Examples & Ideas
Each household or small business is unique so everyone’s Smart requirements will be different, however, below are some examples of automations or smart features we have implemented, split up into the different kinds of categories most people are interested in.
Voice Assistants are commonly used to interact with your Smart Home or Business. Listed below are some specifics about Voice Assistants and what they can be used for.
Brands - There are 2 main voice assistant devices common in the home or small business space – Google Nest or Amazon Alexa. We have primarily focused on Google Home in our own household and business but the principals are the same for either.
Smart Control - A voice assistant can be as simple as a small speaker that you can locate in any or multiple rooms and it can be linked to other smart devices so you can use your voice to control lights or other smart devices. They can also be used to make announcements or just to ask questions you would typically use the internet to research.
Displays - The more top end devices also have a screen and this can display photos from your own library, provide switches you can tap on to control lighting etc. They can also display live video feeds from any smart camera devices, like a video doorbell.
Music - Many people also use them to stream music (or YouTube on devices with a display) from popular music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
Automations / Routines – one of the most powerful options voice assistants provide is the ability to create routines. So, for example, we can setup a routine that starts when you say “Hey Google, it’s bedtime” and this routine would tell you what your next appointment is the next day, turn off lights around the house, turn off the garden lights, close the curtains/blinds in the bedroom, turn on night lights, report if any of the doors or windows have been left open etc. Of course, for it to know about these things, sensors would need to be available around your home or business.
These are pretty basic but in certain situations are very useful if you want to be able to switch any appliance on or off without any additional work. Just plug the appliance into the smart plug and then control that appliance via your phone or voice assistant or automation. We would always recommend smart plugs that also provide information on energy consumption as this can form part of your overall business / home energy monitoring. So for example, if you have to heat up water or heat up an area using an electric heater it would be very useful to know how much that appliance is costing on a daily/weekly/yearly basis.
Outdoors - garden lights (typically Phillips Hue but there are other options available).
These lights are pre-set with a single or multi coloured scene and come on at sunset and go off at either a pre-determined time or via voice commands. There are many options including wall lights, floor lights, spot lights, strip lights etc.
Room lighting – interior lighting really falls into a few categories:
Individual bulbs – if you have a single lamp, for example, it’s very simple to replace the existing bulb with a smart bulb and have control of that via your phone or via a voice assistant. These bulbs can be regular shades of white, tunable white or multi coloured.
Room switches – if you want to control the main lighting in a room via a standard room switch but also be able to automate or control those lights via your phone or voice assistant then replacing the existing light switch with a smart light switch provides the best of both worlds. A physical switch everyone knows how to operate but with Smart features (remote on/off, power consumption monitoring etc). NB. UK houses do not generally have a neutral wire available at the wall switch but many smart wall switches require one. As such, it’s important to understand this and choose the right products.
LED Strips – these are typically used for accent lighting, for example on the top and bottom of kitchen cupboards. Choosing the right light strip for the job is important as there are many options available. These can range from just basic white lights to incredible LED strips that are individually addressable (each LED can be a different colour) and can be animated.
LED Battens – these are the type of lights that are typically fitted in a garage or shed. In the past these have been fitted with fluorescent tubes but increasingly these are being replaced by more power efficient LED tubes. These can be automated, for example to turn on automatically when motion is detected.
Bespoke Lamps / Lighting - we can work with you on any unique requirements you may have to either turn existing lamps or lighting into something more attractive or smart. Just let us know what you are thinking and we can work with you to see if your ideas are possible.
Cameras / Security
There are multiple different camera options available for your home or small business. Below are some examples of the different options and considerations when choosing the right system for you.
Front Door / Doorbell – a lot of people have doorbell cameras these days. They can be purchased in either battery or wired versions. Typically, if you just want to review any detected motion or doorbell press then the battery powered doorbells are fine but if you want to have full video history where you can scroll back through all footage then a wired camera option is better.
Inside – there are many different options for inside cameras, again both with battery and wired options. The choice comes down to a number factors including of course, budget, but also if you want to be able to stream to a central location/tablet/screen, if you want local only recordings (so your video is never sent outside of your home), the quality of the video, how you want them to be powered etc.
Outside – Any outside camera needs to be designed specifically to handle the great British weather (so waterproof, dustproof, able to handle both cold and hot weather). The options for battery and wired remain the same but the quality of the images particularly when it’s very dark are important factors to consider.
Sensors / Switches /
There are a wide range of sensors available, some using Wi-Fi and others using either a protocol called Zigbee or ZWave. Generally using Wi-Fi for sensors is ok if you only ever intend on having a few but for most environments using the Zigbee protocol is a much better solution as it doesn’t rely on your Wi-Fi router and provides a more robust/fast network architecture which can utilise other Zigbee devices to route the signal even if one or mode nodes are not responding– so creating a mesh network.
Thermostats (like Google Nest)
Basic Switches (to start a routine for example)
Motion / Presence Sensors
Leak / Water Sensors
Energy Monitoring Sensors
Moisture Sensors (for plants)
And many others…….
Once you have appropriate sensors setup it’s possible to create automations to make announcements or send you messages based on the status of those sensors.
Some examples include:
If a door has been left open for x minutes (e.g. the porch or garage door has been inadvertently left open)
If a leak is detected
When the post has been delivered (one of my personal favourites)
Confirmation of certain lights being turned on or off (particularly useful for those people who have vision issues)
Spoken announcements when the door bell is pressed or lights flashed (useful for those with hearing difficulties)
These announcements can be made on a smart speaker, as a message on your mobile phone or as a spoken announcement on a tablet. Lights or other sounds can also be triggered based on whatever criteria is necessary.
The possibilities are really endless and is generally only restricted by having a sensor to report a “state” (like on or off / wet or dry etc) and then we can trigger off of that state.