Make your home more convenient, entertaining, energy efficient and secure with home automation
Smart Home automation is really about personalizing your home with smart devices that are programmed to do things you want done automatically. And, whether you want to just experiment with a few devices to get started or create a completely automated smart home experience, it’s now easier to do than ever before.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the most popular and useful smart home devices as well as the leading home automation systems and platforms.
Tip: Start slowly with a device or two and learn how they work. Then, add-on other devices that can make the ones you have work smarter.
Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly tech savvy, there are a ton of affordable, easy-to-use, smart devices you setup up and start using right out of the box.
Things like smart bulbs, smart locks and smart thermostats – stuff you use and interact with daily – are the best starter devices for learning how smart home technology can work for you.
If you're a home automation newbie, here’s a short list of smart products to consider:
- Smart bulbs: Smart lighting like the Philips Hue bulb can be programmed to turn on and off automatically or on command. Compatible motion and contact sensors will make them even smarter and help save energy.
- Smart plugs: You can enable ordinary, everyday items to be automated and smarter when plugged in - think lamps, space heaters, etc.
- Voice assistants: With simple voice commands – like “Ok Google” or “Hey Alexa” – you can get answers to questions, control your smart devices, play music, order pizza, and more with your Google Home or Alexa smart speaker.
- Smart thermostats: Save money, energy, and keep your home the perfect temperature, whether you’re home or away. Some, like the Nest thermostat, even possess the smarts to learn your preferences over time and adjust themselves accordingly.
- Smart Cameras: Feel secure in knowing you can always keep an eye on things from anywhere. Smart cams can also send you phone alerts or an email if they see or hear something alarming.
Smart Bundles & Starter Kits: All-in-one bundles are available with compatible devices designed to connect and work together seamlessly. Smart brands like Wink, Samsung
SmartThingsand others also offer kits that typically include a hub plus one of two devices.
What's compatible with your devices?
Figuring out which devices and gadgets will work together has gotten a lot easier too:
- In the store, check for the “Works With” compatibility info on the packaging of most major smart brand products
Smart brand websites provide a complete list of things that you can connect
Knowing a little about how your smart stuff communicates can also help you choose the right devices for your setup.
Zigbee and Z-Wave are the two major wireless “languages” that most smart devices and hubs use to talk to one another. For speedier interactions, both employ a mesh networking technology that allows devices on the same your home network to relay instructions back and forth to each other.
- The most popular and widely used home automation protocol
- Offers easiest setup and the broadest range of device compatibility
- Runs on a 908.42MHz frequency, less prone to interference from other devices
Requires a smart hub to send signals and control devices
- An open standard wireless protocol used by thousands of smart devices
- Offers excellent range and speedy communication between devices
- Low power consumption; battery operated devices can run for years on a single set
Runs on a 908.42MHz frequency
- Dual-band, mesh networking protocol; communicate via radio frequency or over power lines
- Optimized exclusively for home automation and control • Compatible with older X10 devices
Operates on 902 to 924 Mhz frequency band
- No hub is needed to control Wi-Fi connected devices
- Operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands
Wi-Fi consumes lots of power; not ideal for battery powered devices
- Short-range communications technology, limited to about 32 feet (10 meters)
- Can automatically detect and connect up to 8 different devices at once each
Ideal for connecting and streaming data between nearby devices like connected speakers, headphones and wearables
Why You Need a Smart Hub
If you want to create a true automated home experience, a smart hub is essential.
The hub is the brain center of an automated home system, connecting all your wired devices, facilitating communications between them, and enabling control of them remotely from a single access point.
Here's a brief rundown of the most popular smart hubs and smart products they're compatible with:
If you’re a new user looking for a home automation hub system that’s easy to setup and connect your favorite devices, this one checks all the boxes. You can use the Wink app, Amazon Echo, or Apple’s Siri to control all your connected devices. Wink 2 starter kits also offer you a nearly fail-safe way to jump-start you home automation experience. Supports Bluetooth LE, ZigBee, Z-Wave & most smart home protocols.
Works with: Amazon Alexa, Nest, Philips Hue, Schlage, Ring and much more
Setup and connection with your favorite devices is relatively simple with everything you’ll need comes right in the box. You can put your automation plans in high gear with a variety of different SmartThings starter kits. Advanced users will enjoy the support of an active developer community for third-party integrations to use with the hub. Supports Z-Wave, ZigBee, and most smart home protocols.
Works with: Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Nest, Philips Hue, Schlage and much more
Apple’s app-based home automation platform. From the Home app, you can control all your Homekit compatible devices and accessories using an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, or with Siri voice commands.
Homekit does not require a physical hub, but if you want to take advantage of the Home app automation features, you’ll need a fourth-generation Apple TV, an iPad running iOS 10, or the HomePod smart speaker assistant.
Works with: Ecobee 3, Kwikset, Lutron, Philips Hue and more
Amazon Echo smart speaker is better known as simply Alexa, which is Amazon’s voice control system. Just say “Hey Alexa,” and you control your connected devices from almost anywhere within earshot. And, while it’s not yet ready to replace a well-programmed smart hub, Alexa possesses many skills you can call on to manage your smart home, answer questions, play music, and shop for things.
Works with: Nest, Philips Hue, Ecobee 3, Wink, Samsung SmartThings and more
Powered by the Google Assistant voice-recognition system, Google Home is an all-in-one Wi-Fi speaker, digital assistant and smart-home controller. In provides seamless integration with Google services like Gmail, Calendar or Keep, and leverages Google’s industry leading search and voice-control expertise to provide more contextual information when answering your questions.
Works with: Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue, Nest, Belkin WeMo and more
It’s not just a smart thermostat. The Nest app is really smart and has robust hub capabilities that allow it to automate and control dozens of products, including lighting, door locks, smart plugs and more.
Wi-Fi Routers, Extenders, and Mesh Networking Kits
In a typical home, wireless signals have to travel through walls, floors as well as bounce off surfaces like metal or concrete to reach their destination. Wi-Fi routers, extenders, and mesh networking kits can be used to create additional access points in areas of your home where Wi-Fi connectivity may be weak.
Here are a few more tips to help you get better performance from your smart home network:
- Position your hub for a clear line-of-sight path to devices (when possible), or with no more than one floor or wall between them.
- Keep your hub a few feet away from large metal objects to prevent signal loss • Orient the hub’s antenna towards the center of the house to allow the electromagnetic signal to travel in all directions
- Space devices as far apart as possible to reduce the chance of interference
The more devices - the stronger the network. Smart plugs, outlets, and motion sensors can act as repeaters to help relay messages back and forth from devices to the Hub.