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Get Smart

Want a smart home but feel like the smart home industry is trying to outsmart you? We know the feeling. That's why we've put together this guide of a few of our favorite smart home products to get you started on transforming your home into the tech-savvy sanctuary you've been dreaming of.

first things first

It's important to choose your smart home assistant wisely. They are all suited to different lifestyles and different levels of home automation capabilities. For the purpose of keeping things succinct, we'll discuss three of the most popular systems on the market: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana.

Amazon Alexa

Amazon's Alexa is arguably tailored for smart home newbies. With the Alexa-enabled Echo Dot starting at just $49.99, Alexa makes home automation accessible for all homeowners. Plus, Echo products are easy to set up, with the ability to be plugged in and used anywhere, and controlled via Android or Apple devices. Alexa is also the most widely supported hub, with tons of compatible smart home apps (like MySmartBlinds).

Google Assistant

Google's Assistant is much smarter than Amazon's Alexa. It is powered by Google's search engine technology, so it's able to respond to a broader array of questions and commands. However, it has far less compatible smart home apps than Alexa and the Google Home's speaker lacks the same sound quality as the Echo.

Microsoft Cortana

Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant differs from Alexa and Google Assistant in that it allows users to control their smart home devices directly from their Windows PC. Cortana is a built-in assistant in Windows 10, transforming the personal computer into a smart home hub. This is both convenient for Windows users and not much of a pro or con for homeowners without a Windows PC, as it is not likely they will purchase a new computer instead of a home automation hub. Although Cortana is popular among Windows users and is compatible with prominent smart home devices, its range and compatibility is limited.

picking your hub

After you've decided on your assistant, you have to pick your hub. For Alexa, you can choose between the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus, and Echo Spot. Amazon's different hubs vary in size, display, function, and price. The device you pick will depend largely on each of those factors.

Although Google Assistant does work on some Android phones, you will need a Google Home or Google Home Mini to have full compatibility of most smart home devices. And the Microsoft Cortana app is available on Android and iPhone - but with the caveat that it is very much an assistant app, meaning you have to open it to engage with Cortana; you can't just summon Cortana to control all of your home automation apps.

home elevated

Once you've picked out the hub you want to control your smart home, it's time to pick up a few starter products to get your home rolling toward genius status.

lights

Smart lighting is popping up everywhere. but many smart lights are only compatible with certain home automation systems. One of our favorite products makes it simple to automate light control in your home - no matter which home automation system you've chosen.

The LIFX Color 1000 LED bulb has vivid color-changing capabilities that you can change on demand with Alexa, Google, or Cortana. The bulbs are Wi-Fi-enabled so you won't need to purchase a bridge to get them to communicate with your virtual assistant. Simply turn your lights on and off or dim them with voice control. Each bulb costs $59.99

Follow our simple steps to setting up LIFX bulbs with your home automation system.

How to (for Alexa):

  • Open the Alexa app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap SKILLS on the menu
  • Type LIFX into the search bar and tap LIFX OPTIMIZED FOR SMART HOME SKILL
  • Enter your email and password from the LIFX app
  • Tap DISCOVER DEVICES on the pop-up that appears
  • Tap GROUPS
  • Tap ADD GROUP and select a preset name or type your own group name, then tap NEXT
  • Scroll through the list of LIFX lights and check all lights you want to add to your group, then tap SAVE

How to (for Google Assistant):

  • Open the Google Home app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap HOME CONTROL on the menu
  • Tap +, then scroll and tap LIFX
  • Enter your email and password from the LIFX app
  • Tap ROOMS
  • Tap the pencil icon next to a light to choose which room to add it to
  • Select room then click the back arrow in the upper lefthand corner and repeat the step for all lights

How to (for Cortana):

  • Activate Cortana
  • Tap the notebook icon on the lefthand side
  • Tap CONNECTED HOME
  • Set ENABLE CONNECTED HOME to ON
  • Tap LIFX
  • Tap CONNECT
  • Enter your email and password from the LIFX app
  • Tap AUTHORIZE

fans

Hunter SIMPLEconnect fans are like the MySmartBlinds of ceiling fans. You can purchase an all-new ceiling fan enabled with Alexa or Google compatibility, or you can purchase the SIMPLEconnect Add-On Control for your existing ceiling fan.

How to (for Alexa):

  • Open the Alexa app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap SKILLS on the menu
  • Type HUNTER FAN into the search bar and tap HUNTER SIMPLECONNECT SMART CEILING FAN SKILL
  • Enter your email and password from the Hunter Fan website
  • Tap DISCOVER DEVICES on the pop-up that appears
  • Tap GROUPS
  • Tap ADD GROUP and select a preset name or type your own group name, then tap NEXT
  • Scroll through the list of fans and check all fans you want to add to your group, then tap SAVE

How to (for Google Assistant):

  • Open the Google Home app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap HOME CONTROL on the menu
  • Tap +, then scroll and tap HUNTER FAN
  • Enter your email and password from the Hunter Fan website
  • Tap ROOMS
  • Tap the pencil icon next to a fan to choose which room to add it to
  • Select room then click the back arrow in the upper lefthand corner and repeat the step for all fans

window coverings

With MySmartBlinds, you can have brand new faux wood automated blinds or purchase a kit to automate your existing 2 - 2 1/2" horizontal blinds. MySmartBlinds are currently compatible with Amazon's Alexa and Google Home, with the purchase of a MySmartBlinds bridge.

How to (for Alexa):

  • Open the Alexa app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap SKILLS on the menu
  • Type MYSMARTBLINDS into the search bar and tap MYSMARTBLINDS SKILL
  • Enter your email and password from the MySmartBlinds app
  • Tap DISCOVER DEVICES on the pop-up that appears

How to (for Google Assistant):

  • Open the Google Home app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap HOME CONTROL on the menu
  • Tap +, then scroll and tap MYSMARTBLINDS
  • Enter your email and password from the MySmartBlinds app
  • Tap ROOMS
  • Tap the pencil icon next to a blind to choose which room to add it to
  • Select room then click the back arrow in the upper lefthand corner and repeat the step for all blinds

thermostat

You can now control your smart home's temperature. The Nest Learning thermostat adapts your home's temperature to your lifestyle and works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

How to (for Alexa):

  • Open the Alexa app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap SKILLS on the menu
  • Type NEST into the search bar and tap NEST THERMOSTAT SKILL
  • Enter your email and password from the Nest app
  • Tap DISCOVER DEVICES on the pop-up that appears

How to (for Google Assistant):

  • Open the Google Home app on your smartphone
  • Tap MENU in the upper lefthand corner
  • Tap HOME CONTROL on the menu
  • Tap +, then scroll and tap NEST
  • Enter your email and password from the Nest app
  • Tap DONE

Cortana's capabilities are limited, but Johnson Controls' GLAS is Cortana's very own energy-saving thermostat with a touchscreen.

How to (for Cortana):

  • Tap the notebook icon on the lefthand side
  • Tap CONNECTED HOME
  • Set ENABLE CONNECTED HOME to ON
  • Tap GLAS
  • Tap CONNECT
  • Tap AUTHORIZE