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This may be the year to invest in smart home devices. Here’s what you need to know before buying.

This may be the year to invest in smart home devices. Here’s what you need to know before buying.
Choosing a hub

The first thing you should buy is a home hub. Hubs such as Google’s Home, Amazon’s Echo or the forthcoming Apple HomePod (due in 2018) are essentially the field generals for every other gadget in your home. For maximum convenience, you’ll want to be able to issue voice commands to your tech, rather than having to hunt around for apps on your phone.

When it comes to choosing a hub, there are many choices. The trend is attractive to companies. Tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are looking for opportunities to weave their companies more closely into your lives, but they’re also vying to be your platform of choice. Each of those companies has a platform on which all other devices can sit, giving them control over the foundation of your smart home.

They’ll also set the standard, quite literally, for every other smart thing you may want to buy. Not every smart lightbulb, plug, television or other gizmo may work with every hub, after all.

Research is the key to a happy smart home here. If you have fallen in love with a specific gadget, figure out what home hub supports it and move on from there. If you’re a little more flexible, think about what devices or services you use now and let that be your guide.

Dreaming the dream

Once you’ve settled on a hub, things can get fun. “Smart” used to be mostly applied to devices in the entertainment console, but now you can kit out essentially every part of your home, from the lights in your entryway to your bed. To build the smart home of your dreams, you have to think through your priorities.

It can be helpful to go room by room to consider what would be most convenient. In the entryway, security cameras from Nest or a smart doorbell from Ring could give you 24-hour visibility into your own entryway, even when you’re not home. Locks, such as those from August or Yale, let you decide who can enter your home with the swipe of a smartphone.

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