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Which smart home gadget should you buy first?

Smart home tech is nothing new – hobbyists have become geeky over home automation for decades now – but in recent years, it has marched closer to the usual than ever before. In recent years, high-profile connected home interfaces such as Amazon Echo Nest Learning Thermostat and Ring Video Doorbell all become breakout hits by offering attractive designs and concrete benefits, many of them to prices that are not unreasonably high.

The result? An ordinary smart home market with a lot of speed. In 201

8, a GfK study found that over half of US households now contain at least one smart home gadget. Over one third of them include two or more.

Of course, it leaves about half of us who still haven't purchased. Many may be shut down at the idea of ​​connecting everything under the roof and sharing data recorded by sensors, security cameras and microphones with Silicon Valley – – But with a variety of smart devices available in your local hardware store, others might not know where to start . For that purpose, here's a look at how to answer a not so simple question: What smart home product should you buy first?

Information: CNET receives a share of revenue from purchases made via the links on this page.

Plan for a smart home

Ask yourself: What do you want from your smart home? As a guy who listens to places for the latest smart home technology's day in and day out, I can assure you that you have many options. Do you want to keep track of things with a do-it-yourself security system and camera flows you can check from your phone? Do you want simple amenities like voice controls for your lamps and thermostats ? Do you want artificial intelligence and cloud-connected devices to help freshen things up in the kitchen?

To find out what you want, think about the things you do at home daily and look for improvements that you think are meaningful. Do you like to walk from room to room before the bed shuts off the lights the children went on? Smart lights that you can turn off with a single voice command or press your phone can be meaningful. Do you deal a lot online and worry about thieves stealing packages from your porch while you are at work? A video doorbell with a flow that you can see on the remote may be good.

For my money, I think that smart lighting is a sensible starting point for almost everyone. After all, we use the lights in our home more than just anything – add to things like motion-activated lights for your home's exterior or automatic wake-up call that syncs with your morning alarms . meaning, because you will enjoy them day in and day out. For more on why it's a good time to try smart lights, click here .

Value Versatility

If nothing specifically jumps on you and you only have a general curiosity about what the smart home might have to offer, look for flexible multifunctional devices that you can use in many different ways. A small smart speaker like Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini is a great way to see which artificially intelligent aids such as Alexa and Google Assistant can, and no one will cost. You more than $ 50. Belkin's WeMo Mini Smart Switch is even cheaper and lets you automate everything you plug into – lights, desk mounts, crock pots, space heaters, you name it.


WeMo Mini Smart Switch from Belkin is a versatile small gadget that automates everything you plug into it. Available for just $ 30, it's a good, low-risk step in the smart home.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Always start as little when you are unsure. Once you have found a product that you like, you can start to rebuild it by adding to other compatible gadgets that can make it even smarter and contribute a unique unique appeal by itself. Our Smart Home Compatibility Tracker can be a useful tool for that purpose.

Examine Your Platform Options

If you buy a new computer, you need to decide which operating system you want to use – Mac, Windows, Chromebook etc. Smart home tech is similar in that a majority of the most popular gadgets are designed to work within a wider ecosystem of devices – the most common voice control platforms such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri controls included with Apple HomeKit. Hubs from names like Wink and Samsung SmartThings offer dedicated platforms that can help other devices to agree with. You can also keep things that work together by sticking to gadgets that work with IFTTT, a free, online automation platform.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each of these options can go a long way to helping you build a smart home setting that makes sense to you, especially if you plan to use multiple types of gadgets. The smart home is only better when things work together.

As mentioned, most devices offer their own dedicated apps and controls, and can be used independently of any wider platforms directly out of the box. This means that you do not necessarily have to make any commitments directly. In addition, a growing number of products support several platforms. Starting with smart devices they can help you keep your options open if you're not uncertain for now.

I add that each platform has its own security certification process that is designed to keep insecure, vulnerable hardware out of the mix – that means that a product that works with multiple platforms has essentially received several appropriate ratings from names like Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung all have a lot to play in keeping their respective platforms safe.

Here are some quick suggestions that fit the bill:

Available with two lamps or four, the Philips Hue's white light starter kit is relatively inexpensive and it is easy to use and build on – plus it works with almost everything you can imagine.

Ry Crist / CNET

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Along with automating anything you plug into The page, iDevices Switch will monitor your energy usage and double as a multicolored night light and it works with the Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Smart plugs

Honeywell Lyric T5 is available for $ 100 and is filled with useful features. It is one of our favorite smart thermostat values ​​and works with a variety of platforms.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Smart thermostats

  mercury-obsidian-product-photos-4 "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/0BPH7RcEnnDQiqBxkbJ-yJUgays=/2017/10/31/21e9ef9c The Kwikset Obsidian is a keyless smart lock that supports a number of platforms, including the Amazon key for in-house package delivery. </p>
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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Smart lock

I would also like to add that if you have any interest in voice controls, start with a Amazon Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini is one of the smart home's greatest no-brainers. Even if you ignore the smart home integrations that make Alexa or Google Assistant control things like lights and thermostats, each device is probably worth the $ 50 price for voice-activated music, podcasts, news and cooking times alone.

Do Your Homework

The best way to choose the right gadgets for your home is to understand what all the different options have to offer and narrow things down accordingly. With such a wide range of options that knock it out in a complex arena of competing platforms and standards, it may become confusing to do so.

But hey, that's where we come in! Our product reviews best listings, buying guides how content, explains post and presented deliveries from CNET Smart Home ] are all focused on helping you to understand what a more connected living space has to offer (and where it will be short). If you are looking for ideas on how to put a smarter home to work, we will help you brainstorm . If you're fasting trying to decide between two seemingly identical gadgets, we can help with that too . If you want to dive deeper into privacy and security issues before purchasing, we have covered you .

Bottom line: It has never been a better time to try your home automation. Explore your options, and you'll find many ways to start your smart home right.

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