As our days become busier and our phones continue to manage all aspects of our lives, more residents are looking for ways to create efficiencies at home. The desire for constant connectivity is infiltrating the real estate scene, and new construction is being designed with ‘smart’ features in mind. Residences at 685 First Avenue, a striking Midtown East luxury condo development from Solow Building Company, feature built-in Crestron smart home systems designed to offer unparalleled comfort and convenience. Residents can easily customize room temperature, lighting, audio, visual, and motorized window shades, all of which can be controlled via an iOS or Android device, or through wall-mounted touch screens found throughout the units.
While a full suite of intelligent features is more common in new development, there are still plenty of ways to turn your own house or apartment into a smart home, no matter when it was built or how it was designed. From achieving the perfect lighting to shaving minutes off your morning routine, here are five tips to help make your home work for you.
Step 1. “Hire” a Smart Personal Assistant
Siri, Alexa, and Google have essentially become new family members in many homes, contributing to conversations about weather and traffic, and helping out with simple tasks like setting timers and making calls. If you’re thinking about how to make a smart home in your own apartment, consider starting with a smart speaker, a wireless speaker with built-in artificial intelligence. The three biggest players on the market—Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Amazon Echo—all come with a friendly voice-controlled personal assistant: Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa. These smart speakers (some of which also act as centralized hubs) vary in their strengths and weaknesses, for example, Amazon currently supports more smart devices than Google, but Google’s smart home system connects to their powerful search engine and full ecosystem of content. Engaging with the smart assistant is as simple as opening with a specific greeting—how many times have you heard someone call out “OK Google!” while walking past neighbors’ apartments? As the name suggests, a smart speaker will of course play music, but it’s more fun to use to settle arguments. “Alexa, what year did Prince release “Raspberry Beret”?
Step 2. Speed Up Your Morning Routine
“Not before my morning coffee” and “But first, coffee” t-shirts and mugs exist for a reason. For many people, the day starts with a fresh pot of joe, or, for those in a time crunch, a trip to Starbucks on the way to work. With smart coffee gadgets, an at-home cup takes significantly less time, effort, thought, and money. Features vary slightly based on brand and model, but the basic function of a smart coffee machine is the same: it starts brewing your coffee on demand, generally through an app that gives you several options. Some machines even let you control when to begin presoaking the beans, and others have multiple compartments that can brew several coffees at once, all in different styles as programmed through the app. Smart coffee makers are all about convenience, and brewing can often be scheduled a week in advance, giving you one fewer thing to think about during a busy week. Many machines also have the helpful feature of sending you notifications, like alerting you when the water level is low, so it doesn’t run out mid brew.
Step 3. Make Your Home More Comfortable
There’s nothing like feeling that first blast of cold air after popping into a heavily air-conditioned store during a heatwave, or coming home to a warm house during a blizzard. Investing in a smart thermostat can give you those experiences as soon as you enter your own home. Because they connect to the internet through Wi-Fi, you can control them remotely through your smartphone, tablet, or desktop. The idea behind this intelligent tool is to work in a way that jives with your routine and habits, for example adjusting heating and air to coincide with the time at which you leave and return home. One of the smart home systems, Nest, also has a built-in motion sensor, alerting the device to when a home is empty and doesn’t require heating. Another bonus: a lower heating bill, and serious conservation of energy.
Step 4. Use Smart Tech to Suit Your Mood
Get creative with the lighting in your home with smart bulbs that can be controlled through an app. Though specifics vary, smart lighting generally works like this: smart bulbs are wirelessly connected to each other through mesh networking, and the network is controlled by a smart house hub connected to your router. This allows other networked gadgets like phones and tablets to connect with the bulbs. Adjust the brightness of the lighting as well as the color (if the bulbs have colored LEDs) to suit your activities and mood. Create a dim glow for a romantic dinner, design a spooky setting to accompany a night spent reading ghost stories, or go all out with a multi-color disco effect for an at-home dance party. You can jump from setting to setting via a smartphone or tablet, or give voice-activated commands through a compatible personal assistant. Another convenient feature found in some smart home systems is the ability to control your lights when you’re outside the home. Not sure if you turned the lights off before running to catch the subway? Get peace of mind by controlling the lighting during your commute.
Step 5. Stay One Step Ahead in the Kitchen
How many times have you been at the grocery store and suddenly can’t remember how many eggs are left in the carton, or if there is even a carton in your refrigerator at all? A smart refridgerator can solve that problem, and so many more. With interior cameras, a transparent touch screen, and a connection to Wi-Fi, you can get a visual of the inside of your fridge no matter where you are, saving money as well as a trip to the store. You can also set up notifications to alert you when expiration dates are approaching so you don’t end up having to toss forgotten food past its prime. Also related to food freshness, most smart fridges have the ability to make separate compartments different temperatures. If the door isn’t quite closed all the way, sensors in the refrigerator recognize this, and the door will close automatically without your ever being the wiser. A smart refrigerator can also assist in the preparation of a meal. Instead of printing out a recipe or referring to your phone or computer, use the refrigerator to look up recipes and then read the steps aloud to you as you cook.
If all this has you thinking more about how to make a smart home in your own apartment, consider starting by checking out some of the apartments that already have these systems in action, like the gorgeous residences at 685 First Avenue. You can determine which features make sense for your lifestyle, and which just seem unnecessary. And keep in mind, you’ll need to invest in a hub like Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings, Google Home, Apple HomePod (or a similar device) to keep all your smart tech humming along smoothly.