What is smart home tech and what does it do?

Smart and connected-home technologies have advanced very quickly in the last two years, we have seen not only an increase in the number of devices that claim to be ‘smart’ or ‘voice-controlled’, but also a number of choices of tech ecosystems that you have to really consider before you head on down to your local Currys PC World store to buy one.

Key to this decision will be factoring in what technology you already have and the most common would be the mobile phone or tablets you own as well as perhaps what music or TV streaming services you are already invested in.

Control Systems

There are three main brands to choose from: Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomeKit, other companies do use their own as well, and some devices require for you to run a stand-alone or separate app. But this is becoming less common as they pledge allegiance with the big three and integrate and connect with other hardware.

Smart home tech bundles

How can the following smart home tech bundles work best for you, what are some of their key features and what should you consider when choosing between them?

Amazon – Echo Plus and Echo Show

Powered by Alexa, the voice recognition has a high calibre and is really something for the ‘others’ to follow and they got to market first with their devices.

Echo Plus – The Amazon Echo Plus builds on the success of the Echo by introducing a built-in smart home hub. This makes it easy to connect with your compatible smart home devices – simply ask Alexa to discover your devices and it will automatically connect with them without the need for additional hubs, apps or setup.

As a result, you can control your smart light bulbs, switches, thermostats and more using your voice. Using seven microphones that use beam-forming technology and enhanced noise cancellation, the Echo Plus responds when you say the wake word “Alexa”.
If you are also a Prime member, you can tell Alexa to play a song on your Echo Plus from over 2 Million songs, if you pay extra for Music Unlimited you get access to 40 million songs including new releases which is something to compete with Apple Music and Spotify.

Whether you’re ordering a pizza from Domino’s, requesting a ride from Uber or tracking your fitness with Fitbit, the Echo Plus has thousands of skills to make your life simpler. Alexa adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences the more you use the device.

The Echo Plus can answer your questions, as well as providing news, traffic and weather reports. Find out the latest sport scores, check your schedule and much more. All you need to do is ask Alexa.

Echo Show – A perfect pairing with the Echo Plus, the Show has a 7” touchscreen for your daily calendar, the time, notifications, meeting reminders, BBC video news updates, scan barcodes to order products via your Amazon account, make video calls for meetings or with family, see recipes, sing along song lyrics, view security camera feeds while you work away or use it as a digital photo frame. Its capabilities are ever-evolving, however there is no YouTube support (a Google owned service) so you can only view in a web browser mode.

Google – Home, Google Mini and Philips Hue

Google Home – Google have built their brand on search, and the Google assistant powering this device is as good as you can get when it comes to accessing information from the web or using Google’s translate service.

The design is nice and functional, it could fit well in any room and the touch controls give it that slick futuristic, minimalist look.

As a central hub it works really well, you can control your Chromecast and command Netflix that you may already have, play YouTube videos on the TV or stream to Chromecast audio devices all over your home. You can now stream music to it from your android phone or iPhone, and the speaker can fill a room with good quality audio.

Ask Google to adjust your Nest thermostat or listen to music from Google Play Music or Spotify, adjust the lights or set them to come on when you are not home or control a compatible security camera system.

Tell Google to add items to your calendar or set reminders for you so when you’re out it will pop up on your phone with linked Google account.

Google Home Mini – The perfect partner to go with your Google home, use it to control devices from elsewhere in your home and impressive sound from a smaller speaker.

Philips Hue starter kit – Using the Philips hue app, you can use advanced settings to control lighting when you are away from home, create moods or even sync it with your music or just tell your Google Home “okay Google, turn on the lights” and voila. Ask Google “did I leave the kitchen lights on?” and it will respond. Set timers, change the colours, dim the lights or program it to an ideal setting to help you when you work from home, you can add so many other products from Philips to compliment this including LED strips, bedroom lights for natural sleep and wakeups, table lamps and many more – see a large range by visiting PC World Curry’s.

Apple – HomePod

“Hey Siri”, is the familiar control mechanism for Apple’s brand new smart speaker and home control device, similar yet different to the other brands assistants, Siri is a very capable and impressive search and control method.

Please be aware currently you can only use HomePod with an IOS device (iPhone 5S upwards and iPad 5thGen or newer), this limitation aside, if you have Apple music or iTunes music you can stream and play until your heart’s content.
Tell Siri to “play something chilled” or “open the latest Ted talks podcast” and no more messing around scrolling though on-phone playlists.

With its highly impressive design on the outside, when it comes to sound is where this speaker wins above all others. The bass and clarity is fantastic for a small speaker and it even has a clever set up where it knows if it’s on a shelf or in the open and adjust how it puts the sound out.

Working with any HomeKit compatible smart accessories, control smart lighting (Philips hue, lightwave) and some home heating systems such as Elgato, Tado or Honeywell. Secure your home with Netatmo or certain smart Logitech devices, there are more being added all the time.

The overall decision of choice between these three hardware options will typically still come down your brand loyalties, what you already have, or which devices you see yourself wanting to pair with them in the future.

When you recommend a friend to Brookson One during March and April 2018, both you and your friend can choose to receive one of the Smart Technologies in this blog, just for making a referral!*

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