How to Make Your Home a Smart Home: Smart Home Works' Guide

Smart homes are having a major of impact on shaping the future of the North-American electronics marketplace. I can only imagine what this will entail for the real estate market in a few years - I see a very substantial change in the needs of consumers as well, as smart-home technologies extend to so so many different categories of electronic devices.

The mandate of a smart home is essentially to increase your home's efficiency, as well as to simplify the lives tied to it. Smart technologies essentially allow users to automatically, or conveniently trigger various functions that certain appliances, security systems, gadgets, access points, or other electronic devices, can perform.

Smart gadgets rely on triggers, which request that they carry out specific functions. Triggers can be triggered by button press, voice command, or other triggers, whether on your smartphone, smartwatch or smart hub (if you don’t know what a hub is, you will in a moment…) The end goal is to initiate automated and intuitive responses from your gadgets.

If your interest in smart technologies has sparked over the last couple of years, but don't know the ins and outs, we are happy to have you here to read through the rest of our “Smart Homes for Dummies” crash course.

Integrating smart home technologies within your home is achieved by "linking" different types of compatible software to a voice activated hub, or remote control. This means that each electronic device that hones smart technology integrates with a compatible central hub through their software. Within almost any given smart device, there is software that enables it to be "discovered" mediums such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or another alternative, with aims to "pair" the devices. Once a device is "paired", or "linked, to a central hub or smartphone, a user / homeowner can stipulate which of its triggers result in which actions. Once devices are paired, the user is able to use specialized software (such as IFTTT) to stipulate “rules” that must be followed. For example, several devices (A, B, C and D) connected to a smart hub (IE a smart tv, smart light, furnace and smartphone connected to amazon echo) can refer to each other to make more advanced rules, such as A causes B and D to turn on when C is turned off.

To break it down and delve into details, I will use the most basic example I can think of. A light bulb can harness smart technology to make life easier for a homeowner in a few ways. Some are commonplace and others are more specialized.

I will re-iterate, “Smart” electronics usually consist of a smart device's software that is compatible with another device's software. The devices can "understand each other's language", allowing users to stipulate automated functions. Depending on the programming language of a particular device, you can seamlessly stipulate integrations that aim to efficiently trigger a desired result to fulfill your specific needs.

As you're probably familiar with smartphones by now, my first configuration involves “linking” a lightbulb to your smartphone, which can be done in one of several ways - Depending on which product's specifications you would like to utilize in order to achieve your needs and goals. One person may opt to switch a light bulb off and on through a smartphone, whereas another may want to trigger a flashing blue light when the smart doorbell rings.

Your options for configuring a "smart light" include (but are far from limited to):

1- Buy a smart light bulb and link it to a hub or smartphone -

connect furnace to smartphone iphone light bulb Some of these products offer more "advanced" performance upgrades such as built-in backup batteries (can perform functions such as automatically switching a light on, using its integrated rechargeable battery, when it senses a power outage), colour changing functionalities and more.

2- A smart plug -

smart plug furnace thermostat iphone It plugs in to an outlet and comes equipped with a powerful but basic mechanism that allows you to remotely switch any light bulb (smart or not) that you plug into it on or off. The premium end of the smart plug spectrum includes software that can track energy consumption, and also includes intuitive scheduling capabilities.

3- A smart hub -

Examples of hubs include Google Home, Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings etc.
amazon echo dot hub
For optimal functionality, you can link a Philips Hue smart lightbulb to a smart hub (via wi-fi, bluetooth, smartphone app etc.) or smart phone (by downloading the Philips Hue app). Keep in mind that you can simply plug a regular (dumb) lamp to a smart plug to make it "smarten up". To set up more advanced options and integrate your new hardware with any of your home's "smart" alarm systems, music players, washing machines, garage door openers, amongst others, you can either attach it to a smart hub (Such as the hub pictured above *Amazon Echo Dot), or you can "create" a hub out of a smartphone or computer using software such as IFTTT. For example, you can potentially use this setup to configure your software to instruct your smart light to turn on if it senses the smart garage door opening (remember, you can link an old garage door opener to a smart plug to make it smart. Then configure the smart plug to your hub.)

smart plug for smart home

To take things a step further with the light bulb, you might want to consider which potential advantages and restrictions there are to purchasing a smart lightbulb versus a "dumb" light bulb connected to a smart plug.

  • Homeowner #1 prefers to control the brightness of a light as well as control whether it is just “off” or “on”. He decides to connect the light on his front porch to his Amazon Echo, which is also connected to a smart tv in the basement. He has configured all of this as he decided that life would be simpler if he voiced a command to his Amazon Echo to instruct it to automatically dim the lights at the front entrance when the Echo senses that the basement television is on.

  • Homeowner #2 decides that life will be simpler if her front porch light simulates her presence when she's away on business (to thwart intruders from entering her home when they are on her front porch.) Homeowner #2 may choose to configure her alarm system's motion sensor and door contact, located on her porch, to her hub, which is also connected to a smart lightbulb. She can then instruct the hub to automatically turn on the porch light bulb when someone is on her porch. She can also take her security system a step further and instruct it to flash red and blue lights to simulate an emergency vehicle light, if the door contact senses an open door.

  • Homeowner #3 wants to configure her light bulb using voice commands through an Amazon Echo. Once the hub is plugged in at home, she will follow instructions for scanning for the smart light, which will also be plugged in. Once the devices are paired, she can open smartphone for remote access. With Amazon Echo, she can simply trigger the hub by saying the program's name, "Alexa".

    Once you fully grasp the opportunities available to you for the type of hardware you are looking to integrate into your smart light, other electronics, such as mp3 players, thermostats, HVAC units, alarm systems, locks, televisions and washing machines can open doors to a whole new world of smart home integrations.

    Let’s put things into perspective. If you have a lightbulb that you would like to have automatically turn on when someone is on your front porch, you will also require a motion sensor that is compatible with your home’s smart hub (IE Amazon Echo, Apple Home, IFTTT on your computer or smart phone etc).

    philips smart colour lightbulb

    1- To achieve this, connect your smart hub-compatible motion detector to a power source and mount it on your front porch. Proceed to test it on your hub or smart phone to ensure it responds. Then proceed to do the same with your light and create the links and rules you need them to abide by.

    2- You can now configure your hub and have your light bulb turn on once your motion sensor detects movement. This can be done in a number of ways and specific instructions depend on the hub and type of lightbulb, or smart lightbulb, you choose.

    Smart Thermostat Ecobee Ontario Alberta and BC

    Toronto-based Ecobee's Smart thermostats are products that my colleagues work with on a daily basis. Once your thermostat is installed, a series of sensors can be mounted in different rooms. Once your hardware is installed, Smart Home Works will help you to install a secure and easy to use app on your smartphone.

    Your smartphone is then rendered into a hub of sorts. This will allow you to monitor, control and adjust the temperature in different rooms, no matter where you are in the world.  A hub such as Apple Home or Amazon Echo can offer ways to automate functions such as setting temperature based on conditions you stipulate. If the basement television, which has been programmed into your phone (via software such as IFTTT) or the hub, is on, then adjust the basement’s temperature to 15 degrees Celsius. If a lightbulb is plugged into a smart plug upstairs and you’ve linked the smart plug to your hub, you can set it up to also turn the light off when the basement’s television is turned on.

    If Kevin Mcallister from Home Alone had access to IFTTT, an iPhone and a hub such as Samsung SmartThings or Amazon Echo in the 90’s, the antagonists wouldn’t have stood a chance! With the click of a button he could have turned on the “I’m gonna give you till the count of ten to get your…”, activated a dim red light and sounded his parents home security alarm. The "Sticky" Bandits would have had a chance to rethink their lives with full heads of hair, fewer scars, less limping... maybe some dignity...

    Additional smart appliances include, but are not limited to:

    Smart televisions and streaming services

    Smart fridges, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers.

    HVAC systems' smart fans and vents

    Outdoor plant watering sensors

    Smart locks, security cameras

    Smart fire and CO2 detectors.

    As always if you liked this blog then please feel free to read our other blogs and leave us your comments- We are always happy to get your input - don’t be shy!

    If you are interested in upgrading your home to a smart home, we can help you start with a new Ecobee smart thermostat and the right kind of advice to pave your way to having the smartest home on your block.

    Schedule a Free Furnace / AC consultation