How to get started with a smart home

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There are many reasons to admire smart home technology. But how do you actually set up a smart home? Here’s your very own quickstart guide, complete with Gadget Flow recommendations.

  • What is the best new smart home technology in 2019? Check out our comprehensive roundup of smart home tech from CES.
  • Which should I choose: Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomeKit? Right now, Alexa is compatible with more devices and commands. But otherwise, it comes down to personal preference.
  • How do you set up smart home devices? That’s what this guide is all about — keep reading for the full lowdown.

In the past year, smart home technology has really taken off. But as with any new technology, early adopters face some challenges.

What is the best smart home system? Which devices should you buy? How exactly do you connect and control all your smart devices? We set out to answer these questions and highlight our favorite options.

What is the best smart home security system?

Your choice of control system dictates what your smart home can do, and which smart devices you can install. Right now, the two leading systems are Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Both allow you to control smart devices with voice commands.

How to get started with a smart home

A smart speaker and Wi-Fi is all you need

All you need is either a smart speaker or a smartphone, and a home Wi-Fi network. They are pretty straightforward to set up — it’s a bit like pairing Bluetooth devices. (Here are the official guides: Amazon Alexa and Google Home)

Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings are two more systems that operate in a similar manner. Being less mature, however, they are compatible with a much smaller range of smart devices.

For HomeKit, you will need a HomePod, an Apple TV, or a current iOS device. For SmartThings, you will need a Bixby smart speaker or a compatible mobile device. Both systems also require Wi-Fi. (Here are the official set-up guides: Homekit and SmartThings).

 - How to get started with a smart home

Google Home is a popular system

The other major option is IFTTT. This online platform works in harmony with the systems mentioned above, allowing you to automate your home. For instance, you can make your lights turn on automatically when a storm is forecast, or mute your TV when your phone rings.

You can access IFTTT via most smart speakers, through the IFTTT mobile app, and on the web.

What are the best smart speakers?

It’s perfectly possible to access Google Home and Amazon Alexa via your smartphone. However, it’s much easier to control your smart home through a smart speaker or display. Here are our favorites:

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart Speaker

The latest Echo Dot is the ideal starting point for your smart home. The speaker is small and very affordable (under $30), giving you access to Alexa and IFTTT.

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart Speaker - How to get started with a smart home

The Echo Dot is powerful and affordable

Google Home Hub Smart Display

This device combines the features of a smart speaker with the touchscreen of a tablet. This allows you to use voice commands, while also being able to check settings and make adjustments with a couple of taps.

Apple HomePod Speaker

As you would expect from an Apple product, the HomePod is both beautifully designed and quite expensive. However, this stunning smart speaker offers much better audio quality than most.

Apple HomePod Speaker - How to get started with a smart home

HomePod is the hub for HomeKit

What are the best smart home security devices?

Wondering how to start kitting out your smart home? Try these smart security devices:

Arlo Pro 2 Smart HD Security Camera by NETGEAR

This waterproof and wireless security camera can detect intruders and sound the alarm. You can also request a 1080p livestream from the camera on any Alexa device with a screen.

Yale Assure Lock Slim Touchscreen Deadbolt

This secure deadbolt lock lets you create custom unlock codes for friends and visitors. It also integrates with many security systems, along with HomeKit and Alexa.

What are the best smart lights?

Smart lighting is another great upgrade for your home. Here are a couple of the better options:

Philips Hue Ambiance Starter Kit

This kit from Philips includes two smart bulbs, a bridge, and a dimmer switch. You can control up to 50 bulbs with the bridge, and the system works with both Alexa and IFTTT.

Philips Hue Ambiance Starter Kit - How to get started with a smart home

Create the perfect lighting setup with Philips Hue

Elgato Eve Flare Portable Smart LED Lamp

This beautiful orb of light is actually a portable lamp. The Eve Flare is also lightweight and water-resistant, and you can control the lamp with HomeKit via Siri.

Elgato Eve Flare Portable Smart LED Lamp - How to get started with a smart home

The Eve Flare LED lamp is portable

What are the coolest smart home gadgets?

What about the rest of your home? These devices should fulfil your smart home cravings:

Ikea Smart Window Blinds

When you wake up in the morning, you can open these smart blinds without getting out of bed. They are completely wireless, and they work with Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit.

Kohler Konnect Sensate Smart Kitchen Sink Faucet

This intelligent faucet remembers exactly how much water fills your kettle and other receptacles. In addition, you can set the temperature of the water using voice commands. It works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit.

TP-Link Smart Plug Mini

Few people can afford to replace every device in their home with a smart equivalent. But with the TP-Link smart plug, you can control and automate “dumb” appliances via Alexa and Google.

Get started with your smart home

Are you planning to make your home smart? Maybe you have already kitted out your house? Tell us in the comments!

The Gadget Flow Daily Digest highlights and explores the latest in tech trends to keep you informed. Want it straight to your inbox? Subscribe now.

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Meet Mark Myerson

Mark is best known for writing about apps, but he also loves the tactile, hardware side of technology. Being a professional photographer, he's pretty handy with a camera, and he's a self-confessed tweetaholic.

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