smarthomepic.jpgWe’re now one week into 2016. Have you held true to the resolution (or resolutions) that you set? It’s common that you may set health and fitness resolutions for your personal life but did you set any sort of Home Improvement ones too?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently posted that one of his 2016 missions was to make his home smarter. While Zuckerberg’s budget is billions of dollars more than the average homeowner and may not include the need for a robot butler (which he wants to have invented,) it’s time for you to kick that Home Improvement resolution into effect. It’s time to look at making your home smarter.

The most important thing about having a smart home

As with most home projects that could stretch out to multiple rooms, it’s hard to think about where to get started. I’m going to answer that question right away and urge you to go a bit outside the box with your thinking. The best place to get started isn’t actually with a smarthome product at all. It’s the foundation of a smart home: The internet connection. Without a good internet connection, you’re hooped. Very few smarthome products work without a stable connection. Whether this means you need a new router or just need to call your internet service provider to boost signal (or send you a newer modem) this is so very crucial.

Don’t worry about the number of bands your network needs though. You can run everything on a single band network just fine.


Will any smart devices run a smart home?

The short answer is no, and this is where you’ll want to be really careful about the products you select. If yours is a predominantly Android household, you won’t see 100% market compatibility. The majority of devices out there can run on both iOS and Android devices, while a small percentage run on iPhones (not even iPads) only. Windows Phone support is very slim and Blackberry compatible devices are next to none. Thankfully, newer Blackberry devices allow you to side load Android apps, so you’re able to select your devices that way if you have something like a Z10.

Where should I get started?

Ah yes. This is the most loaded question of any multi-room home improvement-style projects. The instructional trainer in me wants to press the question back on you and ask “What do you want your home to do?” but realistically, I think the best place to start isn’t actually inside your house. It’s outside. While bragging rights about the cool stuff your home can do are one thing, they exist to make your life easier. That’s why I think a device thAugustLock.jpgat lets you into your home easier/faster is a no brainer. What this looks like to you is based on your current home space. Do you and your family enter/exit the home through your garage all the time? My Chamberlain MyQ has saved my butt time and again and not just for my sake. I’ve had friends coming by to drop things off. I’ve had my parents picking my daughter up from daycare early and come back to our house while my wife and I were at work. All of those times, I’ve been able to whip my phone out and let them into the house through my garage and then fire them an eKey on my automatic deadbolt. It beats the old fashioned way of cutting house keys, that’s for sure.

If you don’t have a garage and enter in through the front door, consider an automatic deadbolt. Weiser’s Kevo was one of the first to the market, but they require you to remove your deadbolt altogether and use their designated keys. Something like August locks lets you keep your existing lockup and while still syncing up with your smartphone. It even has a feature that authenticates you automatically as you approach (through Bluetooth) and unlocks the door automatically so you neither have to fumble for your keys nor phone.

Keeping your Smart Home safer and more secure

2015 brought massive growth to the Smart Security market. I swear that the number of options out there tripled overnight. Outside the home, security camera technology pretty has remained the same, as have standard smart security systems. There isn’t a lot of growth to talk about out there with the exception of smanos, who have an extremely comprehensive hub system which caters to everything from infrared technology around the perimeter of your home to sensors that sit on your fence and can warn your smart devices if somebody hops it and is trying to get inside. Their product line is growing in Canada, so check back often to see what else is available. Here’s a good head start on what you can get right now though.

ErinMyFox.jpgThe biggest market growth I saw actually comes in the home. IP Cameras have gone from being an extreme specialty to fairly commonplace. Thankfully, there is enough difference between products that you can make a pretty good choice based on what you’re interested in. Here are some of those unique features:

  • Withings offers air quality sensors and can double as a lullaby-filled baby monitor
  • Canary does too and also has selective recording capability that comes on only when its necessary.
  • MyFox (pictured at left) offers a motorized privacy door if you don’t crave continuous, around the clock recording.
  • Nest Cam features a large scale (paid) archiving service that can save weeks of recording data for you.
  • Netatmo offers facial recognition to help cut down on the number of false alarm notifications you may receive.

This is scratching the surface and may be a topic of its own for the future. In the meantime, keep an eye on the growing number of cameras out there. The perfect one may be waiting for you right now.

Next steps

If you find the first couple devices to be a great success, it’s time to move on inside the house where the sky’s the limit. Do you want an in-house security system or security cameras? A smart thermostat? Safety sensors? Here’s where things get both interesting and fun. Many Smarthome devices interface with each other now through apps (like Muzzley) or through partnerships like Works with Nest so it’s worth your time to do some research and figure out if you want everything to somehow work together (and how) or if you’re ok to buy each product as it comes up just because you like it more than the next.

NestThermostat3.jpgMy next personal recommendation would be getting a big ticket cost out of the way. Is this a fancy new security system with outdoor cameras or is it perhaps a new smart thermostat? I’d personally recommend making the next purchase a Nest learning thermostat. With Nest’s “Works with Nest” program, you’ll have easy access to a growing number of products that can interface with it, not to mention that it’s engineered to help you save some money on your monthly power bills. “That’s a nice thing to have” I say to myself as I sit here waiting for sub-zero temperatures to roll in overnight.

Here’s another tip to keep in mind: Nest is owned by Alphabet (the parent company of Google.) That means that a world of possibilities is endless when you have one of the world’s most powerful technological allies at your side. Nest also offers smart carbon monoxide detectors (called the Nest Protect) if you’re interested in something like that for your next add-on.

If you don’t want to do it yourself

If you’ve got whatever is the Home Improvement equivalent to two left feet like I do, you may want to bring someone into your home to install all of your newest gadgets. Best Buy’s renowned Geek Squad is here and able to help install all of your new goodies. If you’re stuck and in need of a bit of advice too, they can come by and do a free in-home consultation to help you get your network set up. Be sure to have a look at the growing number of smart home products available at Best Buy and find the products that cater to your needs.

We live in a technological world and using it to your advantage has never been easier. Best wishes for a great 2016. By the way, I’ll keep you in the loop if an affordable robot butler becomes available for all of us.



Matt Paligaru
Emerging Technology
A technology nut at heart, I'm always interested in what makes our lives easier and helps us tick day to day. Whether Home Automation, toys, games (board and video) or everything in between, I'm always looking around the corner to see what drives us in today's day and age.