If you're thinking of building yourself a smart home, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you get underway. We've got a few tips and tricks that will help you make sure your smart house doesn't get overly complicated, and that it only serves to make your home life that little bit more efficient.
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1. It's not easy
The first thing to know about building a smart home in 2016 is that it's not easy — there is no standard protocol or all-powerful hub. Unfortunately, smart devices are still in the VHS v. Beta Max stage of their development.
Many companies are trying to build walled-off ecosystems, devices often can't or won't talk to each other. Cobbling together group of devices that you love, that work for you, and that can all communication and interact with each other, is no mean feat. And doing so can be a major chore.
2. You Can Go Too Far
Nowadays you can buy "smart" everything — from trashcans to jars. They all claim to save you time and energy, and added functionality — like tracking nutrition, but they can be more trouble than they're worth. Connecting it all takes time, as does making sure it stays connected (how much are you looking forward to re-connecting 25 devices next time your WiFi details change?).
3. Loads Of Smart Essentials Don't Work In Oz, Yet
Unfortunately, much of the coolest new tech is very much designed for company's home markets. Take Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, for example. As Rae Johnston found out, you have to employ numerous workarounds to get it to work, and then, not living in America limits a lot of functionality. You may not get the shiniest new toy, but buying stuff officially available in Australia does have benefits.
4. Brand Loyalty May Save You
Smart homes are one of those rare occasions when being brand loyal can actually save you — the various products may not be best in category, but they will be able to talk to each other. Take the Samsung range of connected household appliances and devices - ovens, washing machines, air conditioners and fridges etc. These can quite easily connect to each other as well as the Samsung Smart Home app - a hub that can automate certain combinations. Sticking with just one brand allows you to overcome the lack of a universal protocol, although, it also means you are at the mercy of one company.
5. "Dumb" May Suit You Better
As we've noted, there are probably far too many smart devices on the market nowadays, and those that are often aren't that smart. Or that user friendly. Given this, you might be better off just going for a regular "dumb" device instead.
Take some smart TV's. Smart Tv's are probably a good idea, in theory. But in reality they are often so full of bloat, and with such poor user interfaces, that you long for the day when you could just switch it on and watch something.
6. Smart Homes Are Hackable.
You are only as secure as the weakest link. And, as we've noted, thanks to the lack of universal protocols and effective hubs, smart homes often end up as bodged, cobbled-together networks of devices. This is a security nightmare.
And this isn't a theoretical fear either, researchers have already proven they can infiltrate Samsung's SmartThings smart home hub. Imagine if a criminal was able to disable your smart lock, after worming their way in through a bug in your smart fridge.
7. You Need A Good Router
A router is the cornerstone of your smart home — it's what allows everyone and everything to connect to each other, to update and orient themselves. And for some devices, operating on a range extender isn't an option. This isn't the place to skimp when you're budgeting. Ensure you get a high quality router — something that gives you a strong signal over your entire home, that can accept all connections.
8. You May Need To Work Around Your Landlord And Strata
Depending on where you live, you may not be able to go the whole hog when it comes to smart tech — your landlord may not be up to install smart thermostats or alarms. However, there is plenty of smart tech that can work within the rules — smart bulbs like the Philips Hue can slot into your existing fittings, there are even some smart locks that work on top of your existing deadbolt.
9. You Can Integrate "Dumb" Tech Into A Smart System
Remember, no matter how "smart" your device, its the hub or service that controls it all that does all the work — turning on lights with IFTTT etc. Combining the right dumb and smart technology — such as an old lamp with a Belkin WeMo Switch. With the right dose of imagination and connecting technology, you can do a lot with a little.
10. Talk To An Expert
When it comes to smart devices it can really pay to talk to an expert — someone who knows the complex world of home automation, what can work with what, what is possible. This goes double if you're planning an all-out build, integrating things like photo-voltaic panels and anything involving 240-volt electric wiring. You can find some tips from experts in home automation here.