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The average person doesn’t stand a chance with the smart home – TechCrunch


If you’ve recently purchased a major appliance, you may have noticed that everything from ovens to refrigerators, televisions, dishwashers and microwaves come equipped with WiFi connectivity. It’s so popular these days that it’s getting harder and harder to buy devices without intelligent functions on board.

Smart devices are everywhere, integrated into virtually everything, but in fact creating a smart home that works in harmony is a nightmare that the average person is unlikely to navigate on their own.

I’ve been browsing myself lately as someone who just bought their first home, eager to get the most out of this smart technology now that I’m able to rip switches and punch holes in my walls when I want . If you are intentional about what you buy, the smart home can be magical, and I was willing to invest in that.

My plan was to go into the smart home with my eyes wide open and take my time to only buy devices that complement each other. I knew from my rental time that tinkering with a bunch of random smart devices without thinking too much about it got more and more boring over time. Over the past few months, I’ve spent hours researching things like smart light switches, sensors, and window shades before spending the money.

But, even as someone who works in technology, I’m amazed at how complicated the smart home still is: it’s full of jargon and incompatible standards. Before buying anything, people who want to enter the “smart home” must choose their ecosystems and technologies wisely from the start, otherwise they will fuss for years, but no device manufacturer is at the forefront with this.

The basic goal for anyone building a smart home should be: what device should I primarily use to manage these things? For most people, the best route is probably through a smart speaker like Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple’s HomePod, all of which will let you control these devices with your voice as well as a single app on your phone. .

The problem, however, is that the need for a single app or device to control all smart things isn’t initially obvious until you end up with a few different devices that it’s annoying. Switch between different apps to control each of your bulbs.

That means the average smart home enthusiast has to somehow figure out if the thing they’re buying will work with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, if they have smart speakers. Then if they own an iPhone, they need to understand what Apple HomeKit standard is, allowing them to use Siri and the Home app on iOS as well (and well worth the effort, providing a single app that controls your entire home).

Setting up Owen’s HomeKit

After that maybe they realize they want to get sensors to automate these devices to do things like turn on the lights when they walk into a room they’ll probably have to consider the Z-Wave Where ZigBee standards, which unlock automation for any device, regardless of manufacturer, but often require an additional hub to operate.

It’s also important, but not immediately obvious, whether a device is connecting directly to your WiFi or through some hub, which should be plugged into your router. I’ve found over the years that the latter is better although it might be counter-intuitive because it means you’re not dealing with WiFi dead zones, devices disappearing from your network without explanation, or the need to reconnect each light switch if you change the network name down the road. But, having six different hubs for each manufacturer’s devices is Also kinda ridiculous.

The average person doesn’t stand a chance with the smart home – TechCrunch

Author’s messy smart hubs stacked in a closet

Smart home geeks will be quick to point you towards open source projects like Homebridge Where home assistant, which runs on a Raspberry Pi, to connect these ecosystems to many devices, whether their creators support it or not. These projects are impressive and allow for many amazing smart home configurations, but the mere suggestion of this is absurd for the average person given the difficulty involved, and should be a demonstration of why the smart home failed.

I researched devices for weeks to avoid as much pain as possible when setting up our new house, finally deciding on a set of brands that I would respect throughout the house because I knew they worked with Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple’s HomeKit platform. For smart lights, I replaced all my light switches with Caseta by Lutron, which are widely considered “rock-solid”, and I refused to introduce any other brand of smart switch. As we were moving into a new house without blinds, we also invested in Lutron Serena Shades smart blinds, which allow the automation of your blinds and connect to the same system. In all lamps or for accent lighting, Philips Hue is my go-to, and so on.

I’m not immune to the pitfalls I’ve described, ironically: I already had a few Kasa smart plugs before we moved into our new house, which aren’t HomeKit compatible, and would have meant I wouldn’t have couldn’t automate them in the Apple Home app works with my other devices, and our home comes with a Samsung smart fridge and oven which are also not compatible.

So despite my planning, I still ended up setting up Homebridge to get them working in harmony anyway, which worked great after fiddling around for a while, eventually making everything work like it was officially supported. But, I would hazard a guess that the mere mention of running a terminal command on a Raspberry Pi is a no-start for most casual smart home buyers.

The is hope on the horizon, with major smart home companies jumping on board a new standard called Matter which promises to provide a “basis for connected objects” by ensuring that they can all talk to each other, no matter what ecosystem you are in. Matter, which is an open source standard, promises to make your devices work in all apps, regardless of who created them. More importantly, it has serious endorsements from the biggest companies in the industry, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, Wyze, Philips Hue and many more.

The average person doesn’t stand a chance with the smart home – TechCrunch

Matter promises to bring the smart home together.

Matter can actually be added to existing products through a software update, as it works on top of their existing connectivity, including WiFi, Bluetooth, or Thread standard, and allows devices to talk to each other both locally, without an internet connection, and remotely when you’re away from home. It both promises to make automation work across all your devices, no matter what you buy, but also means it’s easier to move between ecosystems, like from Amazon’s Alexa to Google Home. .

Although Matter is promising, it hasn’t solved things again and most companies are still working on adding support for the standard which will take time and there is no guarantee that manufacturers will bother to update existing devices as they only gain money than when you buy something new.

This means that for the foreseeable future, the smart home will remain fragmented and confusing for most people beyond the most basic configurations. Until it improves and a standard like Matter solves the integration problem so no one has to say the words “Raspberry Pi” to make things look smooth, I still won’t be recommending to my parents to invest in smart lights.


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