Last Updated Mar 15, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider
Home automation is now accessible for everyone to have a smart home. The only question is which home automation devices should you choose? It may depend on your personal needs, but you also want to choose the best home automation apps you can find. Below is what is available on the market today to make your home smarter.
You can find two types of apps. Some are connected to specific devices or product ranges. The device might be a light bulb, an appliance, a camera or even a motorised curtain opener. An example of this type of app is Philips Hue. A Philips Hue starter kit comes with WiFi enabled light bulbs. Simply install them, download the app and you can control lights from your smartphone. You can even change the colour of your LED lights using the app.
Some newer apps don't even require an internet-enabled device. They come with sensors you can install on an existing appliance. The sensors turn the appliance into a WiFi enabled appliance. These are a few products that are now available:
SmartThings is a Samsung product. The kit includes a hub (central unit) and several sensors you can connect to a coffee maker, a garage door or other electric device. You can also purchase a motion sensor, a presence sensor, a moisture sensor and other devices.
Belkin WeMo is best known for their range of WiFi light bulbs, but they also make clever smart plugs you can simply plug into the wall and turn any electrical device into a smart device. WeMo apps are available for Android and iPhone devices.
Control4 My Home charges an annual fee, but is a good buy for the money. It gives you a 3G or 4G home connection you can use to control your lighting, entertainment system, home security system, thermostat and more.
Alarm.com partnered with Australian company Hills in 2015. Alarm.com is a home security system that also allows you to control your home's temperature, lights and more. If you have "smart" door locks, you can lock or unlock your doors using the Alarm.com app. The app will tell you if your doors are locked or your garage door is closed. Alarm.com charges a monthly fee after an initial set-up fee.
A home security system can include everything from motion detectors to indoor and outdoor cameras. You can have a home security supplier install a full system and monitor it for you or take a DIY approach and purchase apps for your system.
If you prefer taking a DIY approach to home security, several systems and apps are available in Australia:
Salient Eye is a free home security app. Recently, it helped a New Zealand resident capture a potential intruder. She was able to contact the police the moment the app detected the intruder's presence. It is free for Android users and inexpensive for iPhone users.
Scout Home Security is a customisable home security system that has received good reviews. The full system includes a hub (main network), a door panel, an access sensor, a motion sensor and optional monitoring plan.
Nest Cam is an outgrowth of an older security camera called Dropcam. Google purchased Dropcam, made some improvements and renamed the system Nest Cam. It is basically a home security camera, but also has a motion sensor and sound sensor. They recently released an outdoor version of Nest Cam.
Icontrol is another home security device that can be monitored with an app. It is a U.S. company that is partnering with Telstra in Australia. According to reviews, Icontrol is a more fully-featured device than many others.
These are four home security devices for DIY home security. Others will probably become available. If you're looking for home security, look for a system that has CCTV cameras, motion sensors and other home security devices. The ultimate system will also check to see if your windows and doors are closed and locked.
It is now possible to have a DIY or partial DIY home automation system. Here are a few examples:
ZWave offers dozens of home automation products. They include wall plugs that can turn any electronic device into a smart device. ZWave needs to be professionally installed, but after installation, you can add to your home automation system simply by purchasing their products and plugging them into the wall. You can also purchase door locks and other products. ZWave may have the largest range of products in Australia.
Savant is a free app that works on Apple's operating system. The app is free, but for full home automation, you may need to buy some Savant products. You can do a DIY installation or have a technician install a full home automation system for you.
D-Link Wireless Smart Plug is just what it sounds like. Simply plug it into a wall socket and you can control lights and appliances with an iPhone or Android app. D-Link also makes a home security kit and a smart sensor kit.
If there is a downside to modern home automation, it's that we tend to buy home automation products piecemeal. We might start with lighting or home security and add on later. Each product we buy will have a different app and we might find juggling all those apps difficult. Smart home apps are designed to make using apps easier.
Thington is an example of a free app that works with LIFX, Philips Hue, WEMO and Nest. The company is looking for other smart home device manufacturers to partner with.
Home automation is the wave of the future, but some of us might want to get our toes wet before we plunge in. Smart plugs cost less than $50 and even some lighting starter kits are under $100. A DIY security system with one camera and a motion detector costs around $300.
Full home automation used to cost tens of thousands of dollars. It's much cheaper today. You can start with a starter kit and add on as your budget allows. If you're building, consider having your home wired for home automation. It's an affordable option and you'll be glad you have an internet connected home.