The home of the future is here. Just 40 years ago, giving voice commands to control room temperature or music volume seemed like something straight out of Star Trek. While we don’t quite have replicators to serve up our favorite meals or Rosie the Robot to clean up our messes (yet), many of the futuristic features brought to us straight from Gene Roddenberry or George Jetson are here today.

It can seem daunting to think about turning a home into a smart home. There are so many products and features available. But start small, and start with the basics, and you’ll be well on your way to commanding your own starship (well, maybe not).

1. Make sure your Internet can handle it.

First things, first. There is no point in investing in Smart Home products, if your bandwidth is still in the Dark Ages. Make a plan for what devices you want to start with, and also think about your other uses for your Internet. If you little gamers or movie buffs are constantly streaming videos or playing connected games, then they aren’t going to be very happy when the latest Netflix offerings start buffering every five minutes.

If your Internet isn’t going to meet your “need for speed”, you may need to talk to your cable company about increasing your bandwidth or change providers. You may also need to upgrade modems and routers to accommodate the increase.

2. Alexa, and Siri, and Google, oh my!

Choosing a voice assistant is a critical step in your Smart Home set-up. Each voice assistant is compatible with different products, so you want to choose the one that work best with the devices you want to use.

  • Alexa – Alexa is the voice assistant integrated with Amazon devices and through a SmartPhone app. Alexa offers more device integrations than any of the other competitors. So if you really, really want to be able to give voice commands like Captain Picard, then Alexa is the one you want.
  • Siri – For die-hard Apple aficionados, you may be able to get away with using Siri, but Apples voice asisstant only works with Apple systems and devices (see Apple HomeKit). The advantage, of course, is that Siri comes on iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and HomePod speakers, so you won’t need to buy a new voice assistant if you own those devices.
  • Google Assistant – Google Assistant is the middle of the road option. It doesn’t integrate with as many devices as Alexa, but since you can use Assistant on many different platforms, including the Google Home smart speakers, you may not need to invest in new equipment to use its features. One added advantage is that Google Assistant is the best at answering questions, from trivia to local news and weather, thanks to Google’s amazing machine learning abilities.

3. Add your devices!

Once you’ve chosen your voice assistant, you start picking compatible devices that work with your assistant. For first-timers, a good starting place is with a smart thermostats and lighting systems, which can save on your energy bills (and free up cash to buy more devices!). Other good options are video doorbells and security systems.

  • Smart Thermostats – Thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat provide several benefits. While Nest isn’t the only option available, it gets a lot of press and has high ratings.
    • Learning thermostats “learn” your preferences and habits. After a few days, you won’t have to make many adjustments, because the thermostat will automatically adjust itself.
    • Energy savings will help pay for the investment in the system and save even more in the long run.
    • Smartphone apps will allow you to adjust the temperature, even when you aren’t at home (no voice assistant needed!).
  • Video Doorbells – Video doorbells have become quite popular, especially with all the package theft that is going on. Video doorbells include a little camera, which allows you to see who is at the door from your tablet, smartphone, or console, without having to get up from your cozy couch (or even when you aren’t at home!). Some even include a speaker that will allow you to speak with the person at your door. This is a great option for people who don’t want to invest in a full-fledged security system. Pair it with a remote door lock system, and you are all set!
  • Smart Security – Smart security systems allow you to arm and disarm your security system through your chosen voice assistant, among other features. Some require a monitoring contract and some do not.
  • Smart Lighting –  Smart lighting allows for voice control of your home lighting, as well as through a smartphone, so you can turn lights on and off remotely. In addition to saving energy by shutting lights off on demand, the bulbs also last for years and use very little electricity. Some even offer color options and dimming ability, so you can control the ambiance when entertaining.

There are always new smart devices coming on the market, and the potential for integration in other areas of the home is nearly limitless. Who knows. you may get to order up that pot roast with potatoes from . Once you get started with these great starter devices, you may find yourself addicted to the smart home lifestyle!

Whether your home is smart or not, we can help with every step of buying or selling your home. Our main goal is to help you achieve your dream, as well as facilitate a smooth sale and closing. As always, if you or someone you know need help selling or finding a dream home in 2018, please do not hesitate to call us. Contact Jason at 703-298-7037 or Jason@JasonAndBonnie.com.