Gift Guide: The smart home starter kit – TechCrunch
A year ago I accidentally turned my house into a smart home. What started out as an easy (and lazy, let’s be honest) way to switch off the radio in the kitchen without getting up from the couch quickly became an obsession to remotely control and automate as much of my house as possible.
What makes a smart home? In my house the lights, outlets and window blinds can be controlled from my phone, at home or anywhere in the world, but you can extend it to other things, like air conditioners, sprinklers and garage door openers. Or thermostats, speakers, security cameras and just about anything electrical. And by adding smart home tech that can detect temperature, humidity or motion, you can automate your house to turn the light up at sunset, set the sprinklers on when the weather is dry, turn on the air conditioning when it’s warm or alert you if the doors open when you’re not at home.
The novelty of switching your living room lights off and off from your phone might quickly wear off, but it can be reassuring knowing that you can get a sense of what’s going on at home even when you’re not there — or automatically adjust the climate and lighting when you are.
You’re probably thinking, is this guy serious? Why would I want even more of my home connected to the internet? The Internet of Things (IoT) doesn’t have the best reputation historically with security, but modern smart home devices can be certified to the far higher standards set by the Big Tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Google. That said, no technology is ever perfectly secure, though efforts to create a common secure smart home standard is paying off with Matter, a protocol endorsed by some of the biggest tech companies and smart home device makers.
It helps to join a smart home ecosystem that you’re comfortable with. I use a Mac and an iPhone, so Apple’s HomeKit makes the most sense for me. Apple does not collect a ton of data like other smart home ecosystems and is probably a better fit for the privacy minded. For this guide we’ll focus on HomeKit but much will broadly apply if you use another ecosystem. For Android users, Google Home would make more sense, or Amazon Alexa if you’re so inclined. Many modern devices are compatible with other smart home platforms anyway, including newer standards like Thread. But for best results, pick an ecosystem and make sure the add-ons you’re buying are compatible.
If you’re after convenience or routine — or like in my case you just want to tinker — there’s a lot you can do with what you already have but a lot more you can do without breaking the bank.
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First, you need (or may already have) a HomeKit hub
HomeKit devices rely on a hub to communicate with. It’s through this hub that your other smart home devices connect to the internet, letting you access your devices from your phone …….