What is smart home tech? Everything you need to know

In the world we live in, we’ve all got so much to do. Family, work, our health and saving for our future are the common responsibilities we all share. Smart home gadgets have boomed in the last two years because the tech simply got better and gave us more control and automation.

What is a smart home?

A Smart Home is a fully integrated, interactive and usually voice-controlled environment with one or more ‘connected’ devices from lighting, heating and security systems, all built to make your day easier.

Smart Homes have become much more affordable, thanks to the arrival of voice-control systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa AI and a new generation of ‘connected’ devices that work alongside them.

All you need is a smartphone or tablet and a good broadband connection for accessing the apps to control your smart devices. Your smart home will cater to your needs and can save you money, as well as be your personal assistant, bodyguard, security guard and entertainer.

Whether you’ve been locked out, need a recipe or want to unwind with the best available music – a smart home should deliver you every need at the touch of a button or a simple voice command.

What is available?

Frankly, quite a bit. Many connected home gadgets, from locks to switches to speakers, have gone on the market in the past two years. Monitoring and lighting, smart heating and pollution trackers, smart appliances such as cookers and fridges with built in tablets, and smart entertainment like wireless speakers, projectors and picture frames, are thriving. All of these are operated by voice control or apps.

How popular is it?

The global market for smart home devices has grown by a third in 2018 alone, according to analyst IDC, with 640 million smart devices shipped worldwide. Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo are the fastest-growing category, with a growth rate of 39%, and 100 million already sold worldwide. This is pretty revolutionary stuff.

Who is behind it?

There are dozens of companies and emerging brands now providing smart home tech, but the leaders in this field by far are Amazon, Samsung, Google and Google Nest, Apple and Philips.

But watch out, not everything is compatible

It’s worth checking that any new device will work well with your smart speaker. It should tell you this on the box. Most high-quality smart devices will work with several different systems, so it’s easy to shop around.

Both Google and Amazon (with its Echo Show device) now offer ‘smart speakers’ with screens, which offer an easier way to get to grips with your smart home, with on-screen tutorials explaining how to use it. They’re also great for finding recipes when you use them in the kitchen!

How to get started

Start small and build up. It’s worth looking at getting a hub device first. The Amazon Echo is one of the smartest options, because it can act as a ‘brain’ to link all other smart home gadgets that would otherwise work via individual apps. It can also be an alarm clock, organise your diary, plan your journey to work, find you food recipes, tell you the weather – and that is by no means an exhaustive list.

Thermostats, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, will save you money and therefore feel worthwhile. They’re programmable and will help you practice using smart home tech. Other money saving gadgets are the Curb monitoring device. An instant money saver giving you real-time energy consumption data for your home.

What’s coming in the future?

The key trend next year is smart furniture, which Ikea has already started peddling alongside a host of smaller brands. More furniture is cropping up that has wireless charging embedded, so that as soon as you place your gadget down, it soaks up that charge.

Another key trend will be setting triggers around your home that go off as you move around it. Wearing a smart bracelet that makes decisions for you, so that when you wake up, the downstairs lights will turn on and coffee will start brewing.

Interactive projectors are another product that people are buzzing about. Companies such as Sony have already demonstrated such devices, which project an image onto any flat surface. But what’s really smart about it is that you can then interact with the image itself. And not just in your Star Trek dreams.