Must-Have Technology for a Smart Home

A hand holding a smartphone displaying the home automation app. The app has different options and the video camera has been selected.

From energy to entertainment, here are a few of the must-have technologies to build a true smart home.

Buying a new home is an exciting time. From browsing through options and upgrades to choosing design elements, it’s totally common to have the desire to make your home the best it can be. Enter smart home technology.

Whether you’re a tech genius or a little behind the times when it comes to gadgets and gizmos, creating the ultimate smart home might require more planning than you’d think. There are so many brands to consider, so many elements in the home that could be outfitted and even more devices on the market. Where on Earth do you begin in deciding what’s right for your smart home?

“The beauty of the smart home is that you don’t have to buy a certain number of products to enjoy the benefits,” says Matt McGovren, vice president of marketing and business development at Wink, a smart home platform that brings hundreds of connected products from numerous brands together into a free mobile app. “We encourage people to pick and choose the products that best complement their lifestyle.”

McGovren and a few other smart home experts gave us their favorite must-have technology for a smart home and the categories you’ll most likely want to consider:

Smart-Home Lighting

“The starting point for most smart homes today is with connected lighting and there are some fantastic solutions available today,” says Mike Yurochko, co-founder and CEO of Stringify, a smart home solutions app. He suggests brands like Insteon, Sengled, Lutron and Philips Hue for colored lighting.

For affordability, McGovren suggests Cree’s Connected LED Bulb and Sylvania’s Lightify RGBW Bulb, which lets you choose from thousands of colors to set the right mood.

With the right system in place, smart lighting can allow you to create scenes, save energy, act as motion alerts or even automatically adjust according to the time of day.

Smart Home Security and Safety

When it comes to home security and safety, smart locks, security cameras and dual carbon monoxide/smoke detectors are a given.

“Schlage and Kwikset both make excellent connected locks that you can operate from afar and use to create unique access codes for guests,” says McGovren.

Popular brands to search for within this category include Nest, Kidde, Ring, iSmart Alarm, SimpliSafe and Vivint.

Smart Home Thermostats and Energy

In regard to saving energy in your smart home, heating and air conditioning are key.

“A smart thermostat for basic energy management is an obvious need,” adds Yurochko. “Honeywell, Nest and ecobee have delivered products across a variety of price points.”

Smart Home Appliances

With appliances, it may seem like the leading brands are putting out smart versions of your favorite appliances every week. Need help keeping up? Here are just a few features that are already on the market:

  • Refrigerators that send alerts when left open, doors that become see-through when touched and that can even monitor foods for spoilage.
  • A Whirlpool washing machine that can automatically donate to charity or keep tumbling wet clothes you’ve left overnight to keep them fresh.
  • A dishwasher that keeps track of areas it has already cleaned, which reduces water usage and water spots.
  • A stove that listens to what you’re cooking and alerts you when it’s done.

Long story short: If you can think of an appliance, there’s probably a smart-tech version of it somewhere on the market.

Smart Home Entertainment and Sound

“For entertainment, smart TVs are a must,” says Pete Pedone, owner of New York-based Interactive Home, a full home automation company. “Using the smart hub feature on most new TVs allows the user to access many different streaming media services for movies, TV and music. And for the user without a smart TV, there are streaming media devices such as Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire that give you that smart ability to stream.” 

And in regards to sound, our experts recommend Sonos, Yamaha and Bose sound systems.

Smart Home Convenience and Assistance

A key player in any smart home system are the up-and-coming home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These devices can link up with most smart home gadgets for easy, voice-activated controls. A bonus benefit, you can also ask it to browse the Web for you, play music and accomplish many everyday tasks.

“For larger homes, a Crestron system is recommended,” says Pedone. “Entertainment, security, shades and drapes are all accessible from a single app using Crestron. If offers a Cloud-based control, which can be paired with Amazon’s Echo to control the interior house.”

Getting It All Connected

Once you’ve had the time to browse through the devices that would suit your needs, it’s time to consider getting them all connected into a central hub.

Wink, for example, allows you to connect hundreds of products from many different brands together through it mobile app and Wink Hub 2. Thus, all your products can connect through the hub that transmits signals to and from your smartphone, allowing you to accomplish tasks like adjusting the lighting or locking doors.

Stringify is a similar smartphone app system that has pre-made experiences it calls “Flows,” which a user can add with a tap of the finger. These experiences cover everything from automatically arming your cameras or enhancing your movie night experiences through voice and lights. Additionally, it also serves as a universal remote to accomplish tasks like turning on the lights or adjusting the temperature through a single interface.

To close, Yurochko of Stringify says that as long as your home has these points covered, your home can hold the “Holy Grail” of smart home technology:

1.)The ability to communicate with every product you have purchased or will purchase in the future. The user has peace of mind knowing they can add new products to their smart home system without fear of compatibility issues.

2.)Your products are integrated well and deliver value to the household. Users should be able to customize their experiences based on their own needs and, over time, the system will learn these tendencies and apply these learnings to your home.

3.) It’s all packaged in an easy-to-use experience. If your system is difficult to understand, nobody is likely to use it. This hurdle takes on added complexity when you need to tie a wide variety of products and brands into a seamless experience.

These are exactly the issues smart home brands like Stringify, Wink and Interactive Home are trying to tackle.
“There is still a bit of a learning curve for the end consumer,” adds Yurochko, “but the future is very bright as end solutions become ever more powerful, flexible and easy to use.”

Drew Knight is a freelance writer for Builders Digital Experience (BDX). You can find him online at LinkedIn.

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