When you’re looking to automate your home, control is a key element. What if you were able to control your home from the smartwatch on your wrist?
While taking command in-app on your smartphone is the most common method of control, it does have some drawbacks. What if your phone is not in the same room? With more and more of us taking digital downtime, this is not a rarity.
Think about it: after a day with a cellphone permanently by your side, do you always want it nearby when you’re relaxing?
That is where wearables come in to plug this gap. After all, if you’ve got a Smartwatch, chances are it will be on your wrist at all times.
We’ll stop short today of looking at which smartwatch you should buy, but you can check out our guide to the best wearables right here. We’ll double down instead on how you can best execute this wrist control and whether it’s really worth it or not.
Controlling Smart Devices with a Smartwatch: The Basics
The first thing to keep in mind about controlling your home automation tech from your smartwatch is the compromise you’ll need to make.
Functionality is limited with most devices so you’ll be making a trade-off between performance and convenience. With smart lighting, for example, you’ll be able to turn your lights on and off but not manipulate brightness levels.
These limitations should be understood going in so you're not disappointed when it's not a seamless sci-fi experience. Remember, this is about convenience first and foremost.
What devices can you control from your wrist, then?
Smart Devices You Can Control with a Smartwatch
If you’ve got a robust automated home, your smartwatch will certainly not replace your phone or digital assistant, but then again, it doesn’t need to. You’re not likely to be getting rid of either any time soon.
Here are 5 areas where you will be able to take control using nothing but your wearable:
- Smart Lights
- Security Cameras
- Smart Thermostat
- Smart Locks
- General Smart Services
1) Smart Lights
If you’re interested in smart lighting, one line dominates and that is Philips Hue. Whether you opt for a single bulb, a starter kit or a complete lighting solution, your control options are diverse.
Download the free and well-received Philips Hue app for your Apple Watch and you’ll be able to control devices from your wearable. As well as switching your lights on and off, you’ll also be able to work with scenes. Hit Movie Time when you’re curled up on the couch even if your phone is nowhere in sight and you’re feeling too lazy to get up.
What if you opted for LIFX lighting? If you have an Android Wear watch and you want to control your lights, you’ll be forced to steer clear of Philips Hue. LIFX has your back, though. The app is freely available on Google Play but all you’ll be able to do is switch the lights on or off.
2) Security Cameras
Android Wear users can take advantage of tinyCam Monitor, a Wear app compatible with a broad spread of security devices.
You’ll be able to stay aware of what’s happening with screenshots and you can access pan-and-tilt, so you’ll have at least some control over viewing using your wearable.
If you have an Apple Watch, Withings Home is a free app that lets you watch live streams of your baby monitor or camera. You can also get screenshots along with those all-important motion detection alerts.
We’ll reiterate, functionality is sorely limited along with compatibility. Controlling your smart devices using your watch is an added layer of convenience not a replacement control system.
3) Smart Thermostat
Unfortunately, the removal of the Google Nest app which we’ll highlight below, leaves you struggling if you’re for wrist-based climate control. This is a shame since the app was available on both Apple and Android. So, with that taken out of commission, where does it leave you?
Luckily, the Honeywell Lyric app works well with Apple Watch. From setting the temperature to toggling between heating and cooling, you’ll even be able to control your fans from your Apple Watch. The ability to activate Away mode with a swipe completes a robust offering for Apple fanboys.
We’ll keep you updated regarding thermostats but make sure you check the model you’re thinking of buying closely if you want to use your smartwatch. This advice applies to all smart tech, really. Proper planning leads to a far more effective connected home with no wasted purchases.
4) Smart Locks
August serves up one of the best Apple Watch apps allowing you to control your August lock with a swipe and a tap. You’ll get notifications and a log sent to your Apple Watch, too.
Crisp and intuitive, this app proves wrist control doesn’t need to be clunky when manufacturers put some effort in. As we’ll explore below, it’s not always worth their while.
There are also some security concerns with smart locks and wearables. We’ll touch on this below as well, but let's get into what else can you control with your watch.
5) General Smart Services
Have you heard of Vivint?
If so, you’ll already be aware this company offers a complete smart home solution covering everything from climate control to security.
So, as you can see, you’re relatively limited in terms of what you can command from your smartwatch but we’ve got something interesting next in the form of the Listens for Alexa app…
Listens For Alexa App
If you’ve invested in the Wear OS ecosystem, the Alexa app is incompatible, so what do you do?
Well, Listens for Alexa – also known as Alexa Listens Wear – steps in to save the day.
With this agile app, you’ll be able to do pretty much the same thing from your Wear OS watch that you can do from your Echo device. While not compatible with all skills and not packing the full functionality you’ll get from Echo, it’s a great start. You can control a range of smart devices, and it’s a great stopgap for rooms where you don’t have Alexa in place.
How else can you control your smart devices given the lackluster performance of both first-party and third-party apps?
If This, Then That (IFTTT) is a failsafe way to get devices communicating in harmony.
When you install the Android app, the Wear component auto-installs on your smartwatch. All you need to do then is activate the Android channel and you’ll benefit from a programmable button. You can then pair this with a range of smart lighting solutions if the platform you’re using is unsupported.
As you add recipes, more buttons will pop up on your watch. Swipe, scroll, tap, and experiment. Wrist control of your lighting is easier than you might imagine.
The other approach you can take is to download the Do button. This is much more limited in scope with only 3 buttons which all need programming for specific actions.
IFTT & Tasker
You can build out IFTTT functionality in tandem with the Tasker app, which allows for automatic functions like toggling through settings or launching custom apps. Also, Tasker enables you to control third-party apps and devices that are not natively supported by Android Wear. Bolstering this further, plug-in apps like AutoVera make automating your home from your watch an even better experience.
Using IFTTT alongside Tasker gives you what we consider the most hard-hitting wrist-control out there at the moment. While it might not be ideal for complete beginners, if you’ve got even the faintest tech skills in place, you should find set-up and navigation pretty straightforward.
As with any form of smart home control with a device that will be taken outside your home, security issues crop up.
It might be remarkably convenient to open your own smart locks using your smartwatch, but what if you lose that watch?
Luckily, this is a concern most watch manufacturers address head-on in their security settings. This usually involves the prohibition of pairing with any unfamiliar devices. If you are planning to control your locks this way, it’s crucial you dabble with those settings and make sure you’re protected.
Check out our study on how to combat security risks at home if you’re concerned in general with making sure your connected home is ironclad.
Where do we go from here, then?
The Future of Smartwatch Control
Are you likely to see new and improved control coming from smartwatches or are wearables a dead-end in terms of home automation?
As with all elements of home automation, what’s key is personalizing your experience. If you decide that the token element of convenience is well worthwhile, you can certainly perform the basics of smart home control from your watch.
Looking forward, it’s tough to imagine an altered landscape where manufacturers suddenly do an about-face and strengthen their wearable apps when other forms of control are so much more popular. Keep in mind, though, only a decade back it would have been unthinkable to control your entire home using voice commands.
We’re certainly not writing off the future of wrist control. Home automation undergoes so many pivots with so many changes to the status quo, it would be reckless not to keep an open mind about the coming years. And it’s that thrilling and high-paced change that motivates everything we do here at Smart Home. We can’t wait to see what the coming years bring for domotics beyond the inevitable mass adoption of robots.
Well, we hope you can now see whether or not controlling your home automation kit from your wrist is something that appeals.
We certainly wouldn’t suggest this should be your motivating driver for buying a smartwatch due to the limited scope of control. If, however, you’re planning to use a wearable for fitness and entertainment purposes, smart home control is a nice added kicker.
Come back next week when we’ll be investigating connected homes for renters along with all the latest smart home news. As always, we’ll remind you to sign up for our email newsletter, too. Not only will you be informed with a round-up of news, but you’ll also get 20% off your first order with Smart Home.