If you're planning to set up a smart home, you'll need the basics. First, you have to decide what smart home platform you want to adopt, with the most popular being Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit (though you could use more than one if you really wanted). Then, you need to start building it out with devices that let you control music, lights, security cameras, TVs, and more through a single smartphone app or even voice. There's so much from which to choose, but here are six must-have smart home accessories you should consider adding to your system this year.
Even if you have a larger Alexa-enabled speaker on the main level of your home that can hear vocal commands from all over, it's worthwhile to add a second Echo Dot somewhere for additional support. You might even want to use it on your nightstand as an alarm clock since the third-generation version adds an LED display that can show the time, outdoor temperature, and timers. Plus, with tens of thousands of skills and compatibility with tons of third-party and other Amazon smart devices, it's a great accessory to have in any smart home.
Similarly to the reasoning behind grabbing an Amazon Echo Dot to supplement an existing Alexa-fueled smart home, you should grab a Google Nest Mini to augment a Google Assistant-controlled smart home. Even if you have a larger Google Nest smart speaker, use this one in another room or on another floor, like the kids' bedroom or your home office. It offers improved power and bass over the first-generation model, making it great for playing background tunes in the office or kitchen. And like the Echo Dot, it, too, works with thousands of other smart devices. Plus, it can voice match up to six family members so you can get answers to questions that are specific to you, like what's on your calendar.
Light up your days
Philips Hue bulbs of all kinds are great accessories for a smart home because they are compatible with almost every smart home platform out there, along with IFTTT. With a single hub, you can control up to 50 lights throughout the home. This one also works with Bluetooth so you can control up to 10 Bluetooth/Zigbee bulbs in one room with the app. Ideally, you'd want to get the Hub, too, so you can control these bulbs remotely, set schedules and routines, and more. The bulb, which can display 16 million different colors, is compatible with voice control, using both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Keeping it cool
If you already own an Ecobee smart thermostat, this is the perfect accessory to further ensure that every room of the home is maintained at the optimal temperature. The sensors can detect both the temperature and occupancy in a room, allowing you to set targeted temperatures so that the basement stays warm while you aren't sweating in the bedroom, for instance. It comes with two sensors along with detachable stands and batteries.
Making everyday devices smart
Smart plugs like this one let you turn everyday appliances and other gadgets into smart ones. Plug one into an AC outlet, plug any device into it, like a table lamp, coffeemaker, or fan, then control it from your smartphone using the app. These ones also work with voice control via Alexa and Google and can connect instantly to Apple HomeKit without the need for other gear. The new design makes it easy to stack two in the same outlet thanks to the more compact size. A convenient "away" mode will also automatically turn connected lights on or off randomly while you're away so passers-by think someone is home.
You've got the power
Top your smart home off with this convenient power strip that not only serves as a way to power up four devices via AC and four via USB, but also lets you control everything from the free Smart Life app. It can connect to a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network and lets you control and even schedule connected devices, including a TV, fan, or even holiday lights. Set up to 20 timing tasks per outlet and up to 30 smartphone controls. There's no hub required and the power trip includes surge and overload protection.
Smart home essentials will enhance the experience
Creating a smart home takes time, and chances are you'll be updating it little by little as you add new gadgets and gizmos, and as your budget allows. As long as you pick one platform and stick with it, expanding will be simple. Best of all, many devices these days are compatible with all the smart home platforms, which means you could adopt two (or more) and still be able to control everything seamlessly by voice. For example, most smart bulbs from Philips Hue are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, which means even if you switch platforms, you can still reconnect the same bulbs and continue with voice and app control.
If you're just getting started, a great device to get is the WeMo Mini Smart Plug, which you can use to smarten up a traditionally un-smart device to get a feel for what it would be like to control it by smartphone, tablet, or voice. Once you delve full force into the smart home, these plugs will still come in handy for ensuring that your old legacy devices, like your favorite multicooker, table lamp, or purifying fan, can still be controlled as part of the system.
However, when it comes down to it, at the heart of your smart home system will be a smart speaker. You probably have a large one set up but smaller ones like the Google Nest Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot are so affordable these days that it's worth grabbing a few extras to put around the house. The Echo Dot is a favorite option because of the wide breadth of products it can work with. The built-in LED display on the third-generation model makes it perfect for every bedside nighttable in the house.
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Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.