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As technology innovates, more and more companies are manufacturing smart speakers like Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s Home Pod. Certainly, the sound quality of these “speakers” rivals that of even the most expensive home audio systems, but these devices do much more than just play music.
Well, the name pretty much says it all! Smart speakers are wireless speakers that are operated by voice commands, and in the case of Amazon, Google, and Apple, come complete with a virtual assistant. Think Jarvis from Iron Man, but a speaker.
Using the hub speaker and a corresponding application, the user is capable of customizing the types of “skills” he or she requires of the speaker. The virtual assistant will also answer general web search type questions, look up recipes, set timers, and more.
Some of the coolest “skills” that your virtual assistant can learn have to do with smartening up your home, so to speak. In order to capitalize on these, some front end work and connecting of home gadgets is required, so it is important to tease out which accessories are worth the trouble. Below, we have identified the five best home devices for your time and money that are sure to make the living easy this summer and beyond.
With these smart light bulbs, you can turn the lights in your house on and off through voice command. This is pretty awesome in and of itself, but the Lifx Bulbs, when paired with your virtual assistant through the accessory’s application, provide a much more nuanced command of lighting.
These bulbs come multi-colored and dimmable, and you are able to isolate lighting systems by simply naming the them across different locations. For example, maybe your hands are full as you carry a not-so-little snack from the kitchen to the living room where you will be eating and enjoying your favorite primetime television. Rather than setting down your food and heading back to the kitchen to turn off the lights you can simple say, “Alexa, turn off kitchen lights.”
I know what you’re thinking: but what about the other electronics in my home, like the fan, the lamp, and the coffee maker? I want to control them too! Of course you do! And you can.
While there are smart switches that can be hardwired the same way regular three prong outlets are, the best of the non-invasive options is the Belkin.
Just as with the Lifx Bulbs, all you need to do is install the switches corresponding application and link it through your smart speakers control center. From here, you can customize which plugged in devices you would like to control and how you would like them to behave.
Once you have laid the groundwork of your smart home with the lights and switches, it is time to graduate to the logical next step: your home’s heating and cooling system. The Nest Thermostat line promises to control your home’s temperature with the least amount of programming required. The E model is no different. In fact, it is by far the simplest of any smart thermostat out there, not to mention cheaper.
The Nest works by intelligently observing your heating and cooling preferences before taking the reigns and setting up your custom temperature schedule accordingly. The sleek, white design blends nicely with walls, a nice alternative to the clunky dial thermostats of old.
Kwikset produces a line of one-touch motorized deadbolts which can be locked and unlocked through a key code, smart phone, or via your virtual assistant. The front keypad is touch screen that is backlit for increased visibility. But this is irrelevant if you choose to link the lock to your smart speaker.
This is product is perfect for those of us who lie in bed at night worrying about whether or not they locked the back door, despite having double checked before heading upstairs. The Kwikset Z-Wave comes in Satin Nickel, Polished Brass, and Venetian Bronze and can be easily installed with a couple of triple A batteries and a few screws.
Chamberlain is a big player in smart garage door openers, but this model is also Wifi enabled and thus can link to virtual assistant hubs. This connectivity is slightly less practical as you can only access your virtual assistant if you are in range of the smart speaker so opening and closing would have to be done inside the house. That said, all smart speaker applications can also be controlled from a smartphone. This fact is quickly making universal garage door opener a thing of the past.
An added bonus provided by the Chamberlain brand is status reporting straight to your smart device. If notifications are enabled, you will receive word of obstructions or malfunctions right away.
While there are many more advanced technological capabilities beyond what is listed above, these five are a great starting point to completely automating your home for easy, hands free living. Each is available on Amazon for Prime delivery and have been audited for ease of use and affordability.
It is important to note that not all the products described in this article are compatible with every brand of smart speaker, but all are functional across popular smart devices. If true, Iron Man-esque voice command is the goal, be sure to do your homework on the various smart speakers available.