5 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Smart Home Journey

5 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Smart Home Journey

 

What does it take to live in a home of the future? A home that promises an unprecedented level of comfort. A home that responds to you without you even needing to leave your bed.

With numerous smart home technologies such as Google Home smart speakers and Philips Hue colour changing smart bulbs now easily accessible in the market, a dream home like that can be swiftly turned into a reality today. Yet, if you’re sold on the idea of a smart home, but have no idea what it entails to own one, here are some things you should consider before jumping in.

 

1. How long will you be staying in your current home?

Are you waiting for your BTO’s MOP to be up, renting an apartment, or staying in a home that’s end game?

Often, people think that there’s no point investing in a smart home until they’ve settled down in their forever home. This is due to the misconception that owning a smart home requires extensive work to be done to the house, which will ultimately be a sunk cost.

While it remains true that some smart home devices have to stay in the house that they are fitted to or would require an electrician’s help to remove and reinstall (light switches, we’re looking at you), there are numerous plug-and-play products in the market to make one’s home smarter with no drawbacks. As such, staying in a temporary home shouldn’t hold you back from living out your smart home dream. What it will concern however, would be the type of solutions you can implement within your scope.

If you’re someone who’s unable to make permanent changes to your property or would like to keep your setup mobile, keep to smart devices and installations that are battery operated or do not require additional wiring (e.g. Koble’s sensors and security system, smart bulbs, smart hubs and speakers).

2. What are you looking for in a smart home?

Once you’ve factored in what you can and cannot do, the next step is to figure out what you want in your smart home. What smart devices would you love to have? What are the benefits that you hope to gain? Where will your focus be?

There are several automation elements to choose from, from having a swanky lighting and air conditioning system, to a fortified home packed with security features and sensors, supportive voice control assistant and robots that settle the hassle of cleaning. In an ideal world, our dream house would encompass every smart feature possible, but as with most things, the hefty price tag that comes along with it may not be for everyone. Rather than investing in everything right off the get go, perhaps stagger your installations, starting with the home automation area that would make the greatest positive impact on your life (e.g. a lighting system that automatically turns off when not in use).

Given that the amount of expertise and effort for each setup differs greatly [to write article: DIY smart home vs. hiring a contractor, how should I decide?], this would help you to evaluate the amount of professional help you would require for your setup, and also, our next point.

3. What is your smart home budget?

Money, money, money. The cost of building a smart home can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors: whether you want a wired or wireless protocol setup, the type of system used, and the cost of the individual smart home devices.

As with most things, having a lower budget would require making certain trade-offs (e.g. opting for private label brands vs. branded ones). However, depending on your objective and circumstance, some trade-offs may not be a factor for you after all. (Is having a more reputable system with similar performance really worth the extra $2,000?) Hence, to help keep spending in check, decide on how much you are willing to set aside for your smart home project and understand the compromises needed for your budget to work. This would allow you to find the right setup for your needs, as well as the right contractor for your smart home.

That said, it is entirely possible to build a secure, well-equipped and reliable smart home for under $5,000, so getting your smart home fantasy need not come at the expense of selling your kidney.

4. What protocol and system should you use?

Following up from our earlier point on the type of protocol and system for your smart home, one of the main concerns when it comes to building a smart home is the issue of fragmentation and control. Smart devices need a way to communicate with each other, or else they lose their viability in offering convenience. You may have decided on your smart home budget already, so what are the options that you can pick from?

Wireless (or Wired) Protocols
While wired protocols that use existing wiring in the home to communicate are known for their reliability, such setups tend to be costlier, slower and more difficult to encrypt. Wireless protocols which are cheaper, typically faster and compatible with a wider range of devices would hence be the preferred choice for most people. Even so, there are a range of wireless protocols that one can still opt to choose from, namely Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth.

When it comes to wireless protocol, we personally recommend going with ZigBee. Using a highly secure 128-bit AES-based encryption system and based on the IEEE’s 802.15.4 personal-area standard, the protocol offers unprecedented benefits such as low cost, low data rate architecture that delivers long battery life, robust security, high data reliability, product interoperability and ecosystem support. In contrast, other protocols may be compatible with a far smaller pool of smart devices (the case for Z-wave), less secure and more reliant on your home internet (like Wi-Fi), or simply consume more power (for Bluetooth).

Read more about the ZigBee protocol here:

Hubs and Ecosystems
On the topic of whether a dedicated smart home hub is necessary, this would ultimately depend on the number of smart devices you would like to have in your home, and how well interconnected you want them to be. Smart hubs consolidate compatibility as well as control among the all the platforms (e.g. Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit) and devices in your home, making them a solid choice if you don’t want to toggle between different controls to get your devices working and functioning seamlessly.

With so many potential hubs to choose from, one key consideration would be how widely supported and scalable this hub will be over time. Certain hubs, such as the Xiaomi Mi Home, come with a far more affordable price tag but mainly support their own branded products, limiting cross-brand compatibility. As a smart home enthusiast looking for scalability, you can hence consider standalone hubs such as Samsung SmartThings and Wink Hub 2 which come with far more comprehensive support. The main downside however, is the endless troubleshooting and service outages occasionally experienced when using a market-purchased home hub. More fine-grained controls and automations may also require customised coding for the hub to execute as intended, making it harder for the average Joe to realise its full potential.

So if you’re a non-techie that would like a fuss-free smart home experience, what else can you look at? Third party home hubs offered by smart home contractors (e.g. Koble’s proprietary app) may be your best bet, taking the hassle of performing numerous trial and errors off your hands. In the right company, a professionally installed smart hub can offer a refined and holistic smart home experience – one that is well deserved by you.

5. What are the warranty terms and support provided?

Needless to say, if you’ve decided to go with a professional smart home contractor to save on midnight troubleshooting woes, ensuring their reliability would be key. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a unsupported smart home system plagued by bugs and operation issues and no one to contact for help.

Fortunately, most smart home contractors in Singapore offer at least a 1 year warranty period for their products, though customer service standards often vary. Beyond reading customer reviews and checking their portfolio, you can hence look to see if the company (or their smart home system of choice) has received any accreditations by recognised institutions and bodies, to verify the quality of their service and solution standards.

Should you be up for the challenge of DIY-ing your own smart home however, warranty will typically be available, especially if you purchase from large retailers such as Courts and Gain City. Online community forums such as HardwareZone and Reddit also have numerous threads dedicated to discussing commonly faced smart home issues, so if you ever find yourself in a pickle, seeking community help may be the way to go.

With all that said…

Starting your smart home journey can be an exciting process. Discovering small hacks to improve your daily routines, finding ways to make life better.

While we spend our days during this circuit breaker wandering around in our homes, maybe it’s time to gain inspiration from our daily habits to spot the little changes we can make for a better future.

Have an idea of what you would like for your dream smart home and need a professional opinion? Feel free to chat with us at Koble to see how we can help, or book us for a virtual smart home tour! After all, getting your dream smart home shouldn’t wait till tomorrow. Contact us today!

About Koble

At Koble, we believe that setting up your smart home should be as simple as possible. As such we provide end-to-end smart home solutions, so that your smart home journey doesn’t involve you breaking a sweat! On top of that, we offer free consultation services if you’re interested in learning more about how to upgrade your home, or what our smart home technology can do for you. A registered contractor with BCA under Building Automation, Industrial, and Process Control System, Koble is the preferred smart home brand by SG designers and a trusted partner of the Singapore Land Authority. Reach out to us today for The Smarter Life You Deserve!