23 Products That Make Up My Ultimate Smart Home

I’ve been building out my smart home since 2016. I use all three leading smart home platforms: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home and while each one has its advantages, Apple HomeKit is my platform of choice as it does the most. While just about any device can be controlled via an app, what makes a smart home really smart is when you can control multiple devices with a single voice command, scene or automation. With HomeKit I have automations setup like “Going Upstairs” which locks the entry doors, turns off the patio fans, turns off the family room lights and fan, turns on the hallway lights, changes colors of the Hue lights in the bedroom, makes sure the garage doors are closed, arms the alarm “home”, closes the blinds and turns off the TV downstairs. There is no other platform besides HomeKit that would let me do all of those things using devices from so many different manufacturers, with one command. 

I wanted to create this video last year and then the pandemic hit and I decided to postpone it. I finally sat down to create it and here it is:

Although I put the links to everything in the video description, there is a character limit and I couldn’t go into much detail. Therefore I’ve also put the descriptions and links to each product below:

WiFi Router

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3 New Additions to My Smart Home

I recently added three new items to my smart home. The first one is one I’ve been waiting for the longest. When my home was built in 2016 I went with a Ring Pro doorbell. It was a good choice at the time and has worked well for me. However, my smart home platform of choice is Apple’s HomeKit and Ring is not native to HomeKit. While I was able to integrate it through unofficial HomeBridge support, HomeBridge doesn’t give it all the available features of HomeKit and now HomeKit Secure Video. While there have been a couple of entries into the HomeKit video doorbell market, one is extremely expensive and the other one doesn’t yet support HomeKit Secure Video. That all changed last week with the introduction of Logitech’s Circle View Wired Doorbell.

Logitech Circle View Wired Doorbell

Logitech is no stranger to HomeKit. Their Logitech Circle cameras are in use and loved by many, but this is their first entry into the video doorbell market. Sometimes it’s better not to be first. By taking their time they got many things right out of the gate that others still struggle with. First and foremost this doorbell not only supports HomeKit but also supports HomeKit Secure Video which is Apple’s locally encrypted video stored in iCloud. Most others promise this feature in an upcoming software update or not at all. Logitech built it in from the start. They also did a great job including everything you would need including a choice of mounting brackets.

Here’s my video review:

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The NEW Lutron Caséta Occupancy Sensor is Great but Unnecessarily Limited

The Lutron Caséta Occupancy Sensor below the Lutron Caséta Dimmer Switch

Motion / Occupancy Sensors can make a smart home that much more smart and convenient. However, most of them suffer from slow response times. What good is a motion sensor if you walk past it and it takes several seconds to actually do what you set it up to do? Or worse it doesn’t respond at all. Walking into a dark room or hallway in the middle of the night and having the lights come on is a wonderful thing. Walking several steps into that dark room or hallway before the light comes on, not so much. I know what some of you are saying…”just hit the switch on the wall. Problem solved.” Yep. That would do it. So would getting up and changing the volume on the TV, yet you use a remote control. Convenience is convenience. Everyone has a different threshold.

The Lutron Caséta Occupancy Sensor has the best response time, but…

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HomeKit vs. Alexa vs. Google Home – Which smart home platform is best?

My Smart Home in the Apple Home App on iPad
My Smart Home in the Apple Home App on iPad Pro

I’ve been into home automation and smart home gear for years. I really got serious about it when we built a new house in 2016. A new house meant being about to start from scratch with the best solutions for every aspect of home automation that I wanted. When you talk smart home the usual suspects come to people’s minds: lights, cameras, thermostats, locks, security systems, shades/window blinds, garage door openers, etc. Beyond simple control from your smartphone, smart home automation is really about Scenes and Routines. It’s about using one verbal command, or press one button or come home and have a series of things happen.

This is when picking a smart home platform comes into play

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Wemo Mini Smart Plug Review – Alexa, HomeKit & Google enabled

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of smart home gear. When we built our house back in 2016 I got a chance to have a clean slate and really install all the latest and greatest smart home gear of the time. I wanted lights that would come and and go off at different times, WiFi controlled garage door openers, cameras, voice assistants and more. When it came to lighting I standardized on the Lutron Caséta system. I’ve been 100% happy with it for the last two years. While I love the Caséta system it does have a hard limit of 50 devices per hub. I couldn’t believe it one day when I went to add a device and it told me that I had hit the limit. Now keep in mind that’s wall switches, lamps and pico remotes. But yeah, I hit the 50 limit. Luckily I was able to unpair a remote that we weren’t really using and add the last device.

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My 5 Favorite Smart Home / HomeKit Gadgets

iPad Pro running Home App Smart Home
Apple Home App running on my iPad Pro.

I’m a huge fan of automation in general especially when it comes to smart home stuff. My new home was built two years ago in May 2016. I got the chance to start with a clean slate and put in all the smart home tech that I wanted pretty much from day one. Sadly the builder wasn’t really into smart homes (aside from running ethernet drops) yet so I had to do it all after the house was completed. When people think smart homes one of the first things that comes to mind is lighting and that is pretty much where I started too, but it didn’t stop there. Since most of the things in a smart home are controlled via your mobile devices I also wanted to make sure that most if not all things I did worked with Apple’s HomeKit since I’m an iOS user.

1. My Lighting

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Chamberlain Finally Delivers a HomeKit Compatible Garage Door Opener

When I had my house built last year the one thing that I was excited about was being able to take advantage of all the cool smarthome options out there. When it came time to buy garage door openers the main thing I wanted was ones with a battery backup. I wanted to be able to still open my garage door in the event of a power outage. When I looked I was pleasantly surprised to find the Chamberlain model that not only had a battery backup, but it was also WiFi and smartphone enabled. Chamberlain has their own app “MyQ” and it works fine, but it’s yet another single purpose app. It would have been nice to be able to also control my openers in the Apple iOS Home app. They kept promising that HomeKit compatibility was coming and they were even featured on the slides in Apple’s keynote address on more than one occasion.

Well it’s been a little over a year since I bought my openers.

Chamberlain Keeps their Promise and Delivers a HomeKit Solution

Works with HomeKit

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The 1st HomeKit Enabled Security Camera has Shipped! D-Link Omna 180 Review

When it comes to home security cameras I have pretty much standardized on Google’s Nest Cams. However, the one thing that is not likely to appear in any Nest products is HomeKit support. HomeKit is the standard that Apple created for home automation and is supported in iOS, Siri, Apple TV, and the Home App that’s now built-in to iOS 10. So that means that you either buy accessories that work with HomeKit or competing platforms. Since until now there were no shipping HomeKit enabled security cameras, it really didn’t matter which platform you went with. However, that has just changed now that D-Link has shipped the Omna 180 Cam.

Viewing the Live feed from the Omna 180 cam in the iOS 10 Home App.

The 1st shipping HomeKit enabled security cam is lacking features that other cams have…

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Google Home vs. Amazon Echo – THE ULTIMATE SMACKDOWN

Google Home vs Amazon Echo

I’m a fan of just about all things smarthome and my digital assistant of choice is Amazon Echo. However, I do like Google products too and decided to give the new Google Home a try. I wanted to do a side-by-side comparison in the areas that matter most to me and the people I talk to. To give you a better idea of how these products work, I recorded this video so you can judge for yourself:

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