Many of us are already living in the future. Not convinced? Just watch an old episode of The Jetsons. The sci-fi cartoon family has some of the same gadgets we have, like electronic tablets, vacuum cleaners, drones and smartwatches. Rosie the robot helped might be more sophisticated than a Roomba vacuum cleaner, but the end result is the same.
Technology has taken a hold of all aspects of our lives, including our homes. For the uninitiated, here’s a step-by-step guide to making your condo smart.
Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri?
Gearing up for your smart home starts with choosing the right smart assistant. Google Assistant and Alexa are very intuitive and affordable. If you have no experience with smart home devices, you can start with a Google Home Mini or an Amazon Echo, which start at around $35 when on sale. If you swear by Apple, the HomeKit and Airplay 2 are still compatible with many brands, but to a lesser extent. The HomePod’s price starts at $399, but its sound quality is comparable to the Google Home Max, which is in the same price range. It’s been recently announced that Google, Amazon and Apple are working on an open-source smart home standard, which will make it easier for new products to sync with your voice assistant.
If you’re looking for premium sound quality and functionality, Bose, Polk and Sonos have Alexa-enabled soundbars which can be discretely placed right under your television. This would eliminate the need for an Echo or Google Home device, while providing (almost) audiophile level sound quality. By connecting a smart soundbar to your TV’s ARC channel with a HDMI cable, you’ll be able to control your TV with your voice.
Once you’ve enabled voice control for TV and music, you can now focus on your home security system. You can replace your traditional doorbell by a Ring or Nest Hello, making it possible to see who’s knocking on your door from your phone. Security cameras are also now very accessible. The Google Nest Cam and Wyze Cam are among the leaders in affordable security video cameras. This is no substitute to the traditional wired security and fire alarm system, which is more pricey, but can also reduce the monthly cost of your home insurance. If you’re living in a condo building with a security desk, you may not need security cameras, unless you want to use them as a baby monitor or to look after your pet when you’re at work.
A few years ago, robotic vacuum cleaners seemed far-fetched. Thanks to iRobot and many other brands that have followed suit, you can now get a voice-controlled robot vacuum cleaner for under $400. The difference between the high-end and the low-end is that the cheaper ones won’t map out your home. They use a random algorithm to cover most of your space, so they may end up hitting the same spot more than once on the same day. Some of them have remote controls, dust bins and attachments. Robots are a disruptive force in the vacuum cleaner industry, and this trend will most probably continue for the years to come.
Smart Lights, Switches, Blinds and Appliances
The Philips Hue system allows you to change the colors and intensity of your lighting based on your mood or the time of the day. This can even be triggered by sunrise and sunset, or simply by saying ” Alexa, I’m home”. Traditional brands like Samsung, Breville, GE, LG and Whirlpool are now offering app-controlled smart appliances, including fridges, ovens and coffee makers.
As for smart blinds, there are high end brands such as Lutron and Axis Gear, and cheaper options such as Ikea’s FYRTUR product line. Since the Swedish furniture behemoth isn’t a tech firm, they have lagged in the field of smart home appliances, but they are quickly catching up, namely with the Sonos Symfonisk smart speaker collaboration.
We advise you to do your homework before getting smart blinds, by appropriately measuring your window’s dimensions. If you lack home improvement skills, it’s probably best you hire someone who knows how to use a drill.
Once your home is wired up, each smart device will be connected to your 2.4 GHz wifi network. This can become a serious issue with your standard router provided by your internet service provider. When you have over 15 devices connected at once to the same router, it can go offline or boot out some of your devices. All of a sudden, a corner of your home can go dark because of poor WiFi coverage. If you’re living in a larger space, one simple solution to this is to purchase a mesh router system, which usually includes more than one device so you can have optimal coverage at each corner of your home. Google, TP Link, Eero and Linksys now provide mesh router systems that provide full coverage for large homes. The Google Nest WiFi actually has a Google Home smart speaker integrated in it. It’s surprising that they’re the first company to include both functions in a single device. Looking back, it seems like a no-brainer. Another advantage is that most of these routers offer cybersecurity options not offered by conventional routers.
At MTL Développement, we think that the explosion of consumer technology can be beneficial for homeowners looking for more convenience. Our upcoming projects will integrate some smart features to ensure you make the most of your space.