brands, but keep coming back to Philips Hue. They really pioneered smart lighting and have a big presence in Australia, with most of their products available here.

But there’s something else equally important: You know those software updates you always hate doing on your phone? They’re extra important with smart home tech because if you’re installing a light that will live in your home for up to 15 years, you want to be sure that the manufacturer is going to support you with security updates over that time. Philips Hue have done a great job of this.

A Hue starter kit is a great place to start. There’s tons of configurations, but will likely include a few bulbs and a little box you connect into your router called a Hue hub.

Now – being for or against hubs could be its own video, but here’s my opinion: Philips Hue want you to use this little box because that means all of your lights connect back to one point, instead of having every single light in your house fighting for their own wifi connection. Some routers don’t have great wifi – the Hub ensures your bulbs have a constant, reliable connection.

And it works. Hue bulbs are known for their quick response time & reliability and the Hub has a big part to play in all of that. But

There are of course other very good smart light alternatives, in particular LIFX, a company founded by the Australian inventor Phil Bosua. These guys are super innovative and impressive.

Beyond that, start to tread carefully or have a chat to an expert. In particular, ask yourself if this cheap $10 smart bulb is going to continue to get future software updates and do some reviews online to check how reliable they are, as well as how well they connect in with your smart assistant.

For more detail on the products listed above, take a look at these links below:

Explore Philips hue range on amazon.com.au
explore lifx range on amazon.com.au

Smart Security

Smart security is the fastest growing part of the smart home market.

Covering cameras, door & window sensors, motion sensors, door locks, garage door openers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, sirens, smoke detectors, water sensors, and way, way more.

These days, smart security cameras like the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor can record video up to 4K resolution, and store it safely and securely in the cloud so you can get to it 24/7. It also has a high-power infrared LED for night vision, as well as lights and speakers so you can really show an intruder you’re serious.

The #1 thing to remember, is that most smart security brands work better together – so pick that first one or two wisely. You’re really buying into an ecosystem here.

Also look closely at how they’ll work with Google Assistant or Alexa. Google’s Nest products and Amazon’s Ring products are great places to start looking, and unsurprisingly work great with their voice assistants – but they’re not at the cheap end.

The basic gist is that when a smart camera sees something unusual, you’ll get a notification on your phone and you can then click on that to see live status, be it video

And while the big players have some impressive products, home security also doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Take Alfred for example. It’s a free mobile app that turns a spare Android or iOS device into a home security camera. And it’s got a number of features the bigger players rave about with their products – just like Nest & Ring you receive a live video feed from each camera, notifications if there’s motion, two-way talk, low light filters and more.

For more detail on the products listed above, take a look at these links below:

Explore the Google Nest cam range on ebay.com.au
EXPLORE RING SECURITY PRODUCTS FROM AMAZON.COM.AU
GOOGLE NEST CAM IQ OUTDOOR (CURRENTLY ONLY AVAILABLE FOR IMPORT FROM B&H PHOTO)
CHECK OUT ALFRED CAMERA FOR A COST EFFECTIVE, ALTERNATIVE TO THE BIG BRANDS

Smart Air Conditioning

Finally, it wouldn’t be an Aussie smart home if your A/C wasn’t smart!

If you’re buying new, most come with the ability to connect them directly into Google Home or Amazon Alexa, but if you’ve an existing system installed, and it’s got a remote, then all you need is Sensibo. It’s a small box that records the commands from your existing aircon remote, and replicates them when you ask your voice assistant. It’s literally as simple as “Hey Google, turn on the aircon”.

And if I’ve forgotten to turn the aircon off before leaving the house, Sensibo does it for me. An awesome energy saving feature.

CHECK OUT SENSIBO SKY AT AMAZON.COM.AU