Hey Alexa, What Is A Smart Home?

Our world is constantly advancing in many ways. The medication we use, the communication devices we own, and the methods of transportation that would have been unbelievable 20 years ago–technology is amazing. Let’s talk about phones for a minute: they used to be these hug box-like walkie talkies. Then they evolved into something that could flip open (ooh…). Then they could slide open with a keyboard (OOH!) These days, the average phone is an instrument of precision with a touch screen and access to infinite internet data. We live in an era of the “smartphone.” Now these mad engineers have moved onto something else to make “smart.” It’s not just our phones; it’s becoming our cars, and now, our homes. Introducing the smart home.

What is a Smart Home?

SmartHomeUSA defines a smart home as, “a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet.”

Literally anything in your home can be smart. To mention some other things that can be smart that weren’t mentioned in the definition are locks, doorbells, smoke detectors, combinations, doors, thermostats, shades, etc. And the list goes on. It’s crazy how many things you can change to make “smart.”

6 Companies That Can Automate Your Home

Maybe you have decided that you want to have a smart home who do you contact to make that happen? There are 10 companies that can happily install the automation technology so you can sit back and feel like the coolest neighbor on the block, but for right now I’m only going to list five. Inc.com provides all the names and info on these companies.

  1. August Smart Lock: It’s a home automation company that protects your home by installing an automated door-lock system. “It works with the existing deadbolt on a door and provides the power of an app to control home-lock mechanisms from your phone. The company even offers a Connect accessory that solves the problem that so many other connected locks experience of being out of range. Priced at $250 plus $50 for the Connect accessory, it delivers the most effective automated locking system based on the value of its retrofit capability, user management convenience, and flexibility for both iPhone and Android devices.”


  1. Notion: This home automation is nice because it alerts you when a door is open (house door, gun door, refrigerator door, etc.) It alerts you if there is a water leak, if the lights are on, if the temperature changed, or if a smoke alarm has gone off. You can set notifications on what alerts you want to receive on your iPhone or Android device.


  1. Canary: By using Canary you’re basically using a device that has the ability to adapt. It actually adapts to you and learns about you the longer it’s installed in your home, and the longer you use it (a little creepy). It uses a 147-degree wide-angle lens to secure your home and make it much safer. You can also access it though your mobile phone at any time (like any other smart home device). “You can set off alarms or speak to a child if they are getting out of bed. It’s perfect for Airbnb guests to monitor when a guest arrives or departs so that you don’t have to bother them.”


  1. Iris: This device can easily be bought from the nearest Lowe’s store. It comes in three different kits, such as Comfort & Control, Safe & Secure, and Smart. This is great because it allows you to customize it to fit your needs and your existing home systems. “The kits integrate with existing HVAC and security systems and adapt to your personal preferences for comfort and security. The company also offers responsive technical support and assistance for set-up and use. It connects directly to the internet through a modem but also works well with smartphones.”


  1. HomeSeer: This home automation is pretty dang fancy. More fancy then the other ones I’ve mentioned so far. It can work with numerous media management applications, operating systems, web browsers, security and HVAC systems. It has remote functionality so you can use it in multiple ways, like setting it to be automatic, manual, or voice controlled, whether you’re home or away. “The company offers a comprehensive ‘one stop’ online shop for all types of peripherals to customize the home automation system to your needs and budget. This home automation system even monitors energy usage patterns and delivers reports that help you become more energy efficient.”


Cost of Smart Home Integration

If you’re really thinking of making your home smart you need to know how much of your hard earned cash is going into this. On HomeAdvisor they set up a table that shows the national average, the typical range, the low end, and the high end of costs of converting your home into a smart home.  

National Average: $1,181

Typical Range: $413 – $1,990

Low End: $61

High End: $4,500

Naturally this process can be expensive. Of course, the price depends on what exactly you’re automating and what company you’re using. If you plan to automate a doorbell, that’ll probably be on the low end. But a security system, or an electricity system– that’ll definitely be on the higher end.

Smart home access on handheld device

Once you’ve paid your expense of installing this home system it’s time to figure out how to use the darn thing. It’s honestly really simple. Presumably the specialists who installed the automations will be kind enough to show you how, along with providing an instruction manual. Most systems are set up on the internet and your smartphone. You seriously access everything from the palm of your hand, as long as you keep your phone on you. You can control your security system that way, you can manage the lights in your home through your touch screen. If you’re on a trip somewhere and you have that random, terrifying thought of “Did I forgot to lock the door?” no worries. You have it all on your handheld device.

Products for Home Automation

You don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the fun and luxurious life of living in a smart home. Thankfully Amazon has created a cheaper way to do this, as well as other brand names. Yep, we’re going to talk about the smart home device called Alexa (how could we not?). Alexa improves the smart home experience by being able to provide you a much more simple and easier lifestyle. There are many different types of Alexa devices: Here are a few of them and what they can do.

  • Amazon Echo: This device is a glorified speaker. It has Bluetooth with microphones so you can play all your favorite types of music, and connects to the internet allowing you to ask those fun questions like, “Hey Alexa, how can I make a million dollars?” She’ll even order pizza for you if you ask nicely.
  • Amazon Echo Show: Not only is it a speaker, but it has a touch screen enabling you to make video calls, view security camera feeds, and watch Amazon Prime Video.
  • Amazon Echo Spot: This is just a smaller version of the Echo Show, and a really fancy type of clock. It’s perfect for bedside tables and desktops, but it would be right at home in a kitchen, living room, or den too.
  • Amazon Echo Look: This one is my personal favorite. This device is your very own fashion supervisor. With built in cameras she can take photos and videos of your outfits to build out a personal lookbook, have it use machine learning to tell you which outfit looks better on you, and (unsurprisingly) have it recommend new clothes to buy.
  • Amazon Echo Connect: This one can turn any Alexa device into a landline phone. It gives you that ability to set up your home phone number with Alexa so you can make and receive calls through the smart speaker while keeping your existing number and provider.
  • Amazon Fire TV: This is basically Amazon’s version of Apple TV. Connect it to your TV and you can access apps like Netflix, Hulu, CBS, NBC, and much more. The remote is the cool feature of this product because you can speak into it to let Alexa know what you’re looking for, just like the Apple TV!
  • Google Assistant: As mentioned before with Amazon being an innovator in the smart home Department, it’s no surprise that you’re going to find other major names do the same, like Google. Google Assistant works just like Amazon’s Alexa by being able to connect to all the same things. They’re all copycats really. But there are some different varieties that compliment Google Assistant.
  • iHome ISP100: This device is an outdoor plug that connects to your outdoor lights giving you the ability to control the lights from the comfort of your couch.
  • Anova Precision cooker: This one is neat because if you’re cooking in the kitchen and you’re too busy focusing on other things you can use the precision cooker to start a sous-vide cooking session, raise and lower the temperature, see how much time is left on the timer, ask how long you’ve  been cooking, and more.
  • Philip Hue Lights: These lights are fun because depending on the package you buy, you can control not only the settings of the lights in your home, but also the colors. Do I detect a party sometime soon?

It’s truly fascinating to see how far technology has come today when comparing it to the inventions that were made not only decades ago, but centuries ago. Even though I’m a millennial, I never would have imagined touch screen computers, laptops, ipads, or iphones. I never would have dreamed of cars that can park themselves, or video games that allow you to be transported into a virtual reality through the use of special goggles. Now we can utilize our homes in a much more convenient, smart way to make daily living more exciting. Some could argue that these devices can make us lazier. I don’t refute that, but the invention alone is impressive because it proves to us that humans are capable of imaging a better world, a modernized world. So, here’s to us humans, improving our lives with every Alexa, or Google Assistant, in our home.

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