Why the smart speaker has become the center of your smart home

Echo Dot, Google Mini and Alexa Echo SMart Speakers on a table together

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Matter is coming, the collaborative alliance between the titans, including Google, Amazon, Tuya, and more. 

The idea of it is that there will be a common standard among smart devices manufactured by all of these major brands. 

The outcome will mean that you can buy items and if they have the Matter standard, then you know that they will work together without any special connectivity required. 

It’s a good idea and probably a long time coming.

The current smart home market

As it stands, the smart home market at the moment is still a bit messy. 

We’ve still got Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, custom radio frequencies, and ZigBee who have now renamed themselves the Connectivity Standards Alliance as part of the work that they’ve been doing in the Matter project. 

Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker on Kitchen Bench
Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker | Make Life Click

If I simply look across my own household, and admittedly I do review a lot of smart home products, which means I probably have more than the average bear, but I have an enormous number of apps and devices that aren’t natively designed to work together.

There’s the SwitchBot ecosystem, the Samsung SmartThings Hub, the Abode Security Hub, the Tuya smart app, and the Mi app, which manages my Viomi, Xiaomi, and Mi products. 

I still have Home Assistant and there are a few other open sources like OpenHAB. So while a lot of these operate with Wi-Fi as the standard, the end result is a lot of different apps on my phone if I want to directly control each individual item.

For example, if I want to manually control my SwitchBot cameras or my SwitchBot door lock, I would need to open up my phone, open my SwitchBot app, find the device, and control it from there. 

If I want to control a lock on the house, I would need to open my Abode security system, which controls my Z-Wave devices and action that manually there. 

And if the ZigBee bulb that happens to be outside my garage is on, then I have to control that from my SmartThings app

If like me, you love what a smart home brings, then you too are likely to have a plethora of devices.

As it stands, the thing that has emerged as the central point of control for me is really my Google Home and Alexa smart speakers. 

SmartThings smart home hub on desk with pencil next to it for scale
SmartThings Z wave hub | Make Life Click

Why is this?

Well, to answer that I feel like I need to make the point that for me, the whole point of a smart home is automation and convenience. 

I want things to happen without me having to ask them to happen and I want things to happen when I do ask for them to happen. 

And I certainly don’t wanna be faffing around with control panels and smartphone apps to get everything doing what I need it to do unless I specifically need to.

For this reason, the Alexa collection of speakers in my house, and my Google Home setup have become the center of my smart home setup. 

Fortunately, pretty much any device you buy these days will integrate with Alexa. 

It’s likely that they will also integrate with Google, and other emerging smart home centralized software like the Tuya app are also becoming more common. 

But really, Alexa is winning this picture. What Amazon has done with the Alexa echo system is very smart.

Not only do nearly all devices now integrate with it via the Alexa Skills feature, but Alexa will automatically scan your network when a new smart device is added and then make it available for all the other things you do with your Alexa ecosystem. 

Apple has been trying for a while, but the level of security required for the home kit slowed a lot of hardware developers down early on in the game. 

And while it’s easier now to get your Google Home set up, and your Apple Home set up, it still takes a bit of effort to find enough devices to piece them together to make it feel like your home is smart enough.

Alexa Smart Home Speaker on Coffee Table
Amazon Echo Dot speaker | Make Life Click

The center of the smart home is Alexa

Not only does Alexa integrate with all of these pieces of hardware, but its strength is in its ability to create routines that cross between all of these devices. 

The “If This Then That” engine of Alexa is powerful enough that you can automate and interlink devices to make it really quite functional. 

You can say if there’s motion detected on my front ring, then turn on my Phillips smart bulb on the front door, or if I arrive home, then automatically open up my tailwind garage door opener.

In addition to routines, the strength of Alexa is that I can tell it to do it from anywhere in the house. 

As long as there is an Alexa speaker in earshot, then I’m sorted. 

I can sit on the couch and ask for lights to be turned on and off. 

I can even ask for the house to be vacuumed by our Viomi V3 robot vacuum cleaner

I can ask if a specific door is locked and if the garage door is closed.

Summing it up

So while the current smart home hardware and standards ecosystem are still a little bit messy, and Matter is gonna try and resolve a lot of this disparate device management, I feel like it has already been solved to a point. 

The devices aren’t particularly intelligent yet, and Matter should increase the level of intelligence of the hardware that we use. 

It should also offer a standardized security protocol, which gives everybody a lot more confidence, especially when it comes to cameras and speakers and the like. If Zigbee is the base of that, it’s a good choice.

Echo Dot (4th Gen, 2020 release) | Smart speaker with Alexa | Charcoal
Amzon Echo Dot (4th Gen, 2020 release)

For now, the smart home will continue to revolve around the smart speaker, and this is not a bad thing as the cost to enter is so affordable with an Echo Dot setting you back less than $50. 

I think we’re years away from getting it all right, but right now this will be enough for 90% or more of the population.

Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.

Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.

This post was last updated on 2024-05-14 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.

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