There are many smart home systems and manufacturers trying to set the tune of smart homes these days. Some of them are big players like Google, Amazon, Apple, Philips and Xiaomi. The others are locally installed systems, usually by the DIY approach like Home Assistant, openHAB and others.

So what are the difference between all of these and how can one choose the right system?

It’s important to understand that there are many levels of smart home usage.
Some of us prefer a complete integration on all of our devices, some will manage with a simple service or app that turns on their reading light.
Those smart devices works usually in a few ways:

  • A Hub (central unit) that unites all of the devices and communicate through cloud services or a local host to make your smart home available online from everywhere. (Like Samsung’s SmartThings, Home assistant)
  • A personal assistant used as a hub and does all the things above, usually has some integrations for other manufactures. (Like Google home, Alexa, Siri)
  • A simple app with a few devices of the same manufacture, it won’t require a hub and will base on the cloud, usually will not work with other manufactures devices. (Like Shelly, Yeelight, some smart AC units and many more)
  • A cloud based solution with no devices that works with a lot of manufactures (Like IFTTT)

Here are some pros and cons:

  1. Cloud based solutions – that means that whenever the internet is down on your place – you won’t be able to control any of your smart home devices. On the other hand, it provides you with a simple, easy-to-use and control apps. Those could be installed on a smartphone or a tablet and access your devices from anywhere in the world.
  2. A personal assistant can be great, usually working with a variety of products and brands out of the box and with a simple configuration, but it has it’s disadvantages as it’s also cloud based (as above) and making an unsupported product work with it is pretty much impossible unless it’s company decides to develop the integration to it.
  3. A local hub like Home Assistant is great as it works with thousands of brands, some of them out of the box, many of them needs manual configuration – and it’s not for anyone as it involves some advanced technical stuff and will require you to learn.
  4. An app with some devices like Yeelight is great if you don’t have many devices, have a stable internet connection and you don’t require much of your smart home.
  5. A combination of them all – has the pros and cons of – well – all… but you can do many interesting things in that way, have “fallbacks” and a lot of adjustment room.

So what is right for me?

I think if you are new to smart home, you better to start small. You can always grow your equipment and buy more – sell your old stuff or continue using it with the new system, depends on what way you choose.

I would recommend to start from a simple IOT device like a Yeelight lightbulb or a LED strip. See how it feels and if you are ready to take things to the next level.

If you think you are ready or you are sure you want to go bigger, buy yourself a personal assistant, a hub or make your own with a raspberry pi (Home assistant i.e.)

Continue reading for more recommendations about which one to choose and how.