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What you need to know to build a smart home

Everything you need to help you build the best smart home solution for your house from systems to the digital assistant you wanting chatting with you every day.

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Building a smart home is an exciting adventure, a way to add the most up-to-date technology and design a space just for you. Lights come on when you want, in the colors you prefer, favorite music plays in rooms, digital helpers know when it's time to leave for work — and the best route — and locks and sensors keep watch while you're tucked away sleeping, whether you're a night owl or early riser.

As you begin your adventure, this guide will help you as you decide what kind of smart home you want. We'll walk you through decisions to consider before you start buying your very first IoT device, from the kind of voice assistant you want speaking to you daily to the best devices to consider given your budget.

Once you've got your bearings, you can head over to our smart home products guide, details on every kind of connected device you may be thinking to add from smart locks to lights to security.

At GearBrain, we're excited to help you build your new smart home. Let's get started.

Today, the homeowner has so much to choose from when it comes to selecting the right smart home solution. They also need help in understanding how all this technology works in order to determine which products/services you need. We've put together a list of articles which we know can help you understand the basics in building a smart home solution:

Smart Home Systems

A smartphone controlling smart home devices in a kitchen

Learn how your smart home works, including the way all these products speak to each other

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Want to buy your first smart device but don't know where to start? These are the guides for you, overviews on what to consider before purchasing any connected appliance or product. In other words, read these first before you click 'buy,' or head to the store:

Smart Home How-To for Renters

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Live in an apartment? There are plenty of smart home devices you can use

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If you're a renter, you probably have less control over what you can do inside your living space. (Landlords can be like that. We get it.) But that doesn't mean you're left out of this smart home revolution. There are tons of devices you can add into your rented space, and we have some guides that focus on exactly you and your requirements:

Budget! Budget!

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You can purchase the top smart home devices even if you're watching your budget

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Look we get it: smart home devices can add up, and sometimes we get overwhelmed with what we need to buy first, or what kind of budget we need to set aside to get started. Luckily, there are options for any budget, whether you have a $100 or $1,000. These guides can offer you some suggestions on where to start, no matter how much you want to spend at the start:

Smart Home Hubs

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Hubs help smart devices speak with each other, and then with you

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Many smart home devices need a hub in order to connect to the internet and then to each other. While not all do, it's good to understand which brands are more dependent on these than others. We run through which hubs you may need, and to learn if this is something you might need at your home:

Buy Amazon Echo Plus - only $65.99

Voice Activation

Google Home Mini

You can now control devices inside your home just with your voice


More connected devices are coming to the market that can be controlled just with your device. This could be Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant or even Apple's Siri. You can certainly check our thoughts on this way of controlling our home through our piece, Voice Is The New App. But we also encourage you to take a look at the different digital assistants, what they can do, and which one you may find you prefer. What's key here is that you're likely going to pick one, and then build your smart home around that specific digital assistant. So understanding how they work, and which one may fit into your life the best, is good to do before you start buying a lot of devices for your new smart home.

Buy Google Nest Home Mini - $49.99 at Best Buy

Amazon Alexa

Three Amazon Echo Dots in different fabric colors

Alexa is Amazon's digital assistant and here's how you can use it to control your home


Alexa is Amazon's friendly digital assistant, and tied to the Amazon eco-system which also includes Ring video doorbells. Here are a few guides that will walk you through some of Alexa's better known products and how the work:

Google Assistant

Google Home display

The Google Assistant is the Google digital assistant


Google's digital assistant is simply called Google Assistant, and there are myriad devices as well that this voice A.I. controls. Here are just a few devices that work with Google Assistant along with guides with tips on how to operate them:

Google Nest Hub only $89 at Best Buy

Apple’s Siri

Apple HomePod

Apple's voice assistant Siri can help you run your smart home devices


Those who own an iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac or MacBook are very (very) familiar with Apple's Siri. But the digital assistant can also help operate smart home products as well. The cornerstone of Apple's smart home plan is the HomePod, it's smart speaker. Apple's push to get Siri into more homes is continuing, and for those Mac users who find they leaning towards Siri, we have a number of guides that help you understand what the voice assistant can do:

Microsoft’s Cortana

Microsoft Cortana

Microsoft's Cortana is a smart assistant that is also working with smart home products

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Microsoft does have a voice assistant named Cortana. It's not as widely used in the smart home space, even though it's well-known among Microsoft and Windows users. Here are some details about Cortana and how the digital assistant is making inroads in connected products.


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Before you start buying smart devices, make sure the key products your eyeing work together

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One of the biggest challenges you face when building a smart home is finding the devices that are compatible with each other. There is nothing worse than going out and buying a device and to come home and find out it will not work with your current device or system. GearBrain is here to solve this problem with our new smart home compatibility checker called The GearBrain. Using the The GearBrain, you can find all the compatible devices that work with a particular smart device, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Here is a list of just some of the connected devices you can see which devices work with them:

IoT Security

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As you would add security to your tech devices, you'll want to consider making sure your smart home products are secure as well

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Finally, one of the biggest concerns among consumers today is the security of their new devices. According to a recent research study by, they found more than half of the respondents to their survey would not buy a smart home device because they had security concerns. Here are two articles which will help you understand more about Internet of Things (IoT) security and ways to protect your new connected devices:

Special Offers for GearBrain Readers on SimpliSafe

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Smart homes can propel the way you live in the 21st Century

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We hope these guides are helpful and prepare you for the next phase in the building of your smart home. Even though many of the new connected devices coming on to the smart home market might not be ready for prime time, we are very bullish on the market outlook. As more consumers understand how all these new devices work and determine which ones are right for them, we expect to see a big increase in adoption. We look forward to joining you on your new journey in building the right smart home for you.

If you need help installing any of these Smart Home systems or products , you can visit to find a local trusted professional.

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