In relatively short order, Smart Home products have gone from being silver screen fantasy fodder to the real deal in terms of automated living. With a multitude of connected products available, and each having its own unique set of useful (and sometimes jaw-dropping) features, it’s easy to be impressed with smart home technology. In fact, some of these features and products have become so ingrained in our daily lives that it’s difficult to imagine going back to those simpler days before the advent of automated technology. Of course, this makes it difficult to choose which five smart home features it would be “impossible” to live without. Even so, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do today. Read on for my take on the top five smart home features you just can’t live without.
Easy, App-Based Control
One of the very best features of today’s smart home technology is its incredibly convenient (and always easy to use) app-based control. Now, with just your iOS or Android smart phone in hand, you can easily control virtually all of the electronics and appliances in your home simply by tapping an icon. This means you can do things like check the live feed of a smart security camera in your back yard, unlock a door for a returning family member, and turn off a bothersome light that’s disturbing your enjoyment of a movie—all without ever having to stir from the couch. Other benefits of app-based control include the ability to set timers (to control when your devices come on and go off), instant alerts when specific events occur (such as motion being detected by a smart light or security camera), and the ability to remotely check on things back home when you’re out and about. These examples represent just a small selection of the amazing things you can do with the many dedicated smart home apps that currently exist. I’d also like to point out that app control is just one method of smart home control that you can use. Others include voice control (via smart speakers and displays) and integration with other smart products and smart home ecosystems (which gets its own full category below).
Integration with Other Smart Products
As mentioned, another great feature of smart home technology is product integration—as in the ability for different smart home devices to all work together toward a common cause. One example of how this works is through the various smart home ecosystems. The major ecosystems today include Works with Nest, IFTTT (If This Then That), Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. Each of these systems has its own way of controlling your smart home devices, though Works with Nest is probably the one that I consider to be the most fully integrated.
The reason for this is that a single Works with Nest product can actually influence (and even fully control) the function of another compatible product without any input from the user at all. For instance, the Nest Protect Wi-Fi Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm can actually turn your Nest Thermostat off all by itself if it detects a carbon monoxide leak—a feature that could potentially save your life! What’s more, it can even have your Google Nest Cam record the entire incident (provided you have one and it’s pointing in the right direction at the time). This could help significantly when it comes to making an insurance claim, and yet we’re barely scratching the surface of the many amazing things that smart home integration can do.
As for the other ecosystems, IFTTT is an app that allows you to create (or use existing) command control strings that tell one smart home device to take a particular action in response to the actions of another smart home device. For instance, having an outside light come on automatically whenever the smart lock on a nearby door is opened. Both the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are voice-based control platforms that use smart speakers and displays to receive and carry out your verbal commands. Each works with a wide range of smart home products and devices (which are mostly the same, though there is some divergence between the two systems) to allow you to turn devices on and off (or perform some other action) simply by telling those devices to do so. And then there is Apple HomeKit, which combines some of the functionality of the other smart home ecosystems in its own special way, such as providing voice control through Siri and app-based control via your iPhone or related Apple product.
Home security isn’t really a single smart home feature; it’s actually a collection of smart home features that together make up one of the most important smart home benefits—the ability to protect your home and family from wherever you may be. Smart security also crosses a variety of different product types, including Security Cameras (which allow you to keep an eye on your home whether you’re there or not), Smart Locks & Door Bells (giving you control over who has access to your home, and when), Security Alarms & Motion Sensors (to detect and warn you about things like smoke, carbon monoxide, or potential trespassers to your property), and even Smart Lights (which expose the darkest nooks and crannies of your home and yard to bright illumination that keeps away all the shadow dwelling sneaks and scoundrels). Since there are so many different ways to secure your home and protect your family with smart home products, I couldn’t choose just a single feature to cover, so I’m lumping them all together into a single point. After all, each of these product types complements all of the others to build a zone of protection around you, your home, and your family.
Track Your Home’s Energy Consumption
Another great feature of certain smart home products (among them you’ll find the likes of Smart Switches & Plugs, as well as Smart Thermostats) is the ability to track, plot, and analyze your home’s energy consumption over time. Take, for instance, the Nest Wi-Fi Smart Learning Thermostat (which was briefly mentioned and linked to above). This thermostat doesn’t merely monitor and analyze your home’s energy consumption—it actually uses Nest’s smart learning technology to learn the schedule of your comings and goings (as well as your heating and cooling habits and preferences) over time to make the adjustments to your thermostat for you, thus reducing your energy and heating bill by as much as 20%. It does this by using the raw data it collects to analyze and program itself automatically. It’s almost scary how intuitive and impressive this technology is, yet it’s only one small example of how modern smart home tech can monitor, analyze, and ultimately reduce your home’s overall energy consumption. It really is quite amazing!
Finally, there’s the ability to communicate with friends and family from anywhere (whether just down the hall or half way around the world), with today’s Smart Speakers (typically either Alexa or Google Assistant enabled) and Smart Displays (which are effectively smart speakers with built-in viewing screens). This particular feature of smart home technology is one of the newer ones on the list, and what really makes it invaluable is the way it can be used for face to face video calling on high quality screens that make it feel like your friends and family members are right there in the room with you. Some of the latest smart displays even have the ability to track your movements with their built-in cameras, meaning you can talk to someone while you move about the room (perhaps chatting to a family member while cooking something in the kitchen). Yet another truly impressive advancement of today’s smart home technology!
And there you have it—five smart home features you simply can’t live without! For more Smart Home products and information, visit Best Buy’s online hub today and see what else is available.