From the Amazon Echo to Google Home, smart home technology is evolving at a rapid rate. More and more people are seeking convenience and control over their home and devices through Internet-enabled devices. However, with some stories about devices recording conversations, some are wondering whether the benefits of smart homes outweigh the negatives. So, are smart homes worth it?
What is a smart home?
A smart home is a collection of devices that you can control from one interface. This means you can switch on, turn off, monitor and adjust a range of devices through voice control, an app or single interface. A smart home can enable you to receive notifications and alerts to help you keep track and manage your home from wherever you are in the world.
Depending on the aspects you care most about, your smart devices can help to increase the safety and security of your home, increase the level of comfort or improve convenience to reduce stress and give you one less thing to worry about.
Is your home a smart home?
Most homes already have some form of smart device, whether it’s a smart meter to measure energy consumption or a voice-activated device such as an Amazon Echo or Alexa. In fact, Amazon claims to have sold over 100 million Echo or Alexa devices. They were so popular that the Echo Dot sold out during the festive season and were hugely in demand from January onwards with Amazon not being able to restock them fast enough.
The Amazon Echo can serve as a smart home hub, enabling you to control a range of devices. In fact, already there are over 150 products on the market which has the Alexa facility built in and over 28,000 difference smart home devices that are compatible to work with Amazon Echo. What’s more, this comes from 4,500 manufacturers showing that you are not confined to Amazon products when choosing an Amazon Echo.
But, what happens if you don’t have any of these compatible devices? Is an Amazon Echo worth it without a smart home?
Amazon Echo offers so many benefits because it works with so many different devices and can bring them all together so that it is a smart home hub. However, without other devices, your Amazon Echo isn’t redundant. In fact, the Amazon Echo and Alexa have over 70,000 different skills that you can use it for.
For the Amazon Echo on its own, you can catch up on the news and weather, listen to the radio, provide entertainment, help with cooking and make phone calls and communicate with your friends and family.
So if your unsure of whether you should buy an Echo without the other devices and wondering is Amazon Echo worth it without a smart home? The answer is yes; you can benefit from a range of helpful features. From then on, as you invest in your home with new devices, your Amazon Echo can become your smart home hub.
However, if you’re not keen on having smart products in the home then just focus on the ones that you will actually benefit from. For example, a hub that tracks and controls your energy usage such as Hive which manages the heating in your home does not need a smart hub device as it can work independently. Similar to this is LeakBot which can detect any water leaks in the home to save money and prevent damage. The LeakBot also works independently, so if you’re not keen on lots of devices connected to one home hub solution, then focus on the singular solutions that you care about.
Is it worth having smart products in the home?
If you have forgotten to turn off the lights, put the washing machine on or turn the heating down when you leave the house, you don’t have to go back home or suffer the consequences. With smart products, you can control them remotely and make sure your house is always under control at the touch of a button.
Smart devices are usually not cheap due to the sophisticated technology used. All smart products will require an initial investment which may put some people off. However, if the device is used to its fullest potential, then it may make the device well worth the initial investment.
For example, if you use a water leak detection system such as LeakBot and fix a water leak before it causes too much damage to your home, then it may pay for itself. This is similar for smart devices that save energy. It is important to listen to the alerts and action them appropriately in order to get the most cost-effective benefit from the device.
Smart products in the home can be incredibly useful for those living independently that need some support. For example, an Amazon Echo can help with alerts and reminders, while a smart hub can manage detectors such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for peace of mind.
Some smart devices can help to monitor their health and safety or perhaps automate activities on their behalf. Some devices also have cameras, so loved ones can check in regularly for comfort and reassurance.
For those who are forgetful, having heating and lighting which is automated can help to save energy and increase safety if they forget to turn things off.
Ease of use
Without a doubt, smart devices make it easy to get an instant response. For example, if you’re coming home in the dark with your hands full, then switching on the lights before you arrive can be a great help. Instead of turning on the radio searching for songs you like, you can just ask your Amazon Echo to play the music you love. A smart device is a great hands-free experience so you can multi-task and do more with your time.
If you buy a range of different devices, then not all of them will be able to speak to each other and will have their own ‘ecosystem’. This means that not all devices will be compatible with each other and your hub may not be able to control all of the smart devices in your home. With this in mind, it may not be worth creating a smart home if you are unable to action all of your devices from one central location.
Alternatively, you may be able to purchase a smart home bridge which can work to connect all devices and allow them to communicate with each other. It is worth noting, however, that not all smart devices will work in harmony and this may restrict you when it comes to purchasing products to build your smart home.
A smart home relies greatly on the internet in order to control and monitor devices remotely. If you live in an area with a weak connection, then internet dropouts may be a regular occurrence meaning your devices will not respond to your commands. This may be more irritating if you are relying on your smart home to work for you and it seems like it is working against you.
While smart devices can improve security around the home such as through motion sensors and smart locks, there have been issues of smart homes being compromised through security breaches. Having a whole home relying on the Internet of Things makes the system susceptible to hacking. Furthermore, there have been reports on households listening in to other homes and conversations being recorded.
Furthermore, many devices maintain an extensive history. If this is in the wrong hands, then personal details and security may be compromised.
In a world that is focused on energy use, the ability to manage and reduce energy consumption is a real positive. Smart devices can help you to control the energy usage in your home. However, with so many devices, all of which need to use a small amount of energy themselves to run. With this, the hidden use of energy can quickly add up. For some homes, having an energy monitor on permanently may consume more energy in itself, than what it can save.
Another issue is that many people purchase smart devices with the best intentions but do not action the activities which could improve their home and save money, making them a costly mistake.
Is a smart home right for you?
Before you purchase a whole host of smart devices and a smart home hub for your house, consider the use you will get from it. It is best to start small with one or two devices that will make the difference to your household. If you can see a noticeable benefit such as cost, energy saving, or increased functionality of the home then expand gradually to make your home even smarter. However, if you don’t find yourself benefitting from intelligent devices, then they are probably not worth your investment!
Start small and see how your smart home will grow.