Here I aim to share with you some of the lessons, products and advice I have gathered on my journey so far to create a more automated home.
Firstly I feel it necessary to advise all of the products highlighted in this post can be used on their own and come with the companies own app to set up and control the product without the need of any smart assistant and hub. The need for a smart hub purely comes from wanting to have a local and convenient voice activated interaction that can control all your devices in a common defined way. Links to each product have been provided for your convenience and can be reached by clicking the image.
If you want to centrally control your smart devices and set up automation across multiple brands then you will ideally need a smart assistant such as Amazons Alexa or Google home. This can be achieved through use of the apps via a mobile phone which is almost necessary to start with, but to truly take advantage of these assistants you will want a smart assistant device or hub such as an Amazon echo device or Google Nest Hub. With these devices you voice interact with the smart assistant to control your accounts and other smart devices through commands, questions and requests.
From here I will present my experience as I chose to go with an Amazon device, the Amazon Echo Show 8 which provides the advantage of an 8" touch screen with 1mp front facing camera and 10 watt speakers. I chose this due to my already existing prime account making it the sensible choice to invest in an amazon eco system to better utilise the prime music, books and tv applications already on my account.
Smart Compatible Security
For some the first step they take in to smart automated home tech is due to home security mostly video surveillance and smart tech can be good for this due to its wireless connectivity and compatibility with smart assistants like Alexa. In my setup I went for the Eufy Home Base 2 with 2 Eufy cameras, the advantage these gave me was the cameras are completely wireless with easy figment to any location indoor or outdoor. The homebase provides me with a locally stored memory with automatic loop to overwrite with the latest videos and with a camera battery life of a year on one full charge I can fit these and not be concerned about how soon I will need to grab them down again. With Amazon Alexa compatibility I can ask Alexa to show me either device on the echo show and provide me alerts when motion is detected. Also these devices can be used in routines to trigger other devices if say you wanted to activate an alarm or lights when motion is detected for a deterrent.
For most who start on the crazed and addictive path of smart automation, smart plugs have a big and convenient role to play with no electrical know how or bravery required. They provide the ability to voice control appliances or through Alexa's groups you can control entire rooms of appliances at the same time. For example you can turn on a lamp, TV and sound system all at once as well as turn them all off through a simple voice command like "Alexa, turn on Lounge". You can really begin to automate things once you start using routines where you can schedule the kettle to start boiling when your alarm goes off and turn on the TV and lights all in time for when you get downstairs. The version I opted for came via the company Linkind which are affordable, easy to setup and reliable. They also offer a variety of pack sizes with discounts on multi buy options.
Once you have had the taste of productive automation success you will then look to the heavens and notice your bulbs and wonder why you should have to be limited to turn them on an off and maybe look for more variety to match your mood with colours and the ability to set the brightness, because no one wants blasting with light first thing in the morning.
For these I found Linkinds version to be ideal, they are not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive and dependant on which you get you can have Wi-Fi RGB bulbs or dimmable standard light change bulbs that come with a zigbee mini hub to control. They obviously need the appliance to be switched on to control and if you don't turn them off at the switch you can control the on/off function, brightness and colour all via the app. These functions can all be linked to Alexa and controlled but there are more pre-sets controllable via the Linkind app that aren't compatible with Alexa such as party mode colour change if that's your thing. Again Alexa routines work perfectly with these devices for pre-set scenes or routine schedules.
Once you have your smart bulbs and if you have family you will very quickly become frustrated by the fact that you cannot use your smart bulbs remotely or on schedules due to the fact the family keep turning off the switch rendering them all useless! This is where a smart switch can be handy, you can do this easily with a bit of electrical knowledge or if in doubt hire an electrician. Also make sure you know which version you need either with or without a neutral wire connection and always make sure to isolate at the fuse board and double check the power is off at the points before starting. I opted for the BSEED smart Alexa touch switches which also look very nice with the illuminated power symbol and so far have been excellent and responsive.
After dealing with what's above your head it starts to become apparent there's helpful smart advances that can be made for below your feet too. One such way is with a Robot vacuum which you can link most brands with the most popular choices of Smart assistant allowing you to set schedules for automatic cycles of cleaning your home, setting different power modes and focused cleaning areas as well as edge detection and self power management. I chose the EUFY RoboVac G30 which provides excellent capacity and response, mapping of cleaning cycles and live error notifications. The only thing it cant do is clean itself!
These areas of smart technology are my recommendations and are clearly not everything and there are other devices and capabilities that may fill your vision and requirements better. I guess the point is for the home and office of tomorrow these things are becoming the norm today and technology is enabling us to make marginal gains and returns on our time through making the every day tasks more convenient based around our habits. So why not begin with some or all of these, as I did to to improve and facilitate better habits and environments for your day to day.