It’s now possible to control your home using your voice or your smartphone and more Aussies are sinking big dollars into smart home upgrades.
It’s now possible to control your home using your voice or your smartphone and more Aussies are sinking big dollars into smart home upgrades.

How to make your home smarter

When George Hartley swapped homes recently, he made sure it was a 'smart' move.

The tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Bluethumb and SmartrMail brought his connected doorbell and security camera to the new place, ensured his Sony Android TV was hooked up to the internet, and installed a Wi-Fi mesh network so all his smart home gear stayed online.

And, of course, he also hooked up a virtual army of Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers, each connected to high-end audio equipment left over from his days as a musician. With his smart home set-up, Hartley can shout out song requests, control the TV while cooking, and check the front door for deliveries. And he's not planning to stop the upgrades.

Smart doorbells, like the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wirefree, are among the most popular smart home upgrades.
Smart doorbells, like the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wirefree, are among the most popular smart home upgrades.

"Because we've just moved in, I've got my eye on a smart door lock from Schlage at Bunnings," he says. "I want to reduce the amount of junk in my pockets. With Apple Pay, I've gotten rid of my wallet and next I want to get rid of my keys."

And he's in good company. In its IoT at Home Market Study, Telsyte predicted the number of connected devices in Australian homes would almost double by 2024, and found we set aside more than $2400 to make our homes "smarter" last year.

Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi says it showed smart home technology had "fast become critical to ordinary Australians".

The trend, first fuelled by cheap, easy to use, internet-savvy speakers from Google and Amazon, has also moved on to more unusual products.

Video doorbells and locks have become the smart products in highest demand, according to Telsyte, followed by smart power outlets, garden gadgets and connected cameras to monitor homes from smartphone screens.

Other popular items include security lighting and energy-monitoring gadgets. The latter has become so popular, electricity retailers are now selling smart home kits and offering free connected airconditioning controllers.

Canny consumers can even hook up their robot vacuum cleaners to a smartphone, control their garage doors remotely, and set their lights to turn on automatically when the sun sets. D-Link managing director Graeme Reardon says the boom in smart home upgrades took off when Australians were forced to work and educate their kids from home for the first time.

The Ecovacs Deebot U2 is a robotic vacuum cleaner that can be commanded to clean floors by voice commands.
The Ecovacs Deebot U2 is a robotic vacuum cleaner that can be commanded to clean floors by voice commands.

But what began as a way to ensure dusty home offices were connected to the net soon became a new trend to connect more devices and make home life more comfortable.

"We had that initial rush to get people out of trouble, but now there's a real focus on upgrading and fixing home networks and making them reliable, stable, and giving them good speeds for the next two or three years," he says. "Your camera is talking to your smart fridge, your smart fridge is talking to your Alexa. These devices don't need much internet bandwidth but they're all going at once."

Reardon says wireless routers capable of supporting Wi-Fi 6 standard are becoming popular as they can deliver a speed boost of up to 20 per cent and give multiple devices "more air space". Mesh networks are also a big hit with smart home users, he says. These kits feature small, powered boxes - known as points - that connect to broadcast Wi-Fi to all a home's dead zones, eliminating black spots.

Examples of mesh networks include Google Nest Wi-Fi, Telstra's Smart Wi-Fi Booster, and D-Link's COVR AX kits. Reardon says Australians looking to invest in a better Wi-Fi system to support the smart gadgets in their home are fortunate - stock shortages and manufacturing delays caused by the pandemic are only just clearing.

"It's only now we're getting back into a situation where we have the stock levels we should have. And, at the end of the day, if you don't have solid Wi-Fi, you're not going to have a good (smart home) experience."

Originally published as How to make your home smarter


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