Smart home technology feels like it’s constantly changing, so how do you know what’s best and most affordable for your home? We’ve gone through the 2017 and 2018 updates for some of America’s most popular connected home technologies, and below we offer our take on the newest and best. Do you have experience with any of these brands? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
No one has cornered the smart home market like Amazon. In September, the tech giant unleashed almost 70 new features and products in their smart home Alexa suite. The most notable products for homeowners include:
- Alexa-powered Basic Microwave. Yup. You can now cook with your voice. And because it’s an Amazon product, you can ask Alexa for food-specific advice, or reorder popcorn through your microwave on Amazon Dash.
- Stick Up Camera. There had to be a better name for this, but Amazon is building a vertical indoor/outdoor camera to accompany the Ring smart doorbell series. It’s small and tidy and has some nice dual smart home/security features.
- Smart Plug. This little wall feature comes Wifi ready and lets you turn lights or appliances on or off from your phone.
- Amazon Guard. Probably the biggest addition this year was the new security feature that pulls existing smart home products together into a cohesive, remotely controllable system. Guard combines the Ring doorbell, the smart lighting, and Echo devices to run your home like someone is always there and keep you updated when there’s activity in the house.
- Echo Auto. Amazon also launched a little gadget to take your Echos on the go. It plugs into your car, has apps and tasks focused on safe driving and in-car entertainment and wayfinding, and is (obviously) hands-free.
Following in Amazon’s footsteps, Google has continued to modify and adapt their virtual assistant for more home-related tasks. In 2018, Google Home expanded to include controls for smart thermostats, security cameras, lights, smart plugs, locks, appliances, and more from a wide variety of external or popular brands.
Google’s advantage is that adding or integrating a new device is incredibly straightforward, and if Android is your phone brand of choice, Google is your default system assistant. Basically, Google has done a great job of building an ecosystem that works pretty seamlessly together.
They also bought Nest, the smart home thermostat, in the last couple years, and Nest has expanded out into smart doorbells, smoke alarms and detectors, cameras and security systems, and even smart lights.
As a leading player in the tech and Internet of Things (IoT) fields, you’d expect Apple to be competing in the smart home arena, but so far they’ve failed to show up. They do have a product called HomeKit but compared to Google and Amazon, HomeKit is lightyears behind. In their product releases this year, there were no mentions of updates to HomeKit or Siri, the voice assistant who helps control HomeKit.
Once a pretty standard home security company, Vivint has been edging rapidly into the home automation space and adding more than just security features. They now are compatible with Nest smart thermostats and work with Google Wifi to improve the reliability of home security products like smart doorbells and security cameras. Keep an eye on Vivint as home automation technology continues to expand.
There is a score of smart products available right now that can at the very least be controlled remotely from your smartphone:
- Vacuums and mops
- Ceiling fans
- Sprinkler systems
- Speakers and TVs
- Pet monitors and baby monitors
- Crockpots and coffee pots and kitchen thermometers
- And even a vanity mirror
The point is, in the next couple years, the market will be inundated with “smart” home automation technologies, but not all of them will improve your security, your sanity, or your wallet. Do your research, consider the home assistant you currently use and be sure to double-check compatibility before investing in a new smart home product.