Hubert Burda Media

What goes into a smart home?


WE’VE evolved rapidly from a cave-dwelling Flintstone-esque species to mobile natives who are always seeking out the latest gadgets. There’s a little parallel play going on here: As we get more intelligent, so do our homes. They’re not just primitive housing solutions anymore.

Almost every element of our abodes can be “smart-ified”, from our window blinds to air-conditioning. Hell, we can even have motion sensors installed in our homes at affordable rates these days.

But why should we switch to a smarter home? CEO and co-founder of local smart home initiative Home-A-Genius Romel Chua thinks that it’s because we might go through something called ‘decision fatigue,’ a term coined by social psychologist Dr Roy Baumeister. If — especially after a long day — you feel drained even thinking about the most irrelevant things, that’s decision fatigue for you.

“We’re already filled with so many responsibilities, including stress from work. Home automation helps us with the trivial things,” said Chua. Imagine coming home after putting in 12 hours at the office to a cooled-down apartment, a hot shower ready, and some tunes gently playing. Wouldn’t that be so convenient? That’s what smart homes do.

So what actually goes into a smart home? There’s a lot, actually, but the gist of it according to Chua is: “A smart home should make your life truly easier with the help of technology.” This isn’t as dystopian as it sounds, and robots aren’t poised to take over the world (yet, anyway). Our lives can be complemented with technology, as evident by our dependence on smartphones and the Internet anyway.

If you’re keen on making your home a little more intelligent, keep on reading for a basic guide on how to get started with your first smart home.

The Hub

smart home
The Apple HomePod. (Photo: Apple)

A smart home wouldn’t be smart without the brain, and that would be your smart device. It could be your smartphone or your tablet, which functions as an anchor controlling and configuring all the various scenarios. For this writer’s smart home, most apps are controlled via an iPhone.

Another essential part of your smart home are the ears, which come in the form of Google’s Assistant/Home, Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s Siri/HomePod. Choose the system that fits your lifestyle the best. If you’re a Google user through and through, the Google Home is a no-brainer. Likewise, for those devoted to the Apple ecosystem, iOS/macOS fanboys would benefit greatly from Siri and the HomePod instead.

Amazon’s Alexa strikes the perfect balance between the two, but it’s not as widely available in Singapore as of yet.

Lighting

smart home
The Philips Hue Bridge is the heart of all the lights. (Photo: Philips)

Surely you would be somewhat familiar with the plethora of smart lighting devices, even if you’ve never used one. The most common product in this category is the Philips Hue series of bulbs and light strips. It might seem trivial, but when you wake up at 3 AM in the morning needing to take a piss, wandering your hallways in the dark of night isn’t the safest. When paired with a smart motion detector, you don’t have to feel blindly for the light switch. You can even configure your lights to automatically turn on or off with a geofence.

At the heart of the myriad of Philips Hue light sources is the Hue Bridge. The device acts as the link between your bulbs/light strips and the Internet. Fun fact: You can even sync your lights to whatever is on your TV or computer screen, multiplying that immersion factor by tenfold for your movies and games.

smart home
The Nanoleaf panels will make any wall a statement. (Photo: Nanoleaf)

Another name you should familiarise yourself with is Nanoleaf. If you’ve ever seen envy-inducing battlestations with a lit-up wall installation, that’s Nanoleaf for you. The company makes modular LED light panels that can change colour at your whim.

While they aren’t going to light up your entire house, these panels will spruce up and give your residence some pizzazz. The best part? Nanoleafs are sustainable and extremely eco-friendly. Score one for the planet.

Essentials

smart home
Turn any dumb device smart with smart plugs, like this one from Belkin. (Photo: Belkin)

Chua suggests the next step in smartening your home would be everyday essentials like your water heater (if you don’t have centralised hot water) and air-conditioning. Don’t worry about your television, as chances are if you did upgrade it in the last three years, it should have smart features built in. If not, you can just grab yourself a Chromecast or an Apple TV.

Even if you have some “dumb” devices, you can always just make them smart with a smart plug. They act as a sort of ‘on-off’ switch for your device, like a tower fan. Do they feed your laziness? Yeah, that’s a no brainer. You don’t even have to get out of your massage chair to enjoy some cool indoor breeze, just mumble some words that start with “Alexa…”

smart home
An Apple TV can also make any old television intelligent. Just make sure you can plug it in! (Photo: Neil Godwin/Getty Images)

Heck, even your Roomba can be activated with a tap from your smart home, just in case you were having some guests over and your place needs a little spick and span.

Research

Before you go trigger-happy and add all these products to your shopping cart, it’s imperative to do some research on what you need versus what you want. There’s also the problem of compatibility: Are you going to stick with one brand, or are you diversifying your products to the point where you need to download 10 apps just to enable your devices? We highly recommend the former, as it makes running things a lot more efficient and won’t give you a bigger headache setting everything up.

When all’s said and done, what you want to accomplish with your smart home should be an added layer of convenience to your life. Gone are the days of the question: “Did I remember to turn off the lights?” In this age of automation, maybe humans and robots can live together under one roof, after all.

Awesome Digital

You may like this