Smart devices are all the rage now. Companies are increasingly adding remote access functionality to existing products, and then marketing them as part of a range of ‘smart’ and ‘connected’ devices. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with such an approach, and well-integrated systems can perform just as well as their natively-supported counterparts.
However, as we’ve mentioned earlier, there are products that have been designed from the ground up as dedicated smart home devices. These may deviate, at least from an aesthetic standpoint, from their traditional, or adapted, counterparts, and have even more functionality, and thus capability, built into them too. But which series of products is best for you?
I think we should start by delving into the world of smart-enabled devices, and how these devices actually go about delivering their ‘smarts’. In essence, there are 3 main types of smart home systems, all with their strengths and weaknesses, and all occupying different parts of the market.
Let’s start with the most involved solution - the neutral wire. Typically, most residential switches lack a neutral wire. These systems utilise a feedback loop fed by the neutral wire, so if you’re after such a solution, your electrician and your smart home vendor will have to plan long and complex neutral wires that feed into a central computer to enable all the complex smart home features that you’re lusting after.
This provides the most seamless and reliable integration, but at a substantially increased initial investment. Also, as the system is literally built into your home, you’re unable to bring it along with you to your next property, so only choose this if you’re considering staying in said property long term.
The next solution is the ZigBee system. Unlike the former, Zigbee is a standard of a suite of high-level communication protocols for a low-power, low data rate, and close proximity wireless network. Zigbee-enabled devices, therefore, do not require your home to be significantly rewired, if at all, and can be easily integrated into existing homes.
The most cost-effective solution is Wifi-enabled devices. We’re all familiar with Wifi, so there isn’t a whole lot of explaining to do here. One distinct advantage a Wifi-based system has over the previous solutions is that it will more readily pair with a wider range of products.
Credit: Spring Wise
If you aren’t comfortable with the concept of getting rid of all of your existing appliances in favour of smart-enabled devices, consider investing in SwitchBots’ smart home system. They manufacturer a line of wifi-enabled button pressers, which you can then attach to rocket switches or any other devices that require the push of a button to operate. This means anything can be easily converted into a smart device.
SmartBot also has their own SmartLink system, which, when combined with their Wifi hub and their Temperature and Humidity monitoring system, will allow you to remotely trigger your air-conditioning and any other appliance that you so desire from anywhere in the world!
Ring’s Video Doorbell Pro is proof that smart devices need not be complex and frustrating to set up. You install it much like you would a regular doorbell, with the only difference being that it not only looks stylish but allows you to have round-the-clock remote-access to a high-quality feed of who was at your main door.
When the doorbell is depressed, an alert is sent to your phone, and the camera starts recording. However, you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege of reviewing or downloading the footage recorded by the camera; Ring offers a Protect Basic Plan at USD$3 per month, or USD$30 annually. You’ll have 60 days worth of cloud storage, plus complete access to all recorded videos. The Protect Plus Plan is at USD$10 a month, and at USD$100 a year, and you’ll get all the features from the basic but for an unlimited number of Ring cameras, as well as a lifetime warranty on all your cameras.
Credit: Prisa Edicounes
If you’re after an affordable smart-enabled security system, Xiaomi’s Smart Sensor Set is something you should consider. This starter set, though obviously not advertised as such, consists of a Control Hub, 2 Motion Sensors, 2 Window and Door Sensor, as well as a wireless switch.
As-is, the system can help alert you via the Xiaomi app when a door or window is opened, but where it really shines, is when you have other Xiaomi smart devices paired to the hub as well. You can program it to automatically switch on lights, fans as well as your air conditioning the instant the door sensor detects motion, and even program your air purifier to adjust its parameters when the windows are opened!
Philips’ Hue series has made quite the name for itself. It is by far the most established and reliable smart lighting system, but it does come at quite a cost. In general, minimal rewiring is needed if you’re just swapping out your existing bulbs for some smart units from them. Philips does offer other smarts as well, that will maximise your smart home experience, but again, that comes at a huge upfront investment.
Their most affordable bulb is their basic Hue LED bulb. It is not adjustable, but will still pair with your Hue Bridge for wireless control. Their colour ambience series is undoubtedly their flagship, and what people think of when the words ‘Philips’ and ‘Hue’ are mentioned in the same vein. These lights have the capability to reproduce 16 million different colours, all via the Philips Hue app too!
It may be more affordable than most of its rivals, but the Deebot certainly does not disappoint when it comes to features. It is customary for smart devices to be app-controlled, so that’s to be expected, but what isn’t is the fact that it comes with selectable cleaning modes, and is equipped with a much quieter motor, and a larger dustbin for longer and deeper cleans.
The Deebot 501, with its anti-collision sensors and durable protective bumpers, can also avoid obstacles, as well as protecting your furniture. It can also be integrated with Amazon Echo & Google Home for a totally seamless smart home experience!