RenoTransformation: Week 4 – To Smart or Not to Smart

I love Wirecutter. Before every purchase, I religiously check if Wirecutter has reviewed the category and let their recommendations heavily influence my decision. The people at Wirecutter are that good. I have referred to their advice on coffee makers, dishwashers, stoves and ranges, stand-in mixers, kid headphones, label printers, portable bluetooth speakers, bedsheets, backpacks, even umbrellas and iPhone cases. Sometimes, I read their reviews on random categories just for fun. The products Wirecutter recommends are not always available in Singapore but the knowledge is always relevant. I like to to know what features are essential vs. desirable, what to avoid, what are the leading products in different price categories, etc. 

So obviously when it comes to the RenoTransofrmation, I have been reading Wirecutter a lot. Last week we had to decide on switches and sockets, which I learned are called wiring devices. I would have never guessed. Anyway, I started searching Wirecutter for recommendations and found a whole section on Smart Home devices – smart bulbs, smart switches, smart security, smart locks and doorbells, smart home sensors, smart this and smart that. I realised I wasn’t very smart when it came to home tech. I have the required boxes for broadband, and Apple TV. And that’s about it. We don’t use Alexa or Google Assistant. Siri is used only to check the weather or to set timers or to have existential conversations.

Wirecutter Recommendations for Smart Home Devices

While it is very exciting to be able to control appliances, lights and fans with an app, I don’t think we are ready for it. First, some of the devices are not really needed. Our weather is uniformly hot all year – it’s either hot, or hot and wet. I don’t have central air-conditioning and I don’t need to maintain the house temperature throughout the day. I don’t need a smart doorbell with all the bells and whistles like security cameras, because Singapore is relatively safe and there is almost always someone at home. Second, the tech is expensive. Like any new tech in early stages, smart home tech attracts a premium. Third, I don’t want to rely on an app on my smart phone. What happens when I forget to charge my device (as it happens more frequently than I’d like)? What happens if there is a blackout and I lose wifi for hours and days? Or there is just poor connection somedays (as we have experienced in 2020). Fourth, ever-present security concerns pertaining to devices connected to the Internet – am I being watched? Who’s listening through my devices? Is my data being collected and transmitted and where?

The technology is evolving. Our architect narrated a story about a client who bought expensive smart bulbs only to find out a few months later that the smart functions now rested with the switches instead of the bulb. And the smart switches work with any type of bulb. It seems installing just smart bulbs and switches takes a fair bit of planning. I reckon that developing a harmonious ecosystem of smart devices is complicated, time consuming, and expensive.

Our requirements are simple – appropriate task and ambient lighting, easy to use devices, good clean design, and affordability. It’s easy to not get influenced by latest trends and buzz words when you are clear about your needs and what does/doesn’t work for your specific situation. Even if Wirecutter has an entire section on Smart Home appliances.

I’m curious and interested but as of now I’m going to sit out the Smart Home tech movement for now. When it comes to the adoption of this innovative tech, I don’t need to be an ‘early adopter’, I’m perfectly okay being a ‘late majority.’

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