Everything you need to know about the smart home (2023): ecosystems, tips and more

Most ecosystems now have a way for everyone in the house to create their own profile, and some assistants can even identify who is speaking in the household for a more customized experience. Whichever solution you choose, you should demonstrate how to use it so that your family, roommates and guests are familiar with its operation.

Almost all smart home devices need a reliable WiFi connection. What you need to know are the two most commonly used frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Most smart home devices operate on the 2.4GHz frequency, but that’s starting to change. It has a longer range, but the 5 GHz frequency offers faster speeds.

A relatively new Wi-Fi protocol called Wi-Fi 6E supports 6 GHz, which may be even faster (Wi-Fi 7 will also use the 6 GHz band). Wi-Fi 6E can handle more devices, uses less power, and is more secure, but all your gadgets must support Wi-Fi 6E, including your mesh system or router, and the range is even shorter than 5 GHz. While more Wi-Fi 6E devices are coming to the market, it’s mainly something you’ll want to consider now for future-proofing.

Congestion, where Wi-Fi signals interfere with each other, can be a problem, especially for people who live in apartments. You can use an app to check how busy your Wi-Fi channels are and possibly switch channels, although most routers should handle this automatically. Another consideration is router limitations. Most modern routers theoretically support up to 250 devices, but performance can suffer long before you hit the limit.

Make sure you choose a good spot for your router and remember that there are many ways to speed up your Wi-Fi. If you have a basic router provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or an older model, upgrading to a new router can pay off big time. Larger properties or homes with Wi-Fi dead spots may benefit from a mesh system.

To keep things safe, it is best to choose a long password with a combination of lowercase, uppercase, numbers and special characters for your Wi-Fi. Consider connecting smart home devices to a separate network (some router manufacturers have an IoT networking option) and always set up a guest network for visitors to use (this is now a default router option).

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Smart Hubs?

Certain smart home devices offer the option to connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or a dedicated smart hub, such as Philips Hue bulbs. Bluetooth is much slower and less reliable than Wi-Fi, and while Wi-Fi may seem like the easiest solution, a dedicated smart hub can help reduce congestion, provide more stability, and make connected devices more responsive.

Hubs generally use a different technology to connect devices, something that has low power consumption, low bandwidth, and long range. Thread, Zigbee, LoRa, Z-Wave… the list of technologies goes on and on. While some hubs are dedicated standalone devices, it’s becoming more common for manufacturers to integrate technologies like Thread into smart speakers, displays, routers, and other devices. The trade-off is that hubs need power and sometimes need a free Ethernet port in your router to connect to.

Check Smart-Home support

Some devices, such as the Sonos Beam, have a built-in Google Assistant and Alexa, so you don’t need a separate smart speaker.

Photo: Sonos

Look for a logo on the box or web page to see if a smart home product works with your preferred ecosystem. You want to see at least one of these:

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