January 22, 2020
Technology has transformed the way we connect, share and even live, with the rise of smart home technology in recent years. And while at first it might seem overwhelming or even unnecessary, building a connected home can save time and money, all while helping you live more sustainably. Wondering where to start? Read on for our 5 step guide to building a more connected home.
1. Assess and prioritize your needs.
Understand what problem you want the technology to solve, as well as your home and lifestyle needs. Some key questions to ask yourself include:
- What features and benefits are most important? (convenience, security, sustainability, comfort, etc.)
- Will you have the time to invest in setting everything up or should you hire a professional?
- Do you have a reliable, fast internet connection? Smart hubs and digital assistants like Alexa & Google Home require a stable internet connection.
2. Understand the ecosystem.
Interoperability, or the ability for all devices to work together seamlessly, is the key to truly building a connected home. Instead of using your phone to turn off the lights and TV, lock the door, set the alarm, close the blinds and do everything else to prepare for the night, everything can be programmed to function on a schedule. Without interoperability, you might have to use a separate app to control each device, which can be time consuming and frustrating.
3. Understand how the devices function.
All smart home devices operate on an internal system controlled by Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth or Z-Wave. While there are a number of articles that share in depth comparisons, here’s a cheat sheet.
- Wi-Fi/Zigbee: since most devices in the home operate on Wi-Fi and use the 2.4GHz frequency, there is a greater chance of interference with these devices.
- Bluetooth: devices that are operated by Bluetooth offer no remote access, meaning you have to be nearby with your phone to operate the device, and have no control when away from home. We do not recommend devices operated by Bluetooth.
Z-Wave: the best, in our opinion. The Z-Wave ecosystem encompasses more than 3,000 interoperable products from more than 700 leading worldwide brands. Z-Wave devices have minimal frequency interference because not many devices use the same 908Mhz frequency. In addition, Z-Wave certification guarantees interoperability, meaning all Z-Wave devices will communicate and work with one another regardless of the brand. These products work together through stringent enforcement of Z-Wave certification, performed at independent test labs, and overseen by the Z-Wave Alliance.
4. Select a smart hub (we recommend SmartThings).
While it’s not required, a smart hub can bridge the gap between each of your devices making interoperability a breeze. This stretches beyond the limited functionality of Alexa and Google Home, which can act as hubs for Wi-Fi devices but do not support multiple protocols. A hub like SmartThings, however, allows all devices, whether Z-Wave, Zigbee or Wi-Fi to communicate with one another.
5. Select your smart home starter products.
The products you select to build (or even expand) your smart home largely depend on the priorities you outlined at the beginning of this guide. We recommend starting with the following:
- A hub like SmartThings that supports multi-protocol (Z-Wave, Zigbee & Wi-Fi – not Bluetooth)
- A digital assistant like Alexa or Google Home
- Smart lights to help save on energy costs
- Door, window and motion sensors for security and convenience
- Smart window covering devices like iBlinds for endless benefits like comfort, convenience, security, energy savings and more!
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