Published on May 27th, 2019 📆 | 4918 Views ⚑0
How to select the best platform for your smart home
Today, we want to talk to people who have finally decided to take their first tentative steps into the world of smart homes.
Or more specifically, the smart home market.
Of course, we would also like to help people who would like to expand the extent of their smart homeNESS.
In both the cases, regardless of what you currently have, there will come a point when you will have to integrate everything together so you do not have to spend time making everything work with each other.
If you do not take the time out to integrate your smart home devices that you will have to face some pretty annoying consequences.
We’re talking about consequences such as having to make use of dozens of custom and different applications each and every day in order to get all of your smart gadgets working and actually doing your bidding.
In this guide, we will also take a look at some of the best options that are currently available in the market.
The major players in the smart home industry are,
- Apple HomeKit
- Google Assistant
- Amazon Alexa
There is no doubt about the fact that each of the above-mentioned platforms will never face any problems in controlling a decent bunch of the user’s smartphone gadgets in order to provide the maximum amount of benefit to the user.
These three major smart home platforms do have the capability to handle different devices (that the user may have purchased from different manufacturers) and integrate them into one single cohesive whole.
The most crucial part of your smart home platform should be that it should have no problems working with all the smart home devices that you have already bought and installed.
We’re talking about smart devices such as Amazon Echo or iPad or your Android phone.
There are other options available as well, like the SmartThings platform from Samsung.
The Samsung platform is pretty robust as well.
But the main problem with Samsung and almost every other smart home platform apart from the major three that we have mentioned above is that they require the user to purchase a separate hub in order to work properly.
Not only that, these platforms still require the user to purchase one of the options that we have mentioned above if the user wants to make use of any kind of other voice interfaces.
As we have alluded to before as well, the best smart home platform option for you will probably depend on the smart devices that you have already bought and set up.
It will also depend on the devices that you have a habit of using all the time.
However, we should point this out right here and right now that the major areas where the three above-mentioned smart home platforms are distinct or similar will be mentioned in their respective sections in this guide.
So let’s get to it.
Amazon Alexa: Probably the most comprehensive smart home platform that you can buy
Once any user has purchased at least a single unit of any of Amazon Echo devices and has also set the device up and is running it, then the user has the option of connecting it to many other internet-enabled devices via the official app.
In that respect alone, our research shows that the Amazon Echo Plus is definitely the better option.
Why do we say that?
We say that because Amazon Echo Plus comes with Zigbee hub as a built-in feature.
And because of that, any given Zigbee-compatible internet-enabled gear has the ability to form a direct connection to Amazon Echo Plus.
Having an Amazon Echo Plus in your home means that you will have fewer hubs.
Of course, in certain cases, you may not get any benefit from Amazon Echo Plus more than the other standard options.
However, any of Amazon Echo devices can control a good number of other internet-enabled smart devices.
You can perform a click here in order to view the list of gear that just works with Amazon Alexa.
From the shown list, you should have no trouble in noticing that Amazon Echo plus is compatible with devices from manufacturers such as,
- Philips Hue
There is also Ring present on the list.
Apart from that, there is a large variety of internet-enabled devices present as well.
You need to keep in mind that Amazon is ambitious.
And following the company’s ambition, its people have put out microwaves which are Alexa-compatible.
Now, remember that your smart home is not just your doorbell or lightings.
Other smart home gear that a lot of people tend to ignore include televisions and printers.
There are many other such smart home devices as well that Amazon Echo supports.
As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, if we are talking about the sheer number of devices which are compatible with Amazon Alexa, then Amazon Alexa is pretty much the only and obvious choice.
It has the most suitable features for anyone who wants an overarching and efficient smart home platform.
This is a good time to mention that Amazon Alexa even works with devices from Nest.
And remember, Google itself has said that the company plans to continue the compatibility with Amazon Alexa as the official Works with Nest division slowly winds down.
That takes care of the number of devices.
But what about other things such as functionality and ease of use?
Well, our research shows that Amazon Echo scores pretty highly in these departments as well.
Of course, you will never be able to do each and everything with Amazon Alexa on your third-party internet-enabled device which you would be able to do with the third-party device’s own apps.
However, we have come to know, that you can actually do a lot of stuff.
Probably more than you will ever need to do.
In this regard, our research shows that the official Alexa apps for the iOS and/or Android platform is pretty comprehensive.
You can always speak out and give commands to your own Amazon Echo speakers if you do not want to make use of any apps.
With Amazon Alexa, you have the ability to cast the video feed from your security cameras directly to a given screen (a big screen?).
Two devices that come to mind in this regard are Amazon Fire TV stick and/or Amazon Echo Show.
Users also have the option of changing the brightness levels and colors of their smart bulbs.
They also gain the ability to group different devices from various different manufacturers and integrate them in a given room.
Users can control each and every one of such devices also simultaneously.
There are lots of other such benefits that users stand to gain from a smart home platform like Amazon Alexa.
Users can also add smart home devices to their custom Alexa routines.
Following from that, if you want to you could use a command like ‘Alexa, goodnight and have all of your lights switched off.
Now, don’t get the idea that we are telling you to never make use of the companion applications that come with your other smart home devices.
They still hold importance.
Philip Hue lights will not allow you to schedule times that they should turn off and on if you want to do it via Alexa.
Nest cam devices will not give you motion alerts via the Alexa app or even any Echo devices.
We do not want you to think of Alexa as a tool to completely ditch all the other third-party apps that may have come with your smart home devices.
You should also not think of Alexa as something you want to throw away the hubs that you may have.
Alexa basically works well on its own and provides good support to a ton of such devices.
With some good hardware, you will have trouble in getting Alexa to follow your commands.
Again, when it comes to hardware, you have a good amount of choice here.
The market is getting more and more Alexa-enabled devices and Echo devices.
So if there was ever a time to get one, now would be it.
Our research shows that even now it is pretty much a close call.
Given the situation of the market, we have no problem in recommending Alexa as the most comprehensive and hence the best option for people who want the best smart home platform.
Google Assistant: Probably the most intelligent of all smart home platforms.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are pretty similar when it comes to working in a given user’s smart home.
Many people still do not think of Google Assistant as a full-on comprehensive smart home platform.
However, we feel it is as good a tool as any other to get disparate internet-enabled smart home devices to come together and connect.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are also similar in the sense that both allow the user to control all of their devices with the help of nothing but their voice.
They can control them all with the official app as well.
In the case of Google Assistant, the app that you are looking for is the Google Home app which is available both on the iOS and Android platform.
Don’t forget that you will probably be going to need a good phone to use with Google Assistant.
In other words, make sure you have a phone that works with both Google Assistant and Google Home.
If you already have a Google Home speaker than that is great as well.
You should not have problems getting up and running.
When you have ensured what we have mentioned above, you will also need a smart home kit which is compatible with Google Assistant.
The complete list of such smart home kits can be found here.
This list is approximately as long as the one that you got with Alexa.
Both of the lists include some of the biggest brand names in the world.
And according to our research, both lists show no signs of stopping their growth.
Google Assistant, just like Amazon Alexa, handles connections via the official app on the user’s smartphone device.
With just a couple of taps, you can set them up.
Again, just like with Amazon Alexa, users should see their internet-enabled smart home devices appear in the official Google Home app.
Users who want to, can control all of their devices from Google Home if they do not want to do the same with the apps that came with their smart home kit itself.
With Google Home you can take actions such as changing the colors of your lights, turning your lights on and off and locking your front door along with much more.
With the help of Google Assistant users can also make use of voice commands if they do not feel comfortable with the apps.
Compared to Alexa, Google has an advantage here.
Users can simply talk to their Google Assistant on their phone and give it commands instead of having to look around to find a smart speaker nearby.
They can do the same with the help of Chromebooks as well.
The official Alexa app does not allow you to do that.
Users can and probably should organize all of their smart home devices into rooms and groups.
Then they should try to control all of them together.
Google Assistant also allows users to set up custom routines just like Amazon Alexa does.
This is where the user can give a single command and have the smart home platform to take a multiple number of actions.
Amazon and Google have not shied away from watching each other’s products it seems.
Both the platforms are trying to establish the same kind of interface with the user’s smart home.
Again, we want to remind you that Google is currently in the process of ditching the Works with Nest program.
In its place, the company is set to promote Works with Google Assistant.
Now, there is no doubt about the fact that you can make use of Amazon Alexa to actually stream video right from your Nest camera.
However, you can’t really make use of Google Assistant to properly stream video from cameras that are non-Nest.
If you happen to have a Ring device then you have the option of checking its status.
You can also turn the available motion alerts to off and on.
There are various other tasks that you can perform with your Google Assistant but the one thing that you can’t do is watch a live video feed.
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are not that different from each other when it comes to acting as a smart home platform.
They control devices the same way.
And support almost a similar number of devices.
In the end, it should come down to what type of digital assistant does the user prefer.
Of course, the user may also have a preference for one company’s smart speakers over the other.
If you are looking for versatility and capability, then we have no doubt in our minds that Google Assistant is the way to go.
At least, right now it is true.
Both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are improving and expanding their capabilities at a fairly rapid rate.
So the choice is yours to make.
Both are good options.
Apple HomeKit: The smart home platform we think has the most potential.
Apple HomeKit, thankfully, works a bit differently to how Google Assistant and/or Amazon Alexa work if we are only talking about them working as smart home platforms.
For starters, Apple HomeKit supports the company’s digital assistant in the form of Siri.
Because of that, users get access to a comprehensive voice control command set.
You can just say ‘turn off the lights’ and Apple HomeKit will do that for you.
We feel that Apple HomeKit has a different aim to the two options we have mentioned before.
It wants to become something more than just a smart home platform.
It wants to come something more fundamental.
Apple HomeKit wants to underpin all of the user’s devices and smart home gear.
Perhaps that focus is the reason why it has slightly more options if we are talking about smooth control and automation when compared with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
However, we should also mention here that if you want to take advantage of all the extra goodies then you will not only need an Apple HomeKit Hub but also another piece of hardware such as,
If you do not have a hub device, then you have no option but to simply tap on your iPhone device to turn your smart home gear and other devices off or on.
Similar to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit support a ton of internet-enabled devices.
To see the complete list of devices that it supports you should click here.
Our research shows that the list for Apple HomeKit is slightly shorter than Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
The problem isn’t necessarily Apple HomeKit though.
More devices have Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa on them than Siri.
With that said, users need not worry as the list is still comprehensive enough to cover the vast majority of the devices that the user’s smart home platform would need.
In recent months, we think it is worth a note that Apple has actually made a pretty determined effort to get the company’s AirPlay and HomeKit functionality into as many non-Apple smart home gear and internet-enabled devices as possible.
If you want to add such devices to your HomeKit network then that is a pretty straightforward process as well.
However, we feel that the process of adding devices is far more straightforward with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
To add devices with Apple HomeKit, you first need to scan a specific code.
If you cannot do that then you will need to put your Apple iPhone device very close to the given device.
With Amazon Alexa and/or Google Assistant you can simply add a device over the WiFi.
We felt that the user interface of Apple HomeKit was more fiddly as well.
Some may find the interface of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa as more intuitive than Apple HomeKit.
HomeKit does have some plus points as well.
It not only works with WiFi but also works with Bluetooth.
In other words, you do not need to have all of your smart home devices connected to the online world in order to control them.
Similarly, with Apple HomeKit, you don’t necessarily need a central hub either.
HomeKit uses its own Hub and supports WiFi along with Bluetooth.
To put it in simpler terms, Apple HomeKit is actually built like a complete smart home platform.
This is the reason why we think Apple HomeKit has the most potential.
It is the most complete among the three options that we have mentioned in this guide.
As indicated earlier, the only major problem with Apple HomeKit is the barrier of entry.
Mainly, people who do not have an Apple device cannot use apple HomeKit and that is quite a high barrier.
We have already discussed the fact that Apple HomeKit is better than Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa when it comes to automation.
You can link Apple HomeKit with the location of your Apple iPhone device as well.
How can this help the average user?
Well, if you are leaving your house, then Apple HomeKit can turn off all of your smart lights with you ever needing to lift a finger.
This is definitely something that will win over many customers of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
We know that HomeKit is not as far-reaching or intuitive as the other two, but some of the advantages that Apple HomeKit has over Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa really stand out.
Zohair is currently a content crafter at Digitalmunition and has been involved in the technology industry for more than a decade. He is an engineer by training and, naturally, likes to help people solve their tech related problems. When he is not writing, he can usually be found practicing his free-kicks in the ground beside his house.