I’m a geek. A total nerd. And I totally, unabashedly assume it. I mean I work at a tech company. So when I moved a few months ago, I was really excited to start turning my newly acquired dumb home into a smart home.
I wanted it all. As many gadgets and sensors and enhancements as possible. So I set out making a spreadsheet of all the different types of smart products on the market. From the obscure little known ones to the name brand ones.
When I finally unveiled my home makeover master plan to my girlfriend, she got a little scared of the Big Brother scale of my plans. Fast forwarding through the ensuing “I’m keeping my privacy – But the NSA already knows everything!” argument, I have since scaled back the desired IQ of my home.
Here is the “Best Of” of my spreadsheet, so you can smarten your home but avoid creeping out your less tech-thusiastic partner.
Setting The Mood
The first step I took to dial back the “Skynet-machines-are-everywhere” feeling of my project was to make sure I got the whole feeling and ambiance right. This started with getting up the right smart sound system to go with our Netflix addiction.
Keep it romantic:
Turning the lights down and setting the appropriate mood can also help just as much in making this technology feel more human and less robot. Maybe for many people, the go to smart lightbulbs is the Philips Hue range. But personally, I was more partial to Lifx range of Wi-Fi LED bulbs. The starting prices are generally lower than the Phillips starter kits. Lifx also integrates easily with other systems like Nest, Amazon Echo or IFTTT.
Up your sound game:
We opted to go for the Sonos Play:1 speakers. I loved them because of how stylish they are and small enough to fit everywhere. Along with the ones in the living room, I put one in the kitchen and in the bedroom. The best part is the app that ties it all together. From this app you can access all your music. And when I say all your music, I mean literally all. It works with the music on your devices as well as the music across all your streaming services!!
Never be too cold or hot:
The last part of my setting the mood plan was being able to easily and remotely control the temperature of the apartment. My logic was that if my girlfriend could see how this tech made life more comfortable, she would be more accepting of other home improvements. I naturally leaned towards the 3rd generation of the Nest smart thermostat. I know the previous generations had their fair share of issues but I was convinced enough by this one to give it a shot.
Control Your Kitchen
The kitchen is probably the place I spend most of our time at home since I love to cook and the table is just the most comfortable place to get some work done. So this was a room I really wanted to get right and where my smart home efforts would probably be the most visible.
Never forget to buy milk:
There is always a point in the day where, usually mid to late afternoon where I have that “what’s in the fridge? What did she tell me to buy?” moment. This was by far the biggest ticket item we invested in. The Samsung Family Hub is able to answer just that need. And that for us was worth it even though it doesn’t play very well with others. It is limited to Samsung apps.
I loved my Thermomix dearly. I did almost everything with it. But when I saw the Philips Connected Multicooker, it was everything I was looking for. Since I got it, I have been able to prepare soups and stews and slow cooked dishes the night before and set the cooker to have the food ready when we got home at night. This has been a lifesaver in 2 ways. We order less take away so our budget comes out wining and we eat a lot healthier. All wins.
Green Thumb Cheat code:
Another little gadget I impulse bought on Amazon one night was the Parrot Flower Power. And with good reason. I have not lost any of my aromatics to negligent watering or forgetting to move them to the sun a bit. I always get notifications and reports on how they are doing as well as suggestions based on the more than 7 000 plant species in Parrots database.
Keep It All Safe
Since I live in an apartment building, general safety wasn’t the biggest concern when I was putting this project together. However there are a few ways I wanted to enhance the safety aspect of our home.
Never worry about where you put your house keys:
The first element I installed was the August Smart Lock. I saw only advantages to this as between the cleaning lady, friends and family who visit often, knowing who was coming and going was important. Plus, when you have to dig through your backpack to find the keys, unlocking your door based on your geolocation is pretty handy.
Avoid the silent killers:
Smoke detectors are now a standard, but getting equipped with a CO2 detector is another step. Nothing was better for us than getting both in one smart detector. The Nest Protect has all the advantages of the detectors but won’t wake you in the middle of the night because of a low battery or a faulty contact.
Know when Amazon gets delivered:
Knowing who is at your door and who may or may not be stealing your Amazon deliveries is another one of the great necessities in this world, when your new headphones getting stolen for the second time. The SkyBell HD has an HD camera, speaker and motion sensor. So when someone comes to your door without ringing to, say help themselves to a new pair of headphones, you get a notification and can see who is there.
Your New Best Friend:
Maybe the most important part of this project was finding a central nervous system or a brain that could tie all this tech together. What I found best was the Amazon Echo. Alexa has been able to integrate with most of the devices and manage the house. From perfectly integrating with our Amazon Prime addiction, to creating To-Do lists & shopping lists reminders, the Echo sits in the kitchen and can basically do it all.