Smart home technology has improved at an incredible pace. It’s now easy for anyone to get into it without spending a ton of money. Controlling all of those devices, however, still takes work. We’ll help you make it easier.
There was a time when you needed a physical smart home hub to bring all of your devices into a single interface. Thanks to Apple, Amazon, and Google, that’s no longer the case. You don’t even need to use their products to get better smart home controls.
You Don’t Need a Hub Anymore
One of the big advantages of using a smart home hub is the unified experience for all of your devices. No matter the brand, as long as they can connect to the hub, you can control them with one app, whereas smart devices that don’t use a hub require their own third-party apps.
If you mix and match several different brands of smart devices, it’s easy to see how this becomes a pain. You have one app to turn on the lights in the bedroom, but there was a great deal on lights from a different brand, so now your living room requires a separate app.
Thankfully, this nightmare scenario doesn’t have to happen as much anymore. While you’ll still probably need those third-party apps to do the initial setup, there are plenty of ways to bring all of your smart devices into one unified experience without a physical hub. We’ll explore a few of those options.
RELATED: What Is a Smart Home Hub?
You might assume that you need a Google Nest smart speaker or display to use the Google Home app, but that’s not true. It can integrate with a wide variety of products from popular smart home brands. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, or Android.
The Google Home app allows you to create rooms in your home, and you can place smart devices in them. You can turn on or off all the lights in a room at once, create handy routines, and control everything with Google Assistant.
RELATED: How to Set Up and Use Home & Away Routines with Google Assistant
You don’t need a Google Nest device, but if you do have some, they sort of act like a “hub.” They allow you to control things with your voice, and they’re smart about it. If the speaker is in the living room and you say “Turn off the lights,” it will only turn off the living room lights.
How do you know whether a smart home device can be added to the Google Home app? Make sure that the device has the “Works with Google Assistant” label or mentions Google Assistant in the description.
To add it to the Google Home app, you’ll simply open the app and tap the + icon in the top-left corner. You’ll be guided through setting up your home and selecting the type of device it is.
RELATED: What's the Deal with Google Home and Nest? Is There a Difference?
Similar to Google Home, an Echo device isn’t necessary to use the Amazon Alexa app. Many smart home products from popular brands can be added to it. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
The Alexa app lets you organize devices into “Groups.” You can set up these groups to be rooms, like putting all of your living room devices into one group. It’s totally up to you how you want to organize all the devices.
If you do have some Echo devices in your home, they can control all of the smart devices that you add to the app. The app also allows for the creation of routines, which can automate smart home controls like a hub would.
RELATED: How to Set Up Alexa Routines to Control Multiple Smarthome Devices at Once
When you’re buying devices to work with the Alexa app, simply look for the “Works with Alexa” label on the packaging. Amazon.com also prominently displays “Works with Alexa” labels in search results.
To add a device to the Alexa app, open it and go to the “Devices” tab. You’ll then press the + button in the top-right corner and choose the type of device that you’re trying to add.
If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you already have a smart home app installed on your phone. Apple’s “Home” app supports any device that’s compatible with the “HomeKit” platform.
The Apple Home app allows you to organize smart home devices into rooms. You can also add multiple homes and invite others to be able to control the devices. The Home app includes “Automations” as well, although they’re more limited than Google and Amazon.
Like many things Apple, the power of the Home app comes with the entire ecosystem. You can control devices from your Apple Watch and through voice commands with Siri. The only downside is that if you have any Android users in your home, they’ll be left out.
Look for the “Works with Apple HomeKit” label when you’re shopping for compatible devices. Adding a device to the home app is as simple as tapping the + button and scanning a QR code, holding the phone near the device, or entering a number from the packaging.
RELATED: What Is Apple HomeKit?
There Are Still Advantages to a Hub
The evolution of digital assistants and smart speakers has really changed the smart home game. While there are certainly still advantages to having a dedicated hub, the lines are being blurred. You can do a lot with nothing more than your phone.
That being said, there are still some reasons that you might want a dedicated hub for your smart home. (But some people disagree and argue that you don’t need a hub!)
RELATED: Why a Proper Smart Home Needs a Hub
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