This episode of Featured App of the Week focuses on how to quickly, easily, and inexpensively transform your home into a smart home, and then use your smartphone or tablet to control your smart devices and appliances from virtually anywhere in the world via an Internet connection.
The products and services mentioned within this episode include:
Featured App of the Week – Episode #38
Welcome back to the Featured App of the Week podcast. I’m Jason Rich. In this episode, the focus is on creating a smart home, using your smartphone or tablet as a remote-control device for the “smart” equipment you choose to install within your home.
What makes a device or appliance “smart” is its ability to connect directly to the Internet, so that it can be programmed, managed, or controlled remotely via an Internet-connected mobile device, computer, or smart speaker.
Thanks to recent advancements in technology, creating a smart home has never been easier or less expensive. To do this, you’ll need to replace certain existing equipment within your home with “smart” devices or “smart” appliances. In many cases, you can do this yourself, without hiring a professional installer.
When it comes to creating a smart home, the easiest options include being able to control lights, the temperature, the window shades, and/or the door locks in your home.
If you want to get a little more adventurous, it’s relatively simple to install a smart home security system that includes video cameras which allow you to see what’s happening within your home or around your home - from your smartphone’s screen - from anywhere in the world, as long as there’s an Internet connection.
There are also countless smart appliances you can get for your kitchen, such as: a smart refrigerator, convection oven, toaster, or coffee machine.
Every kitchen appliance manufacturer incorporates smart technologies in a different way, so be sure to shop around for the functionality you want and that you’ll find beneficial. Prices for smart kitchen appliances also vary greatly.
Keep in mind, while transforming your home into a smart home has a “cool” factor associated with it, the goal is to give you greater functionality or more personalized control over certain devices and appliances within your home.
For smart equipment to work, you’ll need in-home Wi-Fi for Internet access, along with a proprietary mobile app for your smartphone that’s designed to operate that specific smart equipment.
In some cases, you’ll also need to acquire a special hub that connects to your modem or Wi-Fi router.
If you’re an Apple iPhone user, look for smart equipment that’s Home Kit compatible. This means that you’ll not only be able to control the smart device or appliance using a special mobile app, but the equipment will also work with the Home app that comes pre-installed on your smartphone, as well as with the Siri voice assistant.
Using Siri, you can issue voice commands, such as “Hey Siri, turn on the living room lights,” or “Adjust the temperature to 72 degrees,” and the appropriate smart home equipment will comply almost instantly.
Similar functionality is also available if you use an Android-based mobile device and then purchase and install any of the more than 2.5 million smart devices that are compatible with it.
The first step in creating a smart home is to decide which types of devices or appliances you’d like to be able to control or manage using your mobile device. Your options are continuously expanding.
Next, using your favorite Internet search engine, such as Google or Yahoo!, enter the search phrase, “smart lighting options,” “smart thermostat,” “smart kitchen appliances,” “smart video doorbells,” or “smart door locks,” for example, to discover what’s available.
Another option is to visit a consumer electronics or hardware superstore, such as Best Buy or Home Depot in the United States to see what’s available and shop in-person.
If you’re not too tech-savvy, but you want to add smart lighting to your home, for example, I recommend investing in a “starter kit” that includes multiple smart lightbulbs that will replace existing lightbulbs in your existing light fixtures, along with a hub, and access to a proprietary mobile app.
The Philips Hue smart lighting starter kits range in price from around $70.00 to $200.00, with additional smart light bulbs each sold separately. Ikea offers much less expensive smart lighting options, and if you search online, you’ll discover many more options.
Another useful smart device for your home is a smart thermostat. Once you choose the model you like, it’s a good idea to have a licensed electrician install and set it up. However, this is also something you can do yourself it you’re good using tools.
The Google Nest is one of the most popular brands of smart thermostats. They start in price around $130.00. Dozens of other companies also make smart thermostats that are compatible with all iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as smart speakers.
One benefit to installing a smart thermostat in your home is that you’ll often qualify for a rebate from your utility provider, so the cost of the device itself is often much less than the retail price.
Once the smart thermostat is installed, it can be controlled using voice command or an app via your smartphone. Within the first three months, using a smart thermostat, you should see your home heating and/or air conditioning costs go down, sometimes considerably.
Other smart devices that are useful in a home are smart window shades or blinds. You can pre-program them to open or close on a specific schedule throughout the day and night, or remotely control them from anywhere – again using a mobile app or verbal commands.
There are smart devices, like one called Tilt, that allow you to retrofit existing window shades or blinds, but there are many more options if you’re willing to replace your existing window shades or blinds altogether.
Companies like Blinds Galore, Smith and Noble, Lutron, and Ikea all offer smart window shade and window blind options.
Another quick and easy thing you can do to your home to make it smart is to plug in smart electrical adapters, also known as smart plugs, into one or more of your existing electrical outlets. When you do this, anything you then plug into that adapter can be remotely controlled from your mobile device or using voice commands, for example.
A smart adapter for an existing electrical outlet will cost anywhere from $10.00 to $60.00, and they’re available from a wide range of companies. There are also companies that sell replacement light switches and outlets with a broader range of “smart” capabilities.
Meanwhile, creating an easy-to-use “smart” home security system for less than a few hundred dollars is also possible, with all-in-one devices, like the SimpliSafe Home Security System or the Canary Pro.
Meanwhile, for less than $200.00, you can add a smart doorbell to your front door that has a built-in video camera, microphone, speaker, and motion detector - allowing you can communicate with people who approach your front door - again from almost anywhere in the world, using your smartphone.
The Ring video doorbells are just one example of smart video doorbells that you can install and set up by yourself in a matter of minutes.
As you can see, smart devices and appliances can be added to your home inexpensively, and they’re designed to give you greater control and, in some cases, save you money while enhancing your safety. What’s possible is limited only by your budget and creativity.
Well, that’s it for this edition of the Featured App of the Week podcast. As always, links to the products and services mentioned are listed within the episode notes, and a text-based transcript of this episode is available. Visit www.FeaturedAppPodcast.com for more information. I’m Jason Rich. Thanks for listening.