Last year I discovered the joys of a smart home…no, not the minimalist, uncluttered, sleek living space I’d like to live in, it’s a home with ‘connected’ gadgets. I’m a gadget freak and proud ✌?
It all began with my beloved Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated home assistant…
All I really needed was some kind of bluetooth speaker so I could play music from my phone/laptop into my house but somehow I stumbled upon Alexa who would play music on voice-command through the speaker, as well as perform a few other not-well-understood-by-me functions which sounded very cool!
When she arrived, she opened my eyes to the possibilities of how she could change my life. And so the love affair began ?
It continued with Nest. No, not nesting after my divorce and becoming a single parent…my smart thermostat. It’s a smart thermostat that lets me turn on my heating while I’m away from the house with my phone (though usually I remember when I’m about 3ft away from my front door ? Just ask Becky.).
It also ‘learns’ from my own routines, adjustments and tweaks, and creates an automatic schedule to turn the heating on and off, according to my needs…though my erratic schedule is clearly a step too far at the moment, since the schedule it suggests is crap!
I get a monthly report to see how efficient I’ve been and how many leafs (I know grammatically it should be ‘leaves’) I’ve earned in comparison with all other Nest users in my country. The first month I was in the top 5% of Nest users which means I’d been super efficient with my heating and hot water. I’ve slipped down the rankings somewhat since then. Competitive? Who me?
Then I discovered the joys of smart bulbs…
These are light bulbs which I can switch on and off with an app on my phone (whether at home or not), change to any colour of the rainbow when I so fancy, can switch on by voice, and that can even dance – when I say dance, I mean switch on and off and change colour automatically – in time to the music.
I now have them in almost every room of my house which means I can…
- Switch the kids’ bedroom to nightlight mode once I’ve closed the door and let them faff for a bit.
- Turn off lights downstairs when I’m in bed, that I’ve either forgotten to turn off or have had to leave on if I’ve had to run upstairs to a screaming Samson and ended up getting back into bed with him.
- Switch the lights on before we get home, or when we’re out to deter anyone from thinking we’re not in.
- Impress (or scare) the hell out of anyone who visits when I switch the lights on and off unexpectedly from elsewhere, and/or ask Alexa to turn them on when I walk into a room.
Around the same time, I discovered smart plugs. I have lamps plugged into these which can then be controlled much like my lights, by an app on my phone and which can be set to switch on/off to a schedule. I wondered if I could plug my kettle in to one so I could switch it on as I was arriving home, but it doesn’t actually press the ‘on’ switch on a device, it simply turns the plug on/off so there’s a step missing.
Next on my hit list is a smart smoke alarm (from Nest), and possibly Google Chromecast or similar to be able to control my TV with my voice (though it’s not compatible with Alexa).
And I’d really like a smart lock for my front door to be able to give access to people if I’m not in but I haven’t really found one that works how I want it to or seems easy to install.
Tip: This would work really well if you Airbnb a place, have frequent visitors, or want to let tradesmen in etc.
I also really, really want a smart oven – one you can turn on when you’re away from home so it’s warmed up nicely when you’re back but I hear they don’t exactly do that yet (unless you’re already in your house) so I’m not sure what the point is.
All in all, I’m sold. Clearly.
I have a small niggle in my head about the safety of (a) the energy of all the wireless connections in my house and the wellness implications of that (b) being so wirelessly connected from a security point of view, but so far I can convince myself not to obsess over these aspects and simply enjoy being so ‘smart’ ?
If I have at all whet your appetite and you’d like to be smart too, here are a few things to consider…
- There are a few options and they’re not all compatible. The key is the ‘hub’ – do you want to use Alexa or Google’s Home system for voice-operated commands? Look into the range of other products & services that are compatible with each. Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) is currently the leader with thousands of compatible products.
- Check out what apps are compatible with your phone system (iPhone, Android etc.); and consider using a ‘home’ app which is compatible with all your smart devices if you don’t want to be accessing 10 separate apps to control everything.
- Smart devices aren’t always cheap but there are often offers available e.g. Nest recently had a free Google Home mini on offer with any purchase, and you can often get multiple packs of smart bulbs/plugs for cheaper than individual ones.
There are of course further things to consider – the above are the ones that tripped me up – but I’m not going to drone on and on (and reveal even more how much of a gadget freak I am) when a quick Google search will yield far more than I could probably offer. If you’re smart, you’ll figure it out or ask me anyway – I am always happy to talk gadgets!!! ?