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Why You Should Centralise Your Smart Home Around A Few Key Brands

  • Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

The Old KISS Saying Stands: Keep It Simple (Stupid)

From the outset, it’s worth mentioning that none of the content on the ConnectIT website is sponsored by any brand. This article comes from hard-earned experience using (mostly enjoyably but sometimes frustratingly) almost every brand of smart home equipment on the market in Australia today.

Secondly, I should also mention that this is very much an opinion piece. I don’t think it’s a particularly controversial opinion piece, but it is one nonetheless. You may have chosen to set up your smart home using every brand under the sun and absolutely love it – and to you, I say, kudos.

That said, below are the main reasons ConnectIT choose to centralise our own and the smart homes of our clients around a few core brands.

Security

You know those software updates you always hate doing on your phone? They’re extra important with smart home tech for one simple reason. If you’re installing a device that will live in your home for up to 15 years (such as a smart light), you want to be sure that the manufacturer is going to support you with security updates over that time.

There are a myriad of examples of smart home manufacturers caught unawares by security flaws. If your manufacturer is reputable, they’ll be patched before you even know about it. But if they’re not, the repercussions can be serious.

As recently as June 2020, a security flaw was found in some older consumer security cameras. Yes, it was serious, but the cameras in question (they became park of what is now called the Insecam “hack”) weren’t necessarily hacked at all, but in fact doing what their manufacturer and owner programmed them to do, which is broadcast their stream to a web address that is publicly accessible without a strong password (or password at all). It’s a timely reminder that standards change, to always do your software updates when prompted and use brands that support their products with security updates over a significantly long period of time (which you should expect under Australian Consumer Law to be the useable life of the product).

Simplicity

If you’re using a voice assistant – and you should, they’re great! – you don’t want to have Google Assistant or Alexa hunting through a myriad of different manufacturers looking for the device and function you’re asking about.

If you’re not using a voice assistant and instead just using the app, well, that’s fine too, but you don’t want to have to think about which app is controlling the lights or which app is controlling the air conditioning each time you want to run a simple function. And while the Google Home and Alexa apps are great for pulling all your services into one spot, they have a habit of leaving out the more miniature controls you can find within the original brands’ app. In short, that old primary school adage frustratingly still applies: Keep It Simple (Stupid).

Also…. be nice to your router. As you grow your smart home, if it has a million different brands all jostling for wifi bandwidth, that’s a recipe for disaster. In the early stages, you’re probably fine but over time you may find it beneficial to upgrade either to a Hub (which handles all those smart home requests instead of your router) or a higher grade router such as Google Wifi.

Longevity

While the smart home space is constantly moving and evolving, if you’re putting all your effort into setting up your smart home a certain way, you want to make sure the manufacturers you’ve chosen are going to stay around for the long haul.

Take Lowe’s in the UK for example. . They launched a smart home ecosystem called “Iris”, which they abruptly shut down on March 31st, 2019. The devices simply stopped working. The company advised that it would give “some money back in the form of a prepaid Visa card that will help you “migrate to another smart home platform”.

This is the risk of investing in an unproven ecosystem developed by a manufacturer without a long history in the market.

Not ideal.

For want of a better way to say it… the reliable players get the best toys first

Another way of saying this is: There’s a lot going on in the background in the smart home space.

For example, did you know that Google and some of the big smart home brands such as Philips Hue have been working on a function called “local fulfillment”, which means that when you ask the Google Assistant a command to, say, turn your Hue lights on, that command no longer needs to go to Google or Hue’s servers to be fulfilled but can instead all be done without the internet? That adds up to a faster, more reliable smart home that needs less steps (where things could possibly go awry).

Another example is an alliance formed in December 2019 called Connected Home Over IP (or CHIP for short). This is the first time we’ve ever seen Amazon, Apple & Google collaborate over anything to do with the smart home (or, practically, anything….. really!). This is impressive enough in itself, but the alliance also includes members of the Zigbee Alliance such as IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric (who own Clipsal in Australia), Philips Hue, Silicon Labs, Somfy and more. These brands clearly have their heads in the smart home game for the long term, and you can except some exciting developments from CHIP in late 2020/2021.

In short, think security first, keep it simple, think long-term and go with brands that have worked to earn your trust.

Failing that, ConnectIT are always here to advise.

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