For many newcomers to home automation, it might seem that in order to have a smart home system, you have to start with a smart speaker.
Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri offer powerful performance and hands-free convenience, but what if you don’t want or need voice control?
What if you don’t like the idea of going all-in with one of these global giants?
Well, we have some good news for you.
There are plenty of other ways to invest in a smart home system without going the smart speaker route. Today we’ll focus on several smart home alternatives for those of you that prefer something different.
Today, we're aiming this short guide more at beginners than the highly tech-savvy, and we'll avoid going into too much depth. Think of it more as an overview and a taster than a full-bore how-to.
These are the smart home systems we’ll be diving down into:
- Samsung SmartThings
- TP-Link Kasa
- Belkin Wemo
We’ll get straight down to business right now and kick off with a glimpse at Insteon, a staple in the home automation scene.
Insteon is a classic ecosystem that we break down into more detail right here. The question is, what is Insteon and why should you care?
Founded back in 2005 this dual-mesh networking system is hub-based, so the first thing you'll need is the Hub Central Controller. This will form the backbone of your ecosystem and gives you maximum control and functionality for a very modest investment.
This hub hooks up to your router, and you can then take control in-app on your smartphone. Download it here on Google Play so you can try before you buy. After all, most smart home systems stand or fall according to the responsiveness of the app. We’re pretty sure you’ll agree that the Insteon app is a cinch to navigate. You can also grab it on the App Store if you’re an iPhone user.
Insteon Control Options
Control options are broad.
You’ll be able to use your tablet or computer not just your cell phone.
Although the emphasis today is on sidestepping digital assistants, you’ll be able to use voice control if you decide you want to further down the line.
Another great option at your disposal with Insteon is the range of keypads. These controllers come in multiple configurations. You can also customize the lettering to personalize your connected home.
Insteon Smart System Products
With control all taken care of, what kind of products can you add to your smart home system?
With lighting, you can opt for remote control dimmers to make your life easier.
Plug-in modules allow you to control small appliances like fans, coffee machines or lamps.
The ubiquitous smart thermostat helps with climate control.
Choose from an array of starter kits bundled to give you enhanced value.
A variety of sensors help you keep the contents of your smart home safe from harm.
You can go here to check for compatibility and see what else works with the versatile hub. You’ll be able to control devices like Nest Learning Thermostat so you won’t be entirely pegged to Insteon gear.
While it’s a relatively closed ecosystem, Insteon offers an affordable, reliable and very user-friendly introduction to home automation from a brand you can trust.
Samsung Smart Things
Another giant of the smart tech space, Samsung’s stellar SmartThings ecosystem is well worth considering.
As with the bulk of smart home systems, a hub is a baseline you'll operate from. Now into its third generation, SmartThings Hub allows you to exercise control over a broad spread of devices and appliances from many major brands.
Sensors are the core focus of the SmartThings range. If you want to keep your smart home and all your possessions safe from leaks and smoke, this system is a great investment. You will also receive alerts if doors and windows are breached.
With the SmartThings app, you'll be able to take charge using your cell phone.
If you invest in one of the more recent Samsung TVs for your home theater, you’ll also be able to use your television as a central command center.
In systems like Philips Hue, Ring, Honeywell, Yale, Arlo and Schlage, interoperability is enormous, making SmartThings a powerful, versatile smart system.
Amazon bought security specialist Ring for a whopping $1 billion, and their range has only gotten stronger.
Bursting into the smart home scene with their excellent line-up of Video Doorbells, you now have far more to choose from.
You get a free choice of both wired and wireless security cameras in many forms.
Sensors enhance motion detection and let you sleep soundly without a care in the world.
You can amp up security further with full alarm kits. The paid subscription Ring Protect Plus offers you monitored protection for a nominal monthly fee.
One of the leading benefits of Ring is that you can install all of these products without needing to build a hub into your system.
You can use IFTTT for control if you want to get more ambitious and start controlling other smart home products.
The recent introduction of smart lighting ties in neatly with the other security products offered. This gives you a pretty complete solution for your connected home.
For a beginner-friendly introduction to home automation with no hub required, Ring's smart home system keeps your security uppermost at all times.
Since paying $3.2 billion for Nest in 2014, Google has now folded the company back into Google after it had been run under a different name for quite some time.
The range has broadened and deepened, so you now have a great choice of proprietary products.
Best known for the Smart Learning Thermostat, this intelligent approach to smart home climate control allows you to save money each month while automating the mundane aspects of temperature control.
Partnering with lock legends Yale, the Nest x Yale lock offers a great way to smarten up your entry system without spending a fortune. The lock is ideal for novices and experts alike.
Nest Cam brings you a superb selection of indoor and outdoor security cameras in multiple configurations.
If you want another smart home system that doesn’t cry out for a hub and allows you straightforward control across all areas of your connected home, Nest is a reliable option.
The name Nexia might not be immediately familiar.
Their range of smart home products is surprisingly effective, though and you'll also enjoy excellent compatibility with devices from other manufacturers.
When you’re first entering the smart home waters, compatibility can seem like a minefield. You’ll encounter different protocols like Zigbee and Z-Wave.
Rather than scratching your head wondering what will work and what could end up an expensive mistake, consider rolling with some Nexia products. Starting with the Home Bridge that the entire system is grounded upon. Keep in mind this requires a monthly subscription, but in return, you’ll get full support and back-up.
Nexia also boasts a comprehensive diagnostics system, helping you keep tabs on your HVACX system. We looked at diagnostics in our recent piece on emerging trends in smart tech, and Nexia is ahead of the curve.
Beyond all this kit, you’ll also be able to use a large number of certified third-party devices making Nexia a leftfield choice when it comes to smart home systems.
Are you suffering from problems with weak WiFi signal in your home?
Dropped connections and dead zones?
Coverage that won’t reach the furthest corners of your house?
This is an increasingly common problem with more and more devices burdening WiFi networks and regular routers not being up to the job.
You’ll be able to use these devices without needing a third-party hub.
Control is straightforward using a crisp and clear app. You can also add in voice control at a later date if you change your mind and start embracing the value of digital assistants.
You can easily create routines and custom scenes. Having control over devices with the power strip offers you more functionality than you could get from Alexa alone.
While the Wemo range is not quite so sweeping as many other systems, Belkin is a highly reputable brand in the tech space, and you'll still get plenty to choose from with this smart system.
Lighting options are impressive. Smart light switches and dimmer switches sit alongside smart plugs giving you a great way to save money, increase energy-efficiency and automate control of your lighting.
You’ll need a Smart Bridge, but this comes in at an extremely keen price-point well within anyone's budget. Investing in this allows you to enhance control. Setting scenes and scheduling is a breeze. If you're invested into the Apple HomeKit ecosystem, this hub is fully enabled.
Control is a breeze in-app. You’ll also be able to use a virtual butler if you later decide hands-free control makes sense for you.
You won't get quite the choice offered by other brands, but all Wemo products come highly recommended, and this makes a sensible starting point if you want to test home automation without taking out a bank loan or confusing yourself.
Last but by no means least, Hive is a division of the energy firm British Gas and as yet to be publicized in the US.
Nevertheless, Hive is now increasingly expanding its territory, and you'll be able to pick up these products more and more readily.
The system is comprehensive offering you a thermostat, security cameras (both indoor and outdoor), light bulbs, plugs, sensors and a batch of reliable accessories.
If you're looking to get started on a budget, Hive also specializes in bundling their products so you can get even better value for less than $300 all-in.
The Hive app works on both iOS and Android as well as Apple Watch.
Automation is super-simple and ideally tailored for beginners. Hive Actions allow you to set scenes and you can easily oversee your home security system and climate control in-app remotely.
Have you decided which of these alternative smart home systems is appealing to you?
We've tried to cover a wide range of options, and all of these systems are suitable even if you've never used a smart device before.
If you’ve got any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll help out any way we can.
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