3 October 2019

Get smart: beginners guide to turning your house into a smart home

Vic Lorusso
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The term smart home has become a buzz-phrase that has infiltrated the tech world for the last few years. But if you think a home that is connected, automated, aware and incredibly functional is a concept for the future, think again – with a few small pieces of tech it can be the home of today.

Here’s a quick introduction to some of the technology that can transform your house into a smart home.

ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS

The aim of smart entertainment systems is to give you control over all your audio-visual equipment in one hand-held device.

At the basic end of the spectrum, you can ask Google Home (RRP $149) or Alexa from Amazon (RRP $149 for the 3<sup>rd</sup> generation iteration) to play whatever song you like. Then there are the more advanced multi-room multimedia systems, featuring sensors that detect when you leave or enter a room and automatically casts your music to wherever you are.

Amazon Echo. Picture by Grant Ritchie.

If you are more interested in integrating entertainment as part of your home’s key features, you can group all your entertainment devices into one app with iRule (from RRP $49.99), which turns your phone into the central remote for all your Wi-Fi enabled devices.

SECURITY

Security is a serious consideration for all homes, and now you don’t have to worry about whether you remembered to lock the front door. Smart security systems allow you to monitor your home remotely regardless of where you are.

Many home automation systems enable you to activate your security measures with the touch of a button, giving you the ability to customise it however you please, from operating motion detector lights through to locking the bedroom door if movement sensors are triggered. The catch is you pay for the system and for installation by professionals.

For an easy DIY system, a good entry level option is the Amazon Cloud Cam (RRP $119), which is equipped with two-way audio, night vision, HD video and an alert system that notifies you if it detects motion.

LIGHTING

Having control of your lighting from a simple app on your phone makes life easy and will assist with security measures and managing electricity bills. There are light and sensor packages like the WeMo Motion Kit (RRP $128) that automatically switches lights on when you enter a room and turn off after you have left a room for a period of time.

Another solid option is the Philips Hue (RRP from $90), which allows you to control the lighting in your home from your phone with the added feature of dimming and brightening the light. The bulbs can even change colour to create whatever ambience you desire.

Philips Hue Kit.

TEMPERATURE

Most A/C units have timers you can program so that you can ensure your home is nice and cool or toasty warm when you get home. You can take this one step further by automating when it operates and at what temperature from your smart phone. Depending on how old your unit is, you may need to upgrade the thermostat or add a device for wireless control.

The ecobee4 Smart Thermostat (RRP $230) is voice activated and is a cut above other touch screen options. You simply ask it to adjust to the temperature you want. It really is as simple as that.

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat.

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