What Is Smart Home Technology?

What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, doorbells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It’s not science fiction; it’s the “Internet of Things”, and it’s a key component of home automation and smart homes.

Home automation is exactly what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house—from window shades to pet feeders—with a simple push of a button (or a voice command). Some activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your whim, are simple and relatively inexpensive. Others, like advanced surveillance cameras, may require a more serious investment of time and money.

There are many smart home product categories, so you can control everything from lights and temperature to locks and security in your home. We will be presenting the ones that we have had experience with starting with the Amazon Echo family of products.

Amazon Echo Family

Three years after the debut of the original, which we had almost immediately,  Amazon decided the time was right to refresh its flagship smart speaker, the voice-activated Amazon EchoThe Echo is a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, Amazon’s handy and friendly,  voice assistant. Alexa works with a number of smart home devices directly, as well as with If This Then That (IFTTT) to control plenty of others via “recipes” you can create yourself. If you ever wanted to turn all your lights out, lock the front door and set the thermostat for bed without getting out of bed – Alexa can do that!  It’ll take a little work to set up the commands, but you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house by the sound of your voice. If you already have a favorite speaker, the inexpensive Echo Dot can connect to it and add Alexa functionality. And if you want a touchscreen to see search results and make video calls, check out the Echo Show or Echo Spot.

The Amazon Echo is frequently discounted from its standard $100 price. At $100, nearly half the cost of the original, the new Echo seeks to undercut them all. In short, it’s the same Alexa speaker that quickly became a dominant smash hit, only now it’s cheaper and nicer-looking. If you’re interested in bringing voice controls into your home, smart or otherwise, the Echo still offers the most bang for your buck.

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