Nearly everything in your home , including  the air-conditioner, the thermostat, the lights and even the garage door,  can be connected to the internet and be remotely controlled with your mobile device or a smart speaker. But setting up a "smart home" may be mind-boggling to certain...  Before starting, beware that there is a variety of different accessories who work only with certain products, and some work better than others. Below is a guide to help you sort through the different products and allow you to select your first voice-controlled smart home.
First, Choose Your Assistant

Virtual voice-controlled assistants like Apple’s SiriGoogle’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa make it easy to control your smart home products  allowing you to simply speak your commands;  for example asking “Alexa" to turn on the lights or turn on the music or anything else, even in an emergency situation to contact or call someone for you.  Each of these tools has its strengths and weaknesses, you must do some research before deciding on which option to choose, so you can choose wisely the device  that will suit your needs:

Amazon's Alexa

Pros:

  • If you want to quickly get started with a smart home, buying an Echo product is your best bet,

  • Among the many options offered on the marketplace, you may choose a Smart Home Starter Kit.

  • Amazon’s Echo products are easy to set up and plug in anywhere that you need to "contact" or call Alexa.

  • Echo Dot,  offers a few models of small speakers, with pricing ranging from $60 to $150 , which is consist of the cheapest smart home controllers in the market. Echo Dot even offers a "kids" version.

  • Amazon Echo Plus comes with Zigbee hub as a built-in feature

  • The Echo Dot has seven microphones by which Alexa will listen to your voice even from the corner of the room, also great for using multiple Echo devices in your house.

  • Having an Amazon Echo Plus in your home means that you will have fewer hubs

  • Amazon Echo plus is compatible with devices from manufacturers such as, Philips Hue - TP-Link Ecobee - Wemo and Ring as well as a large variety of internet-enabled devices including  microwaves oven, printers, televisions , Nest products and many more...

  • Alexa has more than 10,000 Skills, or third-party capabilities, making it the most broadly supported smart home hub.

  • The smartphone apps for setting up Echo products work with Apple and Android devices.

  • Amazon has designed different designs with different prices that can fit in every buyer pockets.

Cons:

  • It takes several days to update the new version of Software into the device.

  • The major pros and cons is related to home privacy.

  • People can identify who is present on the home based on echo private conversations.

  • Others can also access echo conversations.

  • People can use your location using different techniques and deliver their location based services

  • It’s a cloud based devices so it can create problems if any trouble in cloud.

  • Echo must be plugged in to use since it has no internal battery.

  • Amazon retains digital recordings of users’ audio spoken after the “wake up word”

  • The Echo Dot has a low volume and if adjusted to higher it sometimes creates interruptions        when listening to music

  • You need to have unlimited internet data plan; as Echo Dot uses much internet.

  • Amazon Alexa echo dot biggest pros and cons: Confusion with Specific homophones words             and not useful response from common question sometimes asked by Alexa users.

 
 

Apple's Siri

Pros:

  • HomeKit (the Home app on your iPhone) works well with all of your Apple devices and includes Siri support. All of your devices can be accessed from the Home app on your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac

  • With privacy in mind, Apple worked directly with home accessory makers to ensure that the data transferred between accessories and Apple devices is secure and encrypted.

  • The integration of Apple’s HomeKit into its mobile devices makes it much easier to set up Siri with home accessories.

  • HomeKit doesn’t require you to purchase and configure a central hub, even if you have several dozen smart-home devices. All you need is your iOS device, Apple’s Home app, and whatever HomeKit-compatible products you choose to start.

  • Your Apple HomeKit becomes far more functional once you add an Apple TV or an iPad or even an Apple watch.

Cons:

  • Limited device support

  • Home app doesn't give full control over all accessories

  • Requires iOS devices

  • Hack required for full Homekit compatibility

  • No local storage

  • Inconvenient viewing of previous recordings

  • Apple systems also tend to have a price premium

  • Limitations to user customization's, and Apple ecosystems tend to be less open and constrain third party developers ability to enhance/extend/change the experience.

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Google's Assistant

Pros:

  • Google’s Home speaker and smartphones running newer versions of Android include Assistant.

  • In terms of artificial intelligence (AI), "Assistant" is generally smarter than Alexa and Siri as it is it is powered by Google search, therefore it is giving you a much broader array of questions and you are more likely to get a correct or more accurate response.

  • If you have Google Chromecast at your home then using Google Home you can easily control your TV.

Cons:

  • To initiate a contact with your  "Assistant" you must say; “OK Google,” which at times may get somewhat annoying.

  • There are far more smart home products supporting Alexa than Google’s Assistant.

  • While Assistant is slightly smarter than other virtual assistants, it still has flaws and will not always respond to  some of your requests appropriately.

  • Various updates are not available in many places

  • Many skills missing in comparison to other smart speakers

  • As for Google's privacy policy on the data it collects with "Google Home" they are vague. They mention that : “Google collects data that’s meant to make their services faster, smarter, more relevant and more useful to you, really nothing is explained as far as how it is shared and with whom...

  • You will have to give up a lot of data which means you will get constant reminders

  • You will be monitored at all time... 

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Choose Your Hardware

After you pick your virtual assistant, you will be able to choose a piece of hardware that will become your primary smart home controller such as;

The information presented above is meant to be used as a guide to help you make the right choice, but we know that most importantly the cost will play a  decisive factor, along with your need for a solid set of speakers or your desire to have an additional device in your home in the first place.  Added to the 3 major manufacturer's of Smart hubs and speakers which are described above, a  few other options are currently offered on the marketplace (such as: Abode, Samsung Smarthings  Then, when your selection is made and the purchase of the platform is done, the fun begins! 

 

With your virtual assistant you can set up your home a number of ways  and make it “smarter" , you will surely enjoy having your new personal smart assistant to handle some of your home appliances and devices for you! 

Abode Essentials Starter Kit 
  • DIY Wireless Home Security System
  • Works with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit
  • Professional grade home security, easy and fast to install (in minutes).

  • The abode system is a self-monitored and self-controlled home security and smart home platform you control right from the abode web or mobile app

  • Free app access to monitor and control your system from anywhere (available in English and Spanish).

  • Abode leverages professional grade technologies like cellular and battery backup to keep your home secure even in power outages.

  • It includes a built in 93db siren.

  • Manually trigger your system from the app either silently or audibly to alert other users on your system to your emergency.

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Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub 2nd Gen.
  • Your smart home needs a brain, so get started with a SmartThings Hub.

  • Connects wireless with a wide range of smart devices and makes them work together

  • Add smart devices and put your home to work. Choose from a wide range of compatible devices, including lights, speakers, locks, thermostats, sensors, and more

  • Use the SmartThings app or Amazon Alexa to control your smart home.

  • Teach your house new tricks by telling it what to do when you’re asleep, awake, away, and back home

  • Power: In-wall power adapter with about 10 hours of backup power from 4 AA batteries (included)

  • Communication. Protocol: ZigBee, Z-Wave, IP. Range: 50-130 feet Operating Temperature: 41 to 95°F.

  • Compatible Brands: Honeywell, Philips Hue, Kwikset

  • Requires an internet-connected Wi-Fi router with an available Ethernet port, plus the free SmartThings app for Android (4.1 or later) or iPhone (iOS 9.0 or later)

  • A more powerful processor and local app engine means faster performance and enabled offline processing