My new roommate wakes me up in the a.m., plays all my favorite songs, patiently answers my questions and even turns off the lights at night when I’m too tired. Her name is Alexa and she’s the brains inside my Amazon Echo wireless speaker.
Thanks in part to devices like the Echo, the long-promised “home of the future” has finally arrived. Roughly one in five U.S. homes with a high-speed Internet connection have at least one smart home device*, like a thermostat that cranks down the heat when nobody’s around or a security camera that sends a digital heads-up if a stranger rings the bell.
What makes these things smart is that they’re always connected to the Internet and can be controlled from a phone app. Many also work with voice-driven devices like the Echo or the Siri voice assistant on the iPhone and Apple TV.
It’s even better when these devices work together. But that’s where things get complicated. There are a half-dozen families of smart home products, not all of them on speaking terms. So a gizmo designed for Apple’s HomeKit may not necessarily work with Amazon’s Echo.
That’s changing rapidly. Still, for now the best strategy is to choose a single device that does something you need, then gradually add products that sync with it.
Updating your home doesn’t have to be complicated—or break the bank. Consider these user-friendly product picks, along with alternatives for different smart home systems.
*Source: Dallas-based tech market research frim Parks Associates