If you are just starting your smart journey home, there is a question you will need to answer immediately before moving on. Namely: what smart home system will you use?
The decision will have a major impact on the next steps. It will affect everything from the devices you buy to the applications you can use.
The three big smart home systems are Amazon Alexa, Google and Apple HomeKit. We will analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each of them, then we will present you some less known systems that you could consider.
Amazon Alexa is one of the most accepted smart home systems in the world. You can find it in dozens of Amazon products, as well as in smart third-party lights, cameras, TVs, thermostats, phones, streaming boxes and more.
It has some key features that will help you automate your life. Perhaps the most used are Alexa Routines. A routine can be created to allow multiple things to happen using just one request.
For example, you could create a movie night routine that will automatically dim the lights, turn off the blinds, launch the Netflix app, and turn on the surround sound speakers. Similarly, a bedtime routine could set the coffee timer, house alarm gun and morning alarm set.
Another interesting feature is Hunches. The arrangements allow Alexa to remind you of things you might have overlooked and then act on your behalf. For example, Alexa may automatically turn off any erroneous light after everyone has gone to bed or may set the thermostat to make the house the perfect temperature for when you get home if you forgot to set it before you leave.
Depending on the devices you buy, the Amazon Alexa system may also allow you to view security cameras on your Echo Show device, stream music through smart speakers, or even detect alerts from smoke alarm sensors, or glass. If you are not sure of the difference between Alexa and Echo, read our article.
Alexa is free. The application is available on all major operating systems.
Google's smart home system has many facets. There's Google Assistant, the Google Nest range of devices (formerly Google Home), and Google support built into dozens of third-party devices.
Let's start by looking at the Google Assistant. It works the same way as Amazon Alexa. You can use it to set up tasks and to-do lists, to communicate with others, to get local information, to get quick answers to questions, to play Nest games, and more.
It also works with many of the most popular apps on your phone to control them with your voice (including Spotify, Twitter, Discord, Walmart and MyFitnessPal) and is integrated into Android smartphones, smart watches, smart speakers, TVs and even cars. .
The Google Nest product suite began life as Google Home speakers, but the range has now expanded considerably. It now includes a thermostat, indoor and outdoor rooms, a bell, a smart lock and a networked router system. Needless to say, the Google Assistant is built into all devices.
Finally, Google accepts dozens of the best smart devices from third parties. These include LIFX Color smart lights, D-LINK smart sockets, Honeywell thermostats, August smart locks, Roku Streambar Pro, Roomba s9 and even Maytag dishwashers and Samsung microwaves. All devices can be controlled by Google Assistant and will integrate into the Google Nest ecosystem through the app.
The latest of the "big three" smart home systems is the Apple HomeKit. Perhaps surprisingly for an Apple system, it does a great job of supporting smart home devices from third parties. Don't just use Apple gadgets.
HomeKit is actually the name for the software framework. The application that most users will know is Apple Home. Using Apple Home, you can find smart devices on your network, integrate them into your Apple HomeKit setup, and then control them using Siri (or other iPhone / iPad applications).
In addition to the Home app, you can also create Home Hubs. They allow you to remotely control your HomeKit devices, but also grant access requests and create other automations. Modern Apple iPads, HomePods, and TVs can act as Home Hubs. For those who don't know, HomePod is a smart speaker, which is Apple's answer to devices like Sonos and Amazon Echo. Siri is built into the device.
There is a long list of third-party devices that play nicely with HomeKit in categories as diverse as bells, smoke alarms, and ceiling fans. Some well-known devices with support include the Logitech Circle View bell, Nanoleaf lights, WeMo Mini smart connector, August smart lock, ecobee smart thermostats and a FIBARO flood sensor.
Let's end with some less popular alternatives.
To be successful, all smart home systems must revolve around a hub. If you choose the right hub, everything else will fit perfectly.
One hub worth checking out is Hubitat Elevation. Sure, it doesn't have a built-in speaker or display, but it works with almost any other display or speaker you can find. This is because the hub has Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-wave compatibility, as well as regular internet connectivity.
It even has its own application that accepts automation rules and routines, which means it can compete with most of the features of its more illustrious competitors.
Samsung's withdrawal from the smart home market has left a void and it seems that Aeotec has filled it with Aeotec Smart Hub.
In terms of compatibility, the hub is hard to beat. It works with more than 5,000 third-party devices: it's much more than Google, Amazon or Apple. You also get a voice assistant (although not as well known as the industry names) and it will allow you to control your smart home even when you are away from home.
What Smart Home System Should You Use?
If you are new to the world of smart homes or you are not very good at technology, we recommend that you stick with one of the big three. You are on solid ground and can be sure of a simple user experience.
However, if you want to expand beyond the devices supported by Apple, Google, and Amazon, we definitely recommend taking a look at some of the best alternative smart home hubs.
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