Why I’m finally building my own smart home after years of waiting

The extent to which you can make your smart home “smart” is directly related to how much square footage of your home you actually own. A renter can buy a smart speaker, but outside of music and answering questions about the weather, Alexa or Google Assistant won’t do much for you if you can’t install anything permanent without saying goodbye to your security deposit.

Even if a landlord allowed you to plug in a smart thermostat or install a smart lock – unlikely – why get in trouble when you’ll probably be moving somewhere else in a few years? Why spend money to put down roots when the ground under your feet keeps moving?

That’s been my attitude for years, as I moved from Boston to New York to the Bay Area in California, none of which has an easy path to home ownership for English majors. As a result, the smart home craze has largely eluded me. But now my partner and I have finally managed to buy a condo, and I feel like an explosion of smart home opportunities has opened up for me.

Exciting, messy and overwhelming opportunities.

ecobee Premium Smart Thermostat

The ecobee Premium smart thermostat (Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Until now, whenever I had a security camera or other smart home tech to review, I’d borrow my parents’ house in exchange for getting some of their chores done. My last landlord flatly rejected it when I wanted to hook up the Nest Thermostat in my apartment, and it’s hard to test a camera when you don’t have a yard and don’t want your neighbors to think you are them. spy.

Now only my partner has veto power over the technology, and she’s just as excited as I am to give our new home a cognitive upgrade, starting with the thermostat. Living in California means walking a constant tightrope between keeping your energy bill low and letting your home turn into a sauna, and we hope a proper smart thermostat will help you on that front.

The best smart home devices may not sync up with your smart home ecosystem, at least until Matter arrives.

Since our house does not have a C wire, we are considering whether to buy the new Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium with the power extension kit or the Nest Learning Thermostat with the power connector. My colleague’s review sold me on the Ecobee for its air quality monitoring – fire season is on the way – a gorgeous display and a packed room sensor. But it’s hard to pass up the Nest Learning Thermostat’s trick of automatically learning your habits, so we can stop micromanaging the temperature ourselves.

What makes the choice even more difficult is that Ecobee’s thermostat only relies on Alexa, while Nest obviously uses Google Assistant. Choosing one means doubling down on Alexa (since we have the Echo Show 8) or investing in a new ecosystem of smart assistants, so we can easily change the temperature with voice command.

Echo Show 8 Security Camera

A security camera alert on the Echo Show 8. (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson/Android Central)

Luckily, that’s less of an issue with our future video doorbell, which we’re buying to combat apparent package thieves in our area. I’m not a fan of Ring and its terrible privacy policies, but it’s definitely the most convenient option for Alexa users. Luckily, other Video Doorbells can also stream their feeds to the Echo Show with Alexa Skills; even the Nest Doorbell got its own Alexa skills earlier this year.

This kind of interoperability is what I hope to see across the board, which is why I’m excited Matter can arrive this fall as I dive into the world of smart home technology. For those unaware, this is a connectivity standard that will make smart home technology compatible with any smart home ecosystem. It is supported by Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung and most popular smart home brands.

Assuming Matter appears soon, that doesn’t necessarily mean creating a seamless smart home will be a piece of cake. Our smart home enthusiast Chris Wedel wrote a while ago about how smart home fragmentation can cripple the potential of a smart home.

Govee Glide Hexa Light Panels

The intelligence of your smart home depends on the effort you put into it. (Image credit: Chris Wedel)

Even if a device works with Alexa or Google Assistant, it does not mean everything of its characteristics do. The more devices you buy, the more manufacturer apps you’ll need to set up and manage those devices, and then control all the complicated functions that don’t have a corresponding voice command. Adjusting your smart lights or using your robot vacuum’s secondary tools is too specific for your voice assistant to help with. So you are left to make manual changes or check information in one random app after another.

The bigger your smart home gets, the more apps you have to juggle and the more work you have to put in place.

In theory, a smart home can make your life easier. But the bigger your smart home gets, the more work you have to put into it to justify the cost. When I told my colleagues that I was excited to start building a smart home, some of my more cynical colleagues (cough jerry cough) predicted that I would beginning building a smart home and giving up when I realized how boring it was to build.

But I think that’s part of why bitter rivals like Amazon and Google are willing to play nice with Matter. Exclusivity is usually a great way to trap people into an ecosystem to buy all of your products. Look at the success of Apple. But smart homes are so painful to set up, with no guarantee that the technology will perform as well as it should, that only the truly dedicated will care. With Matter over Thread, controlling devices will become more seamless and setting them up will (hopefully) become less of a time commitment.

So while the main answer to the question in this article is obvious – I’m building my smart home because I now own a house – the real answer is more complicated. I would have bought individual smart home devices independently. But with Matter on the horizon, I think I’m really going to put in the effort to create an automated, interconnected system. residence of technology.

In the immediate future, I’ll be reviewing some Govee smart lights and a Kasa Outdoor smart plug for the site, and I’ve purchased some new tech like the Immersion TV backlight to brighten up our home. And while I’m sure my smart home will have some growing pains, I’m optimistic that Matter will help keep the process as smooth as possible.

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