As a Digital Native it is easy for me to write about topics like Smart Home and its applications. But not everyone does. For example, my parents are enthusiastic about Alexa, but they don’t know exactly what to do with it. So here comes the Smart Home Guide for beginners.
I will show you my favorite products. I’ll show you the products and give you some ideas how to equip your home.
If you need a last minute gift for yourself or your loved ones – trust me, I am a Nerd.
We start easily.
What do I need and what do I need to know?
The basic requirement for using smart home devices is a smartphone or tablet, which is used as a central control unit for the devices.
In the early days of Smart Home it was common to connect and control all devices individually via Bluetooth. Each device had its own app and could initially only be controlled via this app. Fortunately, these times are over and central “control hubs” simplify handling. These include, for example, the Apple Homekit, Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.
These tax hubs can be operated either via smartphone or via voice assistants – i.e. with the voice (“Hey Alexa, turn on the lights”).
In my opinion, however, the topic of the Smart Home has only really become interesting since language assistants can now be used as a central control system. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant are probably the best known and most widespread.
Apple only uses its language assistant in Apple’s own home pod. Google and Amazon follow a slightly different approach. On the one hand, they distribute proprietary (self-developed) loudspeakers and, on the other hand, their language assistants are also used by third-party companies for their products.
Another term often used in connection with Smart Home is IFTTT. (“If this then That”). This is a simple logical rule that can be used to automate certain functions of your devices. Translated into German, it simply means that when a certain event happens, something else should react. A few use cases are listed below.
But enough of the introduction. Now let’s take a look at what my Smart Home has to offer.
Smarter WLAN Mesh Satellite: Orbi Voice
Orbi is already known to some users as a Mesh WLAN system. For the ignorant like me (recently), you can distinguish between two WLAN systems. The classic WLAN and Mesh WLAN systems. The difference between the two systems lies in the expandability of the systems.
With “traditional” WLAN networks, the range can be extended by so-called repeaters, which, however, lead to a halving of the bandwidth. Mesh WLAN systems provide a stable network without loss of quality due to a different mode of operation.
In addition to this point, there are of course more advantages and disadvantages of both systems, but this should be enough for now.
The Orbi Voice is a kind of amplifier or “satellite” for an existing Orbi Mesh system. The function “WLAN amplifier” is not the reason why this product is listed in this article.
The Orbi Voice integrates a speaker tuned by Harman Kardon, 4 microphones and the Alexa Speech Assistant. The additional features and a chic design transform a router, which is usually hidden in the corner, into your central control unit for the smart home.
Currently the Orbi Voice only works as a satellite for the Orbi Mesh system. However, according to the manufacturer, this should be updated so that you can use the Orbi Voice as a satellite for other WLAN systems.
Logitech Circle 2
Is a longer vacation planned and you are afraid for your house? Logitech has a security camera in its portfolio that can be integrated into your Smart Home System.
The Circle 2 named Smart-Cam can be installed indoors or outdoors. You don’t have to worry about rain as the device is waterproof. Optional accessories allow the camera to be mounted almost anywhere.
The cam has a 180° wide-angle lens, so you can capture everything in front of the camera. A Full HD resolution with excellent picture even at night allows you to follow the action in front of the camera always. A built-in speaker allows two-way communication with the person in front of the camera.
The camera records videos during motion detection and stores them for free up to 24 hours in the private cloud.
In addition, you can set a notification so that you can see all movements on the camera. When not in use, the camera can simply be switched off and on via an app.
The Logitech Circle 2 supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Homekit.
Alexa/Ok Google/Hey Siri, turn on the heater: tado thermostat
Tado is a startup from Munich, which concentrates on the intelligent integration of your building technology such as air conditioning or heating systems.
The more interesting product for the German market is probably the intelligent networking of the heaters with the thermostat from tado. These enable you to control your heating with your smartphone. According to the manufacturer, heating costs can be reduced by up to 31 percent with tado.
Once the thermostats have been installed, the smartphone makes it very easy to control the temperature via the smartphone. Of course, the whole thing works not only at home, but also on the go.
A simple scenario would be that you drive away for a long weekend and forget to switch the heating from level 5 to 1 or 2. A simple click in the app makes it possible, for example, to switch the heating down.
Controlling devices via the smartphone makes the tado products smart, but the “big trick” is the optional Climate Assistant Skills from Tado. These include a time function, room air measurement, control by weather forecast and regulating the heating when the window is open. Tado can be controlled via Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Homekit and IFTTT.
Open sesame: Nello one
Nello is like tado a startup from Munich, which is specialized in another device in the house. The Nello one is supposed to turn your intercom system in your apartment or house into a smart device.
To be exact, this only affects the door opening function of the intercom. Just install the Nello one on the intercom. Unfortunately not all intercom systems are supported. The Nello website has a compatibility list with all intercom systems supported by Nello.
Nello allows you to open the front door of a rental house with your smartphone – you know that now. Using Geofencing you can also set the door to open automatically in a certain time window if the smartphone is near the apartment.
Alternatively, a time window can be specified to determine when the front door opens automatically. If you are celebrating or inviting friends to dinner, the doorbell will ring and your front door will open automatically.
Good feature: Every time the doorbell rings, a push notification appears on your smartphone indicating whether the door has been opened automatically or not.
Nello has Alexa support and can be used with an iOS or Android device. Google Home and Apple Homekit are not supported.
Controlling old TVs via Smart Home: Logitech Harmony Hub
The Logitech Harmony Hub lets you control your TV, stereo, smart home devices, game consoles and more.
In total, more than 270,000 devices are compatible with the Harmony Hub. That’s a remote that really deserves the name “universal”.
To check if your products are compatible, visit the Logitech website. A total of up to eight devices can be configured.
Logitech’s Harmony Hub works with your computer, iOS or Android device. Additionally Alexa and IFTTT are supported, so you can activate the TV and the matching system with a simple “Alexa, turn on the TV”. Furthermore, there are optional Harmony remote controls for remote control nostalgic.
The functions range from program change, volume control to the control of your Smart Home devices. Simple automation can also be set via the app or optionally the remote control.
These functions of the Harmony Hub can also be controlled from the smartphone while on the move.
Security for the home network: F-Secure Sense
One point that is often forgotten is security in the home network. Smart home helpers can now simply be used as a gateway into the home WLAN network. And your Smart Home becomes a glass palace. Who wants that? Nobody.
The WLAN router F-Secure Sense therefore protects against unwanted intruders (or their malware) and prevents devices from being infected with malware.
The router detects which devices are connected to the network and adjusts your security settings depending on the device. To ensure the security of Smart Home devices, the traffic on your network is monitored.
Any unusual event is detected by the router and incoming connections are blocked. This keeps your Smart Home secure against attacks.
My tip: Everyone who buys Smart Home products should keep an eye on their security.
Another function is the practical Browsing Protection. Every website that is opened is first checked for malware. For this purpose, the page is compared with a database containing malware distributing websites.
If one tries to open a website that is known to distribute malware, Sense blocks the opening of the page in question.
This is what the products presented offer
The products presented can do so much. But I can’t accommodate that here.
So here is an example how a smart day could look like with these devices:
By ringing the doorbell, Nello will open the door for you in winter. As soon as you arrive at the apartment, the Logitech Circle 2 camera registers a movement. A shortcut to IFTTT allows you to set the light to turn on (smart light bulbs required) and start your favorite song on the Orbi Voice. This is not only a nice ritual to come home, but also a deterrent to burglars.
After you have been warmly welcomed from your apartment, you can sit on the sofa and switch on your TV in a very relaxed way by voice command.
The Harmony Hub has an adjustable automatic system that lets you turn on your sound system, dim the lights in the living room and stop the music from the Orbi Voice loudspeaker without having to say another word.
And if it gets too cold or too hot, you can easily regulate the temperature of your radiator with a voice command.
Are you expecting a visit to the common Netflixen? No problem! You either set up a time window via Nello App or you open the front door via Alexa voice command.
F-Secure Sense ultimately makes sure that no outsider plays tricks on your technology. So you can install whatever you want, Sense protects you from virtual burglars.
Detailed test reports on the above products will follow in the coming weeks.
There is so much more
I have once consciously introduced you to 6 products that particularly inspire me. Of course there are now light bulbs, loudspeakers, radios, sound bars or humidifiers from various manufacturers.
But: First of all I want to know if you liked the article and if you want more of it. Write me in the comments.