How to Quickly Make Your Home a Smart Home in 2019

amazon echo device

A decade ago, Smart Homes were considered those with unique features enabling homeowners to remotely control simple functions like lighting and security alarms. The technology was clunky, difficult to install, and costly. 

Fast forward to today and smart home technology is vastly improved and more convenient. Many new functions have emerged and most are as easy as plugging in a device and connecting to a Wi-Fi network.

A primary tool for quickly making your home a Smart Home is the voice activated assistant. Major brands like Amazon, Apple, and Google offer an option that can create a hub for your smart devices to connect to.

The choices of digital Smart Home assistants can feel similar but each offers a unique set of pros and cons. Here, we will explore each of the three most popular voice-controlled devices and how they might help quickly get your home to Smart Home status.

Amazon Alexa Device

Alexa has been made into a pop culture icon with a variety of quips and jokes based around the popular command, “Alexa…” Depending on what devices are connected, you can ask Alexa to accomplish almost any task. Turning on and off lights, music, and even adding things to your Amazon cart are all possible via Alexa’s voice commands.

Amazon Alexa Pros

  • Quick setup: Purchase an Echo or Echo Dot for each area that you might want to call on Alexa for help. Plug them in and you are good to get started.
  • Compatibility: Amazon has developed a Skills Kit for app developers to create what Amazon calls “skills” for Alexa. This allows Alexa users access to over 10,000 different commands and capabilities.
  • Smart Phone Compatibility: Setup is further simplified by the Alexa app cooperating with both Android and Apple products.
  • Affordability: The Echo Dot is relatively inexpensive and is often included in special deals at Amazon.com or the Amazon app.

Amazon Alexa Cons

  • Privacy: This con is listed first as it might be most important to you. Amazon has taken a passive approach to privacy for the third-party developers who create skills for Alexa. If you intend on adding a skill from a non-Amazon app or device, consider reading the development company’s privacy policy thoroughly.
  • App Quality: Many have complained about the relatively basic app used to setup Echo and Alexa “skills”.
  • Accessibility: You must be within earshot of the Echo or Echo Dot to provide commands. There is no microphone function through the app. At times, Alexa has trouble hearing or responding to your commands on the first try.

Amazon Alexa represents a quick, easy way to make your home a Smart Home. Its vast array of “skills” makes many apps and devices compatible. Buyer beware: Amazon continues to hedge on holding third-party “skills” developers accountable for privacy.

Google Assistant Device

Google Assistant has been around for longer than you might think. It has been through several iterations and is now featured on a voice-controlled, two-way conversational Smart Home control hub called Google Home. Assistant can also be found on many Android devices.

Google Assistant Pros

  • Access: Google Home and Android devices all support the Assistant feature. 
  • Affordability: Google Home is an economical option when compared to the standard Echo hub.
  • Strong AI: Most experts consider Assistant superior to both Alexa and Siri due to its access to Google search. This allows for better answers to more questions.

Google Assistant Cons

  • Poor Wake Word: The awkward command of “O.K., Google…” is less desirable than the simpler, “Hey, Siri…”, or “Alexa…”
  • Diversity: Alexa sports over 10,000 “skills” in its command set when paired with other devices and apps. Google Assistant is far less capable in this regard.
  • Audio: Many users are displeased with the quality of audio from the Google Home speaker.
  • Privacy: The privacy policy is not transparent. It essentially says Google collects information (of an unknown nature) and uses it to improve services.

The power of Google makes Google Home a smarter, Smart Home hub. The lack of options when it comes to apps and devices is a turnoff for some but Android lovers will likely choose Google Home over Apple’s Siri for the sake of compatibility.

Apple Siri Device

Siri was released to the world in 2010 and was quickly purchased by Apple to make it their AI platform. Siri can be found on most new Apple devices and has recently been put into Smart Home use via the Apple Home automation center. 

Apple Siri Pros

  • Privacy: Apple takes privacy seriously. It requires anyone with products that cooperate with its Home automation system to include encryption tools.
  • Setup: Like it has with most of its products, Apple focused on making the HomeKit a simple setup process. Compatibility with mobile devices makes things even easier.

Apple Siri Cons

  • Limited Compatibility: While its privacy policy is a pro for keeping your data safe, it creates a con when it comes to the variety of accessories and devices Siri is compatible with. Smart Home developers doing business with Siri must pass stringent requirements for data handling and information security. This has led to a lower selection of Smart Home technologies for Siri.
  • Apple Exclusivity: Siri can only be found on Apple products, aside from Smart Home technologies. If you prefer Android devices, you would need to learn two virtual assistant AI technologies.

Almost every Apple user has one thing in common: They love Apple products! Siri and the accompanying Apple Home can be frustrating for those who do not use other Apple products. However, if privacy is a concern, Apple stands head and shoulders above the rest by requiring developers to follow strict encryption rules.

How a Virtual Assistant Can Help Make Your Home Smarter

As we have seen, each assistant offers a variety of devices and technologies it can connect to. Smart Home tech is a growing genre with new things hitting the market on a regular basis.

Gone are the days when the only voice commands you could use were, “turn on the lights”, or, “turn on the fan.” Virtually every home function can be controlled by a device connected to one of the voice command hubs listed above.

Options include changing the temperature on the thermostat, locking the doors, or asking how much the Euro is worth on any given day. You can make your home as smart as you want it to be with the quick purchase and installation of a virtual assistant like Alexa, Assistant, or Siri.

If you are looking to take your home to the pinnacle of intelligence, consider consulting an expert. They can evaluate your needs, match you with the appropriate hub, select the best devices to pair, and come to your home to complete the installation process.

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