September 30

Our complete guide to smart homes and the best devices for them

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What is a smart home?

A smart home is a house that uses a single communication network (such as Alexa, Google Home or an app) to control different aspects of your home, such as lighting, music, media, security, cameras, the temperature and more. This all works through an internet connection.

The goal of smart homes is to make your life easier - having one central hub to control all of your devices at home can help with this and, if you have an app, you can control certain aspects of it remotely.

What are smart home devices?

There are so many different smart home devices available that you can be confident there is something for you. The main categories of smart home devices are as follows:

  • Lighting: this is probably the most common thanks to these devices being very easy to use. These work by having a smart bulb or lamp plugged in. You can turn a light on or off simply by using your voice or an app.
  • Climate / temperature: control the temperature of different areas of your home easily.
  • Security: there are new ways to protect your home by using gadgets such as doorbells/security cameras that can trigger an alert when motion is detected.
  • Smart plugs: devices such as smart plugs can be controlled even out of the home, so you can make it look like you are home when you are away.
  • Music: you can use your voice or smartphone to start playing a particular artist, playlist or song, even in a different room or from outside of your home.
  • Media: this includes devices you can add on to TVs to assist with streaming.

Best smart home devices

Here are our top 5 recommendations to getting started with your smart home:

  1. Smart bulbs: having smart bulbs in your house means you can control the lighting from different rooms with the touch of a button. You can set schedules and timers for when you want certain lights to be on. Some smart bulbs, such as the Woox R4554 Smart Indoor Bulb, have settings such as warm lighting to create a relaxed atmosphere.
  2. Smart powerstrips: control when your smart powerstrips are on and off, schedule charging times, and more. If you have a tendency to leave lamps or heaters on for too long at night, this is a great product for you.
  3. Smart video doorbell: get instant alerts when your doorbell detects motion, as well as capturing videos of your visitors to see who called while you were away. Some smart video doorbells come with additional features such as night vision and built-in microphones. Great for making sure you never miss a delivery again!
  4.  Smart outdoor plug: these are great for the upcoming dark Autumn and Winter months, when you may need to use outdoor lights more often. If you’re away on holiday you can also set these on a timer to make it look like you are home.
  5. Smart wall sockets: similar to the powerstrips mentioned above, these let you control the energy you use from anywhere. Some smart wall sockets also feature an ‘away’ mode, again to make it look like you are inside - this can also be randomised so it is not at a specific time every day. They are a great option for Christmas lights. Picture Kevin from Home Alone!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of smart homes?

There are a whole host of benefits that smart homes can offer, but of course there are also factors to consider before investing in these products.

Advantages of smart homes:

  • Makes life easier: the whole point of smart homes is to make your life easier and to promote comfort, as everything can be managed from one device. If you leave the house or move to another room and remember that you have left a light or device on, you can turn it off without needing to go back.
  • You can manage one area effortlessly: some apps, such as the Woox home app, allow you to create ‘scenes’, e.g. ‘living room’, so that you can easily control all of your smart devices in that room.
  • Saves money: by monitoring your devices, such as your heating and electricity, you can easily track how much you are spending. Our top tip for saving money with an electric car is to charge it overnight using a smart plug set for a specific time - a lot of people are not aware that energy is cheaper at night! (Depending on provider)
  • Protection: not only can devices such as smart doorbells alert you when they detect movement, some devices can let you know if an elderly loved one has fallen or is behaving out of the ordinary, meaning you can act fast

Disadvantages of smart homes:

  • Can be difficult to set up: if you have little to no experience with setting up tech, finding the right products that can all talk to each other can be quite overwhelming. Do not fret, however - some devices on the market, such as Woox products, are very beginner-friendly.
  • Can be pricey: although we stated above that smart products can save you money, if you are transforming everything in your house you can expect to be spending a fair amount initially. We recommend starting out with one or two devices at first, getting used to how they work and then broaden your range of devices over time.
  • Not all devices are compatible: you may spend a lot of money on smart products, only to find out that they cannot talk to each other. It is worth doing some research beforehand to see how devices connect, and choosing the most appropriate investments for your current setup.
  • Can be hacked: your smart devices can be vulnerable to hacking, but unless there is a specific reason to target you then the chances of this are low - we will break down how to avoid this next.

Can a smart home be hacked?

Unfortunately, as with anything linked to the internet, there is a risk that your devices could be hacked. However, unless someone has very malicious intentions towards you, this is highly unlikely. Weighing up the usefulness of smart devices compared to a small risk of hacking, the convenience of them is more advantageous.

To prevent hacking, it is best practice to ensure you do the following:

  • Secure your WiFi network: make sure you use a strong password, and not the same one you use for everything else!
  • Use different passwords for everything: if you use the same one, it makes it very easy for hackers to gain access
  • Make use of two-factor authentication: use two-factor authentication where possible. Typically this means that in addition to your password, you need to get a code via email or phone, where hackers cannot access.

Do I need a smart hub if I have Alexa?

No, you do not need a smart hub if you already have an Alexa device. Alexa simply requires a stable internet connection to work.

How do I make my house a smart home?

There are two main ways to make your house a smart home. The first, and most popular, is the DIY method, where you buy all of the devices you want and set them up via one platform - this could be Alexa, Siri Slash Home Kit or Google Assistant. You can also use Android devices.

The second way of making your house a smart home is using an ‘integrator’ - these are businesses that specialise in creating home automations and install everything for you. These businesses do tend to target the luxury home market, so they can be costly.

When deciding which route you want to follow, consider the following pointers: how many aspects of your home do you want to automate? What is your budget, and how confident are you in setting up a smart home completely by yourself?

In conclusion...

Smart homes are a great way to promote comfort and automation not only in your home, but also in offices (or your home office at the moment!). 

Although a quick search online will show you photos of huge, fully-transformed homes, you don’t have to have an appliance in every room to benefit from using smart devices. Even just one or two products can make your life easier. Take a look at smart home devices today and get started on your digital transformation!

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