The behavior of my smart home appliances and various interconnected devices would change to reflect my habits. All of this would happen “under the hood,” and the setup process would take only minutes. I would communicate with my smart home by speaking to my home computer The first step in making your home smart requires automation. Put simply, it is a set of rules adhered to by your smart home devices. (Here’s a list of some of the best smart home devices out there.). (Here’s a good guide to home automation protocols.) And that means there is a different control scheme for every device as well as multiple control apps, resulting in the inability for the devices to interact with one another. You end up with a home that’s neither smart nor connected.
With the advent of gadgets like doorbell cameras, smart and data-logging sensors that , the smart home now extends to even the most intimate areas of the household. It's great for general convenience, like knowing whether you left the heater on or locked the door behind you, but these connected devices also bring with them a host of security concerns. We asked Wendy Nather, director of advisory CISOs at Duo Security, for a reality check on what the real vulnerabilities in a smart home are.
"The most prevalent threat is automated attacks that are trying to take over devices as they would personal computers, to assemble into a group that can be used for their own purposes," she said. These threats often include , and stealing user passwords. Fortunately, it's easy enough for anyone to take a few extra steps as you're setting up your smart home to stay protected.
With Nather's help, we put together a list of things to consider. Keep everything up-to-date You may already be in the habit of keeping your computer and smartphone updated but not always apply the same prudence to smart home devices. We really should, as basically every gadget that's linked to an account and is constantly connected to the internet can be a prime target for botnets, which are typically the cause of those .
It might sound like obvious advice to keep your devices updated, but that can be hard when you might not even have access to the firmware in the first place.
"Sometimes you can't update things on your own," Nather said, which is why you should learn how to update a new device the minute you bring it home. One way to stay on top of firmware updates is by regularly checking the manufacturers' websites since it can take a while to push out updates for new vulnerabilities. Create a bookmark folder with links in your browser and check them often (or set a periodic reminder). The companion app for your internet-connected device might occasionally prompt you about updates, but you can usually manually dig into the app settings to check for new software, too.
Either way, you should keep the firmware or operating system on all the devices you use in your home up-to-date, whether that's your smartphone, tablet, computer, smart TV, set-top box or game console. Check your passwords We live in a world that's so convenient, that there are even apps that can remember your passwords for you and generate new ones that are strong and complex enough that they won't be cracked or forgotten. Nather suggests using such a password manager, like LastPass or 1Password.
Both services can spit out a random alphanumeric passcode and store them for you across platforms, which is especially helpful if you're using your smartphone to log into your connected stuff. Browsers are taking note, too, with Safari offering a similar feature in Mojave for free. It might sound counterintuitive, but if you still need help remembering a password, write it down in a paper notebook.
"It's not likely that someone will break into your home to read the passwords in a book in your desk drawer," Nather added.
Some connected devices may also arrive with a factory-set username and password. "If you can change the password from its current default, do that, and make sure to check it whenever your device is restarted," Nather said. "Sometimes a reset will change it back to the default." Secure your network It's not the easiest way of configuring the smart home, but if your router can handle it, consider setting up a separate WiFi network just for your smart devices, including smart speakers and anything else you want tethered to one another.
This ensures that all network traffic associated with home automation is diverted through a separate line from the one you use for your computers and mobile devices, where you're more likely to access data like banking and email passwords.
In the event of a denial-of-service attack, the line that's hacked won't be linked to sensitive information. "Also, don't share your WiFi with your neighbors," cautions Nather. If you often have company over, consider setting up a guest network or using a mesh Wi-Fi router system to more plainly monitor network traffic between your devices and your guests. The , , and are three kinds of mesh Wi-Fi options to consider and all are extremely user-friendly.
They can help simplify the process of adding a guest network and checking to see what devices are tapped in. Do your research Connected devices, the smart home, the internet of things — whatever you want to call it, it's a relatively new category of gadgets, so you shouldn't just buy the first thing you see on sale.
You never know what kind of vulnerabilities you're introducing in the home through a nefarious third party, or whether the company updates its software enough to stay secure from the latest threats.
Before you click the buy button, check out what the internet has to say about it. Scour Amazon and Best Buy reviews (as well as ours, of course) and do a search for the product name and "security vulnerabilities." Sticking to well-known brands will also mitigate the possibility of issues later on, since the manufacturer is more likely to have the resources to invest in consistent updates, not to mention a reputation to uphold.
Read the EULA It's oft said, but it bears repeating: Take a look at the terms you're signing to before you're logging on to a new connected device. Granted, you don't have much control over what you're agreeing to and it's likely written in indistinguishable jargon, but you can look to other people's experiences.
"Search online to see whether someone has already researched where your data is going," Nather said. "The legalese in an agreement won't tell you specifically what you need to know." Mute if you have to Inevitably, if you're bringing in a digital assistant like the Amazon Echo into your home, you're tethering your devices to a speaker with a microphone that's constantly listening for your command.
It's majorly convenient for a hands-free household, but you might not feel so comfortable if you start to think of it as a direct line into your home. That's why sticking to well-known brands -- Google, Amazon, Apple -- is imperative if you're bringing a smart speaker into your home, and even that's . At the very least, all three of these companies bake in physical mute buttons, which aren't easily bypassable.
This is also why you might avoid some third-party versions of the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, since the brands behind them may not be regularly patching their devices. And if you still feel uneasy about a device that's connected, convenience be damned -- only plug it in when you need it. In the end, the security of your smart home relies entirely on how much research and care you take before setting up too many devices. "As with any other type of computing, the advances in technology rush ahead of the means for securing them," said Nather.
"This means that the internet of things will tend to be just as insecure as it can possibly be before consumers clamor for change." To that end, it's better to wait to adopt a new smart home gadget after it's in its second or third generation. At least there are plenty of brands out there that have had enough iterations to work out the kinks. The smart home doesn't have to be scary, as long as you take a few precautions beforehand. Images: maxsattana via Getty Images (Download); Getty Images (Network); HAKINMHAN via Getty Images (Laptop/smartphone); JBL (Link 20 mute button)
best way to setup your smart home - What is a smart home? How to setup and run your perfect connected home
What exactly is a smart home, how do you set up a smart home in your own house, and what advantages does it offer? Here’s our complete guide to connecting and controlling your home tech using your mobile phone or tablet. From robot butlers to voice activated tech, the smart home of the future might not be what the people of the 1950s expected, but it’s well and truly arrived.
Sure our home robots aren’t quite as awesome as Rocky Balboa’s, but the real-world smart home is all about voice controlled and Wi-Fi connected devices that make life easier than ever. While they sound advanced, plenty of options like the , or are already in loads of homes and are thankfully affordable enough for most home owners. Linking all that kit together and controlling it from your phone – or even fully automating your home tech – is what this guide is all about. Read on to see how you can build the smart home of the future, right now.
Read next: How to setup and run your smart home: IFTTT While the first step to building your own smart home is buying that smart connected hardware, we’re going to begin by showing you what it can actually do.
The key is an online service called , or, If This Then That. The idea is that you create “recipes”, where one action leads to another, to automate things around your home. So, for example, you could set your smart light to turn on when your smart thermostat or camera recognises that you’ve arrived home. Clever, right? But that’s just the start as you can tie together anything your imagination allows.
We love the idea of going to bed at night and speaking to your Amazon Echo to say “Alexa, bed time” or something similar, to create a chain of events that turn off your lights and music while locking smart locks, activating cameras and generally getting the house ready for the night.
Then you can reverse it all in the morning – and of course, make sure the coffee gets brewing when everything powers up too. For more info, check out our . So what kit can you get that’ll make your home smart?
How to setup and run your smart home: Smart lights One of the first smart connected gadgets to hit homes was the smart light. This, quite ingeniously, connects to the home Wi-Fi network and can be controlled via your phone. That means you can control your lights from anywhere on the planet. Some are Bluetooth connected, but then you’re limited to in-room controls. Gone on holiday and forgot to set a timer? Pop into the app and stick a light or two on when it’s night time.
Having a party and want to set the mood? Plenty of smart lights have various colours, flashing modes and some even have built-in speakers. The Philips Hue was one of the first smart bulbs and is still one of the best out there now with LED strip light options and more all working with most other apps. You can even link up your lights so they turn on and off as you come and go, or all go out at night using IFTTT.
How to setup and run your smart home: Smart thermostats Another early entry into the world of smart connected gadgets was the thermostat, namely the Nest. This Google backed slice of elegance makes controlling your heating (and cooling if you have AC) as easy as twisting a dial with a display. In fact it’s easier as this will learn and end up doing even that for you. Smart thermostats like Nest and use movement sensors and even your phone’s location to learn your movements which are coupled with your controls of the thermostat day to day.
Eventually it should learn when you like it a certain temperature and make sure the boiler kicks in early enough so it’s at that level when you want it. So when your feet slip out of bed it won’t be into the icy cold, ideally.
How to setup and run your smart home: Smart security Not too long ago, the only way to actively secure your home with cameras was to shell out a serious wedge of cash for a security system and pay regularly for a subscription. These still arguably offer the best security when connected directly to the police but when you can get a one-off payment version that means you call the police instead, smart security starts to seem very attractive.
There are plenty of smart cameras out there like the Netatmo, Logi Circle and Nest all of which detect sound and movement. These are connected via Wi-Fi so you can be alerted on your app wherever you are. Some like the Netatmo are even smart enough to recognise faces so you’ll know if a family member has stepped out or if a new person is in your home. Some like the Logi Circle even auto edit videos so you can see a quick one minute video of everything that happened in your house that day.
The movement and noise detection in these cameras are ideal for IFTTT as they can be used to set off a chain of events on your arrival home. How to setup and run your smart home: Smart speaker systems When you hear the name Sonos you probably immediately think of wireless smart home speaker systems.
While it was one of the first names to make this a reality there are now plenty of other alternatives out there. These fall into the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connected categories each using their connections to offer multi-room audio.
That means you can have a song on all over the house, various songs in various areas or rooms, or just have a song follow you as you move about. Since these are app controlled some can even be coupled with smart lights for ambient effects and party lighting, or be activated when you’re home and switch off at night, for example.
How to setup and run your smart home: Smart plugs Smart plugs are a great way of upgrading your current electronics to make them smartphone controlled, on a basic level at least. These plugs connect to your home Wi-Fi network and can be switched on and off from your smartphone.
That means anything plugged into them can be set on a timer or controlled from anywhere in the world. These are great for updating lamp lighting, home stereo systems, televisions, coffee makers and anything else you can think of that uses a plug for power.
How to setup and run your smart home: Smart gardening The smart home revolution doesn’t stop at the door, now even the garden can get an connected upgrade.
Parrot has created a smart monitor that sits in the soil and allows you to monitor your plants’ soil via your phone. From moisture to light levels, you’ll get plenty of data so there’s no excuses for wilting flowers or poor crop yields anymore. There also a pot version for use inside the home too.
Watering is a hassle that can be partially avoided with a timer but when that timer is smart you can take it to the next level.
The Hozelock smart watering system lets you control the timer and water on/off from your phone but it goes further. This system is independently intelligent as it can monitor the weather actively – including checking online – so if rain is due when the water is set to come on it’ll skip that watering saving you on water bills and avoiding waterlogging the garden. How to setup and run your smart home: Amazon Alexa Amazon created a speaker called Echo which comes with a 7-microphone array for listening to commands.
It has proved to be a surprise hit and now lots of smart connected gadgets are getting involved. Using the Amazon Alexa voice assistant software the Echo, Dot and Tap devices can be accessed using voice commands to control the smart home. Simply say the Alexa name then a command and it will be carried out, from turning off lights and music to ordering food and calling people.
Alexa also works like a smartphone voice assistant so if you’re mucky-hands cooking in the kitchen and want to work out what a cup is in grams you can simply ask, hands-free. How to setup and run your smart home: Cook smart Now even the kitchen is smart connected. From weighing scales to ovens and washing machines, plenty of your home chores can now be done via an app.
Smart ovens mean you can head out leaving grub in the oven then either use the app to turn it on or set up a system where the oven kicks in when you’re a certain distance from home. There are even smart scales, like Drop, that let you put recipes together while it fires up the oven so it’s preheated exactly when your recipe is ready to go in. Fridges like LG’s come with screens so you can order food right there after closing the door and washing machines can notify you when your clothes are ready.
Putting your feet up and letting the robots do the heavy lifting has never been easier.
Welcome to our gallery featuring some of the best smart home apps on the market today. We love smart home technology and the multifaceted ways it can improve our homes and everyday lives. Since most of these devices are controlled via smartphone and tablet apps, we wanted to take a closer look at the software that make your smart home work together. While many smart home devices, especially hubs and other connectivity products, are paired with their own apps, we discovered a wealth of apps that work independently to connect and control devices.
Some of the apps you’ll see on our list are directly tied to products from the same company, while others are more universal. The distinction becomes less important when you realize that these are all completely free. Without a price tag, you’re free to mix and match, pairing the solutions that work best for your home and lifestyle, until you find the app or apps that grant you maximum control and convenience.
While many of these apps perform similar functions, such as notifying you about important developments at home, or turning lights or appliances on remotely, there are some important outliers with very specific functions. You’ll want to take a close look at each app and see just what it is that they do uniquely.
Whether you’ve got your smart home ecosystem humming along, or you’re just starting to put the pieces together, a solid control app will be the glue that binds it all into one seamless experience.
As you explore our list of the best smart home apps, be sure to keep an eye out for specific features that might fit your lifestyle best.
Not all apps are built the same, and one size does not fit all. With the variety available, you’ll definitely find the perfect fit. See more fantastic smart home products, 1. Samsung Smart Things App This free app from Samscung, available on the Apple, Google, and Windows stores, lets you receive notifications about what’s happening at home, no matter where you’re at.
You’ll be sent instant alerts for a variety of conditions, including unwanted entry, smoke, floods, or anything else you set. With a compatible camera, you’ll be able to capture video footage of events. Of course, you’ll also be able to control your compatible smart devices with a tap of your finger. 2. WeMo The WeMo app is designed to work with a suite of compatible easy-to-use products over the internet from your smartphone or tablet.
It’s also compatible with very popular app IFTTT, which we will cover below. It comprises several functions, including Insight Switch, to show you how much energy your devices are using, Light Switch, to let you turn all the lights in the home on or off, and NetCam, which triggers home automation features when you walk in the door. 3. Nest Paired with the Nest Thermostat (see our list of ) this smartphone app lets you adjust and program the temperature in your home from anywhere with an internet connection.
The app goes deeper, showing how much energy is used every day, creating monthly reports and helping craft a better plan to become more efficient. You can set detailed schedules with the app, with far more ease than you’ve ever been able to program a thermostat.
The app tracks your location and can automatically adjust the Nest thermostat when you’re away from home. Even more, the app can be used as a remote baby monitor or pet cam! 4. Control 4 This universally-minded app will allow you to use your Android smartphone or tablet to become a master remote control, covering entertainment devices, lighting, cameras, security systems, and more.
If it can be automated and connected to a smart home network, you can control it. The app specifically mentions compatibility with over 8,000 products including Roku, Nest, Sonos, Kwikset, Sony, and beyond. With such wide ranging control options, you’ll be able to centralize command of all your various smart home devices.
5. DirecTV You probably recognize DirecTV as a satellite dish service, but they’ve now got a mobile app that allows you to operate and enjoy your programming from anywhere. The app lets you watch movies and TV on your tablet or smartphone, and can even let you set your DVR programming. It can all be operated by voice, lending a hands-free luxury to its function.
Even cooler, the app features a sports bar finder, letting you search out bars and restaurants carrying DirecTV sports programming. Additionally, once you’ve recorded shows, you can take them with you on your tablet or phone and watch any time. 6. Philips HUE The HUE app works with Apple HomeKit technology, allowing you to use Siri to control the lighting in your home. The app is essential for creating custom scenes to control the home settings.
You’ll be able to automate the lights, making it appear that you’re home while you are away – the lighting can also be controlled manually from anywhere, whether your bedroom or your job site. You can set any shade of white light, from cool daylight tones to relaxing warm night lights.
Even cooler, you can play with a full spectrum of colors, and even sync the lights with your music, movies, and games for a newly immersive effect. 7. Apple Homekit Apple Homekit is designed to work through the apps that control your individual smart home devices, enabling the apps to connect, resulting in a comprehensive network that can be controlled from one place. It works by creating “scenes” to connect and control your smart home appliances in different combination.
This means that simple one-touch interactions can perform a suite of functions in your home. You can create scenes like “leaving home,” which could turn off lights, lock doors, and lower your thermostat. Even better, it all works via Siri’s voice recognition software, so you can even go touch-free. 8. AT&T Digital Life The AT&T Digital Life app is designed to be a comprehensive suite of functions that work in concert to manage your home from the ground up. The app covers your home security via video monitoring, door control, energy management, and even water detection.
Sensors and cameras are all directly linked via the internet, so that you can have a first person view of what’s happening, get alerts if anything out of the ordinary occurs, and make sure that your lights and thermostat are programmed exactly as you like, from anywhere on Earth.
9. Insteon Insteon is an app designed to work hand in hand with the Insteon Hub, which is one of several similar devices that tie your smart home ecosystem of devices together. Available for every major brand of smartphone, Insteon will let you control all branded devices, from light bulbs to wall switches, outlets, and thermostats. You’ll be able to receive notification alerts from any attached sensors, including motion, door, window, and even water leaks.
Beyond this, the app is designed to let you automate and schedule your smart home devices. 10. IFTTT IFTTT is designed to be the sort of digital connective tissue between the other apps on your phone, including smart home device apps. Thus, you’ll be able to set up “recipes” to control your devices in multiple ways at once. The process works by “if, then” statements, so that virtually anything that can be done in an app can be programmed and scheduled with IFTTT.
Thus, you can set condition events like this: “if it’s almost sunset, turn the house lights on,” or “brew coffee when I wake up.” The possibilities are quite endless, and can enhance your smart home devices beyond what their own apps can achieve.
11. SMFX SmartFX light bulbs are a uniquely creative way to spice up the lighting in your home, with fully customizable colors and programming that allows for a range of rhythmic features. The best part is that they can be directly controlled from your smartphone with an included free app.
We previously showcased these lights in our guide to . The app enables unique features that let the lights “dance” or change colors to the music in your home, program and schedule them to come on at set times, and even tie them into your alarm, bringing up the lights when you’re supposed to wake up in the morning.
12. Somfy MyLink MyLink is available for both Apple and Android devices, and lets you transform your interactions with Somfy-powered motorized solutions.
You’ll be able to maximize the benefits like energy savings, privacy, comfort, and of course, convenience. You’ll be able to operate shades, blinds, awnings, screens, and shutters with your phone or tablet from anywhere with an internet connection. 13. Wink Wink creates one of the most popular hubs we’ve featured in our series on Smart Home Devices. Their free accompanying app is a simple to use solution that allows for your diverse collection of smart devices to speak the same language.
You’l be able to command lights, power, security, and more with a swipe or a tap, and you can control the whole home from anywhere in the world. Even better, you can customize the way your devices speak to one another, creating a series of shortcuts to automate the whole smart home ecosystem.
14. Loxone Smart Home This smart home device companion app is designed to let you control a whole suite of the most important functions at home, including climate control, security, entertainment, shading, and even pool and irrigation systems. It ties together your isolated devices, letting them work in coordination without any modification. You’ll be able to tie together the functionality of disparate devices like motion detectors, door and window sensors, and lighting control.
You can manually control these items directly, or automate everything from your Apple or Android device. 15. Savant Savant lets you create experiences to reflect your personality and lifestyle, switching between Sonos, Apple TV, cable, blu-ray, and other entertainment options with your smartphone or tablet. Even better, it can connect to other smart home systems like lighting, allowing you to set “scenes” where entire sets of functions can work in concert. For instance, you can set up “movie night,” to change the lighting and set up your A/V equipment for a film viewing.
You can even program scenes specific to individual users, so everyone in the family gets their own surroundings. 16. ADT Pulse Focused on security, this app is a bit more direct and to the point than many others on our list. It’s designed to activate and deactivate your ADT security system, as well as notify you of broken sensors, and any time your system has not been armed.
With added video surveillance, you’ll be able to see live video of your home from anywhere with an internet connection. Even better, you can set up motion sensors to trigger recording and send clips directly to your smartphone for review. Related Galleries You May Enjoy: | | | (c) 2015
How to make a smart home for $200