The Low Cost Smart Home is About to Explode

You probably know that guy. The one who for years has showed off about having Sonos playing music in every room, and double claps to open his blinds. Even if you haven't been to his house, he'll fill you with stories about a garage door that opens up 2 mins before you arrive. Of course, his main aim in all this is not really a betterment to his life's function, but a trophy to point to when front yard fountains became a home wear faux pas. Achieving these things up until now carried major costs running into the tens of thousands and countless hours of setup. More importantly, it involved putting trust into an ecosystem of products with no strong consumer facing brands.

Enter 2017, and the big players are finally showing their cards. Release schedules have been cautious e.g Amazon has held back releases outside of the US for up to a year after the US release date. With first iterations either recently launching or launching in q2, q3 or q4, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple are now in the race. These companies are already pivotal in our lives - they are our computers, our phones, how we shop, how we play. Home automation releases by these companies demand the consumers time to look, and create FOMO aka every marketers dream, the fear of missing out. With the volume of IOT devices growing exponentially, this supply surge will only bring down the costs of light bulbs, fans (and Internet connected rice cookers!) etc  

So the next time "that guy" tries to tell you his $1100 FIBARO Home Center 2 Controller is so amazing, you can smugly say your Amazon Echo Dot 2 only cost 50 bucks, all the cool kids have one, it learns everyday and will probably do way more very shortly! 

Here's the other hot developments about to take the home automation market AND your home by storm: 

Name: Amazon Echo

US Release Date: June 23, 2015

Available in Australia?: No

The Amazon Echo, a voice-activated home audio speaker system that integrates a personal voice assistant named Alexa with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Consensus online is that it is currently beating Google Home on build quality and overall functionality, but this is expected with over 1 year release in the US.  

Name: Amazon Echo Dot 2

US Release Date: October 20, 2016

Available in Australia?: No

Nicknamed "the hockey puck", The Amzon Echo Dot (2nd Generation) is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information and much more. Its does just about everything the standard ECHO does, but you need to tether it to your home speakers via bluetooth or jack. At only $50, it sure to shake up the market in an absolutely massive way. 

Name: Google Home

US Release Date: November 4, 2016

Available in Australia?: No

Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that also works as a smart-home control centre that can be used to playback entertainment throughout your entire house, effortlessly manage every-day tasks and much more. It looks kinda like an air freshener, but lots of people really love it! Its currently in such an early iteration that even commands like "OK GOOGLE, TELL ME MY APPOINTMENTS FOR THE DAY" are not supported (at time of writing), but this will change very fast. Of course, being internet connected, these devices learn and improve seamlessly. Online consensus is that its big strength right now is how "conversational" it is. You can ask it a series of questions, and it has great context by assessing previous ones. Google will be putting massive resource behind this upcoming cash cow, so look out for some amazing features on the horizon.  

Name: Microsoft HomeHub

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US Release Date: Not yet released

Available in Australia?: No

Microsoft is planning to build a HomeHub software which is designed to run on Windows 10 PCs, but can work on any Windows 10 machine. Pen and ink support are also part of the plan. There is some information on windowscentral.com, but its very early days. It describes having a "guest profile" on a home laptop which can be given commands from the lock screen, and have special access features to understand who's calendar they are allowed to read from (could be awkward for any 17 year old hiding a party from their parents!). The major differentiator is that its purely a software play. This is a great advantage as its already in everyone's homes, and people are getting more familiar with CORTANA, the voice assistant. All you need is an internet connected light bulb as a Christmas gift and away you go. Features will be released in Q2, Q3 and Q4 of this year as part of Windows 10 functionality.

Name: Apple HomeKit

apple-homekit.jpg

US Release Date: September 17, 2014

Available in Australia?: Yes

Apple HomeKit technology provides an easy and secure way to control HomeKit-enabled devices like the Withings Home Plus using Siri on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Name: LINGLONG DINGDONG

US Release Date:  November 25, 2016

Available in Australia?: No

Here come the Chinese! Don't let is funny name fool you. The LingLong DingDong is the latest smart home voice control to hit the market, with the company promising that it can communicate in various dialects of Chinese.