Any fan of science fiction is at least familiar with the idea of a home with smart capabilities. This includes, but is not limited to, controlling music, reporting weather and traffic, checking news updates, adjusting lights and HVAC, and answering general questions. In the past decade, numerous companies have entered the smart home marketplace, and have attacked the same issue with varying solutions. Google calls it the Google Home and Amazon calls it the Amazon echo, to name the two largest contenders; but no matter what you call it, they all serve essentially the same purpose – to ease and automate the control of your home’s functions. It is clear the direction that these behemoth consumer electronics suppliers are headed.

The most obvious key element to a useful smart home controller is its form and basic functionality. Firstly, consumers will only want the device installed in their house if it has a sleek look. If the device itself is too bulky, too ugly, or otherwise off-putting to the senses, it will likely fail to hit the market on those grounds alone. The other bare essential is basic functionality in areas that do not require heavy integration. It is understood that, for some of the more advanced functions of a smart home, there will be some degree of learning curve required for those functions to work flawlessly. However, the end-user expects that certain functions should work with no resistance at all. A good example of this is reporting the weather. All these smart home devices are geographically aware, and so long as there is an Internet connection, the smart home can report the weather with no difficulty. Without basic usability like this, there is no value for most of the consumer pool.

Beyond the bare minimum are integration services, which often drive the decision for which smart home system to choose. Generally, a home system composed purely of one company (as opposed to a hybrid system) works much better. For example, it would not make sense to fill half of your house with the Amazon Echo and the other half with the Google Home because the two halves of the system would not work with each other. Similarly, it is best to make use of the integration services of whichever smart home you choose. If you use the Amazon Echo, you will achieve best results by using Amazon music streaming rather than some other music streaming service. In some scenarios, cross-platform integration can work, but it is certainly less effective than keeping a pure smart home system. For this reason, an attractive smart home system not only generates revenue of its own, it also helps to drive sales of the integration services it offers. Amazon is at a particular advantage in its foray into the smart home marketplace because it is already the industry leader for Internet retail. With an Amazon-pure smart home, Amazon’s store front is always at the consumer’s fingertips. It is already possible to order products from Amazon using voice commands only, and Amazon continues to improve its online shopping experience. It is in their best interest to make shopping online as convenient as possible for the consumer, and no other company is quite as well-positioned to do so as Amazon.

Deciding which smart home is right for you depends heavily on your requirements and whether you’ve already subscribed to any integration service. If you already use Google for video and music streaming, audiobooks, and email, your decision may already be made for you – use Google! Basic functions do not vary much from device to device, but the customer experience does vary, so it’s best to do your research first. It would take a lot of time, effort, and money to switch smart home platforms if you’ve already become somewhat immersed in another platform. Do your homework! Here are a couple of places to start your search for the right smart home.

Best Smart Home Devices of 2017:

Home Automation Accessories: