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Smart home platforms for beginners: an overview of the big players

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Do you want to start with your own smart home? Then you will also have to choose a smart home platform. In this article we look at the largest players of smart home platforms in the Netherlands.

Would you like to start with the first purchase for your smart home? Then it is a good idea to read in advance about the different smart home platforms. You can of course purchase all kinds of separate products, which you can then control individually via your own app. Yet that is not quite the intention of the smart home. After all, you want the smart devices to be able to communicate with each other via one system. What do you need then? A smart home platform. Smart home platforms range from simple and inexpensive solutions to extensive home automation systems that you can build in or with which you can program yourself. In this article we look at the ‘entry-level systems’ that you can get started with almost immediately without a big budget.

Difference smart home platform and smart home protocol

Different from what you might think is a smart home protocol and a smart home platform are not the same. A protocol ensures that devices can connect to each other in the background. A smart home protocol can be seen as, for example, bluetooth or wifi, where products can communicate with each other on the same frequency. So it is actually a specific language. Examples of a smart home protocol are, for example, ZigBee or Z-Wave. A smart home platform, on the other hand, is an umbrella system. Consider, for example, Google Home and Google Assistant, in which you can accommodate various smart products and operate them from the Google Home app and with your voice via the Google Home speakers. So a protocol is actually something in the background, a language with which smart devices can connect with each other.

n the world of the smart home, there is no single standard for the smart home platform. This would mean that you can operate all smart products on the market with the same platform. Instead, you should also choose a smart home platform when purchasing your first smart device. Not only for this first product, but also for future products that you may want to purchase, it is important that you choose a platform that fully meets your needs. This way you will soon be able to operate your smart home via one platform. Which major smart home platforms are there? In this article we provide an overview of all major players.

Google

One of the best-known smart home platforms in the Netherlands is from Google. Via the Google Home app you can connect and operate smart products and also operate with your voice with the Google Assistant. The advantage of Google is that there is full Dutch support. Not only the Google Home app is Dutch, but you can also give the Google Assistant commands in Dutch with your voice. This is not only possible via the Google Assistant on your Android smartphone, but also via the Google Home speakers, Google Nest Hub , JBL Link series , LG WK7 speaker or, for example, the Harman & Kardon Citation One series

Among the products that work with the Google Assistant we find the smart thermostats and doorbells from Nest , smart lighting from Philips Hue , smart switches from TP-Link , but also services such as YouTube and Spotify. Look out for the ‘Works with the Google Assistant’ logo on the packaging or product, so you can be sure that the smart product also works through Google Home and Google Assistant. On May 8, it was also announced that products operating under the ‘Works with Nest’ program will henceforth fall under the Works with the Google Assistant platform.

Amazon

Although Google is one of the best-known smart home platforms in our country, it is certainly not the largest. Amazon has been active with Alexa for a while and this is also reflected in the number of supported smart products. 

Via the Alexa app on your smartphone you can link the smart products and, for example, create groups. You can then give commands via your voice in combination with the Amazon Echo speakers or smart displays. There are currently 60,000 different smart home devices from 7,400 different brands that you can control with Alexa. Consider, for example, televisions from LGsmart lighting from Philips Huespeakers from Sonos or the smart doorbells and cameras from Ring. Do you want to know if a product is suitable for Amazon? Then look at the ‘Works with Alexa’ logo on the packaging.

Apple

Apple also has its own smart home platform in the form of Apple HomeKit . For example, you can use the voice assistant Siri to command your smart home. This can be done on your iPhone or iPad, but also with the Apple HomePod , Apple’s own smart speaker, for example. However, you will have to import this, because it is not (yet) for sale in the Netherlands. Via the Home app you can set up and control all your connected HomeKit devices. Products supported for Apple’s HomeKit include Philips Hue smart lighting thermostats or Eve Energy ‘s smart plugs. At Apple you should look out for the logo ‘Works with Apple HomeKit’.

Samsung

Samsung also has its own platform to connect devices and make them work together. This platform is called Samsung SmartThings. You can connect devices via the SmartThings app. You can also operate them via the app on your smartphone. Do you also have a Samsung phone? Samsung has its own voice assistant, namely Bixby. Via Bixby you can control various devices with your voice.

Do you choose Samsung SmartThings as your smart home platform? Then look out for the ‘Works with SmartThings’ logo on the packaging or product. Samsung is also working on its own smart speaker, the Samsung Galaxy Home. As it now seems, the speaker will appear in the third quarter of 2019. In addition, SmartThings can be integrated with Google Home and Amazon Alexa, among others. So you can use the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to control your smart devices that are connected to Samsung SmartThings.

IFTTT

The odd man out is perhaps IFTTT. IFTTT is a service that allows you to run various processes in the smart home automatically. IFTTT stands for If This Then That. In other words, if this happens, something else will automatically follow. A few examples: Does the sun rise? Automatically open the curtains. Is the sun going down? Automatically turn on the lights. You can set up IFTTT through the website or the IFTTT app. The service works with so-called applets. Search in the app or on the website for products that you own and look at the possible applets for your smart devices. In addition to applets, you can also easily operate devices in the house via widgets, say a kind of shortcut. You can also easily create applets yourself to create new situations via the app. IFTTT may be a bit trickier for novice smarthome users, but the service does everything it can to make it as easy as possible. Among others the robotic vacuums from iRobot Roomba and products fromRing , Arlo , Philips Hue and Nest work with IFTTT. Check the IFTTT website to see which products are all supported or look for the ‘Works with IFTTT’ logo on the packaging.

Support for multiple smart home platforms

Many smart devices support multiple smart home platforms. For example, you can use the smart lighting from Philips Hue with almost all smart home platforms and this also applies, for example, to the smart plugs from TP-Link , thermostats from Nest , smart lighting from IKEA or security cameras  . However, there are also exceptions. The popular video doorbells from Netatmo , which is part of Amazon, do not work with the Google Assistant. The other way around, this applies to Nest ‘s cameras and doorbells , which is part of Google and does not work with Alexa.

So if you want to start with your own smart home, read carefully about the different smart home platforms. Although you can basically find devices in each product category that work with your chosen platform, it is still annoying that you have to use multiple apps and platforms side by side if you accidentally choose a product that is not supported. Therefore, pay close attention to the logos on the product itself or on the packaging, so that you can operate your smart home with one and the same smart home platform.

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