Everything you need to know about a smart home: ecosystems, tips and more


These logos provide a basic level of support. This means you can connect it to the appropriate ecosystem and control the device with your voice. However, ecosystem support does not mean the same for every product. One robot vacuum cleaner may simply have support for starting and stopping voice commands, while another may be told to clean a specific room or work until a specific time. Always check the full list of commands or user reviews to get a complete picture of what is possible.

You’ll also find third-party smart home devices with built-in voice assistants. There is a separate logo “Alexa built in”, which means that you can talk directly to Alexa via the device. The Google equivalent is simply the Google Assistant logo. The Sonos Beam soundtrack is an example of a device that has both Google Now and Alexa in it, so you can talk to it directly as if you were talking to a Nest or Echo speaker. Siri is only available on devices manufactured by Apple, but will soon be available on third-party devices as well.

Understanding smart home standards

The lack of common standards has hampered the smart home scene for years. Things are starting to change, but it’s still confusing. Different wireless standards connect your smart home devices behind the scenes. The two most popular examples are ZigBee (used by Philips Hue, Logitech, LG and Samsung) and Z-Wave (used by Honeywell, GE, and also Samsung).

Thread is a newer standard (used by Apple, Google, and Nanoleaf) that creates a network without the need for a hub. Then there’s Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE (low power). This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many other standards.

In general, these behind-the-scenes technologies are not important, because you can use a combination of them in your home. It is up to device manufacturers to choose which of the three main ecosystems they want to support (if not all), regardless of the underlying technology.

But here comes the Matter. This is a relatively new standard for wireless interoperability. The goal is for all smart home devices to work together safely, reliably and seamlessly. There are more than 170 companies on board, including Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and the ZigBee Alliance. Details of how Matter will work are still emerging, but it should act as an intermediary that intersects standards and ecosystems to allow everything to play nicely together. With Matter, the Google Nest Hub’s smart screen could display a video feed with a doorbell, for example. (They currently don’t play nice.)

While most new devices are likely to support Matter, many older devices will also be updated to support the new standard. In smart lighting, both Philips Hue and Nanoleaf have confirmed that current and future devices will support the standard. Google also says Matter support comes on Nest devices and Android phones to make setting up any Matter device easy through the Google Home app.

Setting up a smart home device

Large smart home brands offer easy compatibility with major ecosystems. For example, Philips Hue bulbs can be added directly from Google Home or Apple Home apps. Unfortunately, this is not common. Most devices will require you to use a third-party application for initial setup at the very least, and perhaps for configuration and control.

The setup guide that comes with each smart home device usually instructs you to download the accompanying app as a first step. You may need to scan a QR code or enter a serial number, so be sure to perform this procedure before mounting anything in place or throwing something away, as these codes often appear on the back or bottom of the device or in the instruction booklet.

Connecting to the selected ecosystem may be part of the setup process, but this is also not always the case. You may need to handle Apple Home or Google Home settings to manually link your account. With Alexa you will probably need to install the appropriate skill.

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