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What a Smart Home Should Do

It should be automatic, at home or away

When you add a Smart Home device, you should be able control it from inside the home when your smartphone is on your home WiFi network, or from anywhere else, as long as you have a cellular signal. Automation is a key component of Smart Home systems, and you should be able to set automatic timers for lighting, heating and cooling, window coverings, or any other Smart Home product.

It works the old way too

Even though you’ll want to use your smartphone to make your Smart Home perform, it’s always nice to also be able to walk up to a light switch or thermostat and use it the traditional way. When you have guests over, it might not even be apparent to them that you have a Smart Home and that’s a good thing because it will save you time explaining how to download an app to go the bathroom.

It should be easy to install

All devices should be simple to install for anybody, even if they have no technical experience. You may still choose to hire an electrician if you are not comfortable with wiring for example, but all the setup and programming is easily within any smartphone owner’s ability.

It should function on a simple network

The first part of this book is dedicated to setting up your home network. If you follow the steps with the same products that I used or similar ones from other vendors, your network will be ready for the Smart Home products used in this book. You don’t have to know anything about networking to be successful getting your network up and running, and you can do it yourself.

Use a minimum number of smartphone apps

In an ideal world, you’d only have to download one phone app to set up and run all of the Smart Home products that you want to use. But this is not an ideal world, so for now you will need to download and run the app that is appropriate for the installation of each device, but you should be able to operate your home system through a much smaller number of apps. The trickiest part of the Smart Home project is that the technology is constantly evolving and a one-app solution, while getting closer, is still in the future. But it will arrive, and when it does, life will only get simpler. For the time being, there exists only a next-to-perfect but highly functional solution for full-home automation.

Your family should love it

A Smart Home should be intuitive and easy to use for your entire family. Remember, they live there, too! Luckily, once you’re finished reading this book and installing your devices, the family cat should be able to dim the lights. The goal of this book is to make your Smart Home fun and accessible for everyone.

Minimal or no monthly fees

Some vendors want to charge you a monthly fee to operate a device, for instance to retrieve video snippets. With the exception of paying a (low) monthly fee for your security system monitoring, your goal should be to minimize or eliminate any monthly ongoing fees. I offer in this book a good range of products and manufacturers who do not charge ongoing fees. If you want to go beyond what I suggest here, you may encounter fees for use.

It should be reliable

Any time new technology comes out, early adopters run the risk of paying steeply for products that will likely need to be upgraded until it reaches a more stable state. I have aimed to point the reader toward products that will not need to be frequently upgraded and will just work day-to-day.

It should be secure

It is impossible to take every device and every service you buy and evaluate how hackable it is. The only thing you can do is practice good online hygiene by setting up your network in the most secure way possible, choosing difficult passwords and buying from vendors who have a lot to lose if their products are hacked.

As we go through the different sections of the book, you may want to refer back to this set of goals. I will be forthright with you about my assessment of whether these goals are met with the solutions that I chose for my Smart Home. Also, your goals may be different, so take a moment to write them down and it will make it easier to select which products to become the foundation of your Smart Home.