The artificial intelligence is becoming an everyday thing with the virtual assistants, voice-automated lights, and other smart home devices.Just before a year, this technology of controlling your home products through devices like your smartphone was in its babyhood. But recently, tech giants like Google and Amazon have taken this technology to another level by introducing the smart home devices.
Last year, we had the choices of Echo smart speaker by Amazon and Home by Google. But we can expect tons of new smart home devices like speakers from other electronics giants like Apple and Samsung.
Smart Home Devices – a Brief Introduction
Smart homedevices connect your house to the internet and your gadgets like your smartphone. Everything in your home like your thermostat, lights, doorbells, appliances, window curtains, TV, air-conditioner etc. will thensend information to you and take your command through voice or smartphone apps.
With this technology, you can control your house without being present in the house. You can set the temperature of your air-conditionerfrom your office, watch over your pet while grocery shopping by a remote camera, orswitch on your geyser while on your way back from office.
The smart home devices which are in high demand and are very popular these days are Echo speakers from Amazon and Home speaker from Google.
These smart speakersfromboth Amazon and Googleare available in cylindrical shapes which use power sources and internet connectivity to work.
You can not only make use of these speakers to listen to music by giving them voice command, but you can alsolisten to news, set alarms, and get audible answersto your any questions like you search something in a search engine. They can also be connected to a range of other smart home devices like some other speaker systems orsmart lights.
A Quick Guide to Use Amazon Echo and Google Home
Both the smart speaker systems are voice-controlled and can do manythings other than simply playing music for you. If you are using Amazon echo device, you just need to say ‘alexa’ to activate its voice assistance feature. And if you are using Google home device, then speaking the phrase ‘Okay, Google’ will activate the voice assistant feature of the device.
After waking up, amazon echo can take care of or respond to everything you say. All you have to do is to just say “Alexa, set an alarm for 10:00 AM”, or “Alexa, what’s today’s weather report?” or “Alexa, add brown bread to the grocery shopping list”, and the smart gadget will do accordingly.Similarly,in the case of Google home devices, you start a sentence following the phrase ‘Ok, Google’ and your assistant will be in place. For instance, say “Ok Google, what time is an available flight to London?” and your speaker will become your personal Google search engine.
Apple and Siri-Powered Smart Homes
Just like Alexa and Google, you can also convert your home into a smart home using iOS compatible devices and Siri. The upcoming HomePod speaker by Apple will be integrated with the service called Apple’s Homekit in the same way as Echo or Home.
Just like Alexa or Google, you can wake up the apple assistant by just saying “Hey Siri”. All the devices that are marked as “works with Apple HomeKit” can be used by the HomePod like Honeywell thermostats,the Philips Hue bulbs, and Lightwave plugs. HomePod is due to launch in early 2018 following a delay.
How to Set-Up Your Smart Home?
Both the speakers are compatible to set up with other smart home devices. They can be linked up to all your smart devices in the house from your smart thermostat to the multi-room audio systems.
For setting up a smart home, you need to consider that there is a huge range of different accessories that only work with certain products and work better with some than the others. Thus, the first step is to determine which assistant you want to have. After that, you need to determine which devices you have that are already compatible with your virtual assistant and which compatible devices you need to get.
There is a range of smart home products available in the market for both Google and Amazon.Amazon’s product range includes the main Echo speaker, Echo Plus (the larger version of Echo), the smaller version called Echo Dot and the Echo Show(its video-calling device). Similarly, Google offers the Google Home, Google Home Mini (the smaller version Google Home), and a Google Assistant on an Android smartphone. After you are clear on your choice about the smart home device, you need to have a rundown of the compatible products.
For every aspect of your home, the list of compatible and incompatible devices exists. For example, the range of smart lights by Philips, Philips Hue, can be operated by both Alexa and Google. Audio streaming devices like Google Chromecast can only use Google home while Sonos speakers respond only to Alexa currently.
The List of the Top Best Smart Home Devices of 2018
1. Amazon Alexa’s Echo, US $99.99
Amazon re-introduced Echo with new looks and slashed price from US$179.99 to $99.99. The new colors and fabricshelp it blend more easily into your home. The voice assistant Alexa uses thecloud to respond to music requests and answer questions.
You can enjoy many servicesby echo, which include playing music from Spotify, Amazon music, controlling Hive thermostats, booking a cab on Uber and getting a Domino’s delivery. Echo also allows its users to make calls and send messages. It can also read you articles and stories from over the internet. Alexa can follow a lot of voice activated commands and its abilities are being added every day. Alexa also has an Alexa app which can be used on your smartphone to manage the assistant.
However, it also has some restrictionssuch as, you can neither use Apple music with Echo and Alexa, nor you can connect Google’s Chromecast audio dongle with it.
2. Amazon Alexa Echo Dot,US $49.99
Echo Dot is a smaller model of Amazon Echo which is available online at around $50. There is no difference in the features between these two Amazon Alexa smart home speakers except the size.
So, Echo Dot can be a smart choice for those who are new to these voice-controlled smart home gadgets. However, if you are planning to buy Echo Dot over the regular Amazon Echo, then you must know that the regular Echo comes with a better sound quality than the Echo Dot.
3. Amazon AlexaEcho Show,US $299.99
Echo show is the newest gadget in the Echo series. It is not only a smart speaker powered by Alexa, but it also has video calling feature, which makes it the most advanced gadget in its Echo series.Echo Show has a 7-inch display screen on which you can enjoy video calling, online shopping, play videos and you can also use it as a baby monitor. You can watch videos on Amazon Video and now even on YouTube. Echo Show, while working as a smart home hub for other gadgets, can also show you news updates with videos and pictures on its screen.
Amazon is soon going to launch the mini version of Echo Dot, named Echo Spot. The date of release of this smart home gadget is not yet disclosed.
4. Google Home, US $119.00
In late 2016, Google launched Google Home as its own smart home hub to rival Amazon Echo. This device can answer any question in the world using the Google search engine such as train and flight details, restaurant recommendations, daily schedule reading and traffic updates. It can also link to other Home devices like the new Mini sets and the upcoming Max.
The main advantage of Google over Amazon is that it can integrate with Google Chromecast for streaming and also with the Android smartphones. With the help of Android smartphones, you can give voice commands to the Google assistant while on move.
You can voice activate the speakers linked to a Chromecast Audio for US $54.95 or attach the Google Chromecast streaming dongle to your set up and stream TV shows.
5. Google Home Mini, US $48
To rival with Echo Dot, Google came up with its own Home Mini which is priced at a similar range to Echo Dot and is perfect for the first-timers. It can perform all the functions performed by Home including controlling the speakers attached to Google Chromecast. It is small in size and is just 40mm high. It comes in a range of colors like coral, white and charcoal. Google is also about to launch a bigger version called the Google Home Max.
6. Chromecast Audio,US $54.95
Any speaker can be turned into a smart speaker by connecting it to the Google Chromecast via the headphone jack. This device can link any normal speaker to your smartphone or Google Home assistant. You can pair it with multiple other speakers or cast music from your phone by just using “Ok Google”. Chromecast Audio can also be paired with Chromecast video streamer to stream TV shows.
7. Sonos One, US $198.99
Sonos One is one of the best multi-room audio speakers that also connect to a smart home hub like Google’s and Amazon’s smart home speakers do. It is compatible with the Amazon Echo range and can respond to voice commands for playing songs. It can also play music from services like Spotify, TuneIn Radio and Amazon currently and is all set to add Google Assistant in its compatibility range in 2018.
8. Nest Learning Thermostat, US $233.97
The Nest Thermostat is a smart thermostat developed by Nest, a Google-owned heat control and thermostat company. Nest is compatible with both Amazon and Google but is yet not compatible with Siri. Its rival Hive thermostats can also be managed by both the smart assistants.
9. Philips Hue Smartlight, US $177.60
Smartlights from Philips have been around for a couple of years and are compatible with all Google, Amazon and Apple’s HomeKit. It can work with voice commands and also by the app. The Hue range can set up lights with 16 million colors and allows the users to have pre-set scenes for movies, gaming, dinner etc.
Both, Amazon Alexa and Google assistants can accomplish almost the same tasks but Amazon’s Echo comes at a slightly lower price. Moreover, it has a significant disadvantage of its incompatibility with Chromecast.Making the choice comes down to price range and personal choice. Apple fans can opt to wait for the HomePod before making the purchase.
For the new Smart home device users, both Google and Amazon provide pocket-friendly options with their Google Home Mini and Echo Dot devices, which you can buy under US $50 till date.