Plug and Play vs. The Smart Home

Plug and Play vs. Smart Home

what a smart home does

I get a lot of questions about Smart Homes.  If you’re like me you think of the home of the Jetson’s where robots do everything for you.  Well sorry George, software has become king and while robots still exist the savvy home owner wants a digital army helping not a big clunky maid robot maid.  Most of the time the conversations I have break down into an understanding of what a smart home is verses what plug and play means.


  1. Many products offer “Smart” services. So, is a Smart Home a home with many “Smart” devices?

NO! The bulk of these “Smart” devices such as smart coffee pots, smart refrigerators’, thermostats, cameras, ect. are handy but they are considered plug and play devices.


  1. What Is a Plug and Play Device?

These Smart devices are independent from each other and do not work together.  These types of devices all have separate aps typically by different companies to be controlled on your smart phone or device and do not work with each other or communicate with each other.  These apps are all proprietary and work differently, look different and have different things to learn about each.  I am personally not a fan of having to learn seven different apps and how to maneuver them.

The Plug and Play Devices do what they are designed to do.  If you read the instructions of a plug and play device, they will tell you exactly what they do.  You can expect them to do that, and not expect to change any aspect of this, they simply are what they are.  I bring this up because later I will discuss how a smart home is able to be tailored to your lifestyle, while a plug and play devise is not.

Lastly, most of these devices are also data collectors.  What I mean by this is your coffee pot is telling the company how often you drink coffee, how you like it, and potentially which brands you use.  Alexa by Amazon or Google Home is a good example of this.  Both products contain a microphone and listen to potential key words you use to try to figure out what brands you like and what products you may be shopping for or use.  Nest Cameras send their feed back to their company, so they have access to all the footage that a Nest Camera observes.  A little creepy right?


  1. Then What is a Smart Home?

A Smart Home is often a house with smart devices; but, there is a significant difference.  A Smart Home is a planed and engineered brain to control devices within the home.  The brain talks to all the devices and makes them work together in a single interface (meaning you only must learn 1 system or app instead of several).

This Smart Home Brain can be programmed and changed to be tailored to the home owner’s lifestyle.  When the system can talk to multiple devices such as lights, music, and heating it can create “Scenes” or as I like to put it, “just the way you like it.”   Many of our clients have entertaining scenes, where the music is played in the room they have chosen at a level they like, the lights and heat adjust to having guests, window blinds open and sometimes pictures scroll across the TV’s.  You bring the food and invite the guest then touch one button to get the house ready for the party.  The options are kind of endless depending on what your Smart Home controls.  Let me give you another example of this.  We have a client’ who has small children whose bedrooms are upstairs.  She worries that if they go down the stairs at night while she is sleeping they will be more apt to falling.  We were able to put sensors in the hall that only activate during specific night time hours that when are triggered light the stairway at a low level but visible lighting.

The Smart Home brain then protects all the incoming and outgoing data of the house.  We create a firewall within the Smart Home System that does not allow any plug and play devices to send out marketing information out of your home.  All communication is kept within the home and protected from outsiders such as hacking.  No one wants to have their shopping or finances monitored and explored by strangers.

  1. OK, when does it makes sense to have plug and play?

Some plug and play devices are fun and cool. If you have a small place and just want to control one thing using their app this is probably the option for you. Maybe you just want to control the thermostat or be able to turn on the porch light before you get to the door.  If this sounds like you, you may just want to be a plug and play person for now.

You need to be sure that hacking of the system will not put you in any kind of risk.  If someone hacks a light app or a coffee pot app your probably fine.  If your Nest camera is only recording the exterior of your home, you’re probably fine.  A couple of years ago hackers hacked a baby monitoring app.  They peered into people’s nursery’s and would yell and wake up the babies in the middle of the night.  As a mother, I think this sort of behavior is completely reprehensible.  But I use the example to show you that some things being hacked are worse than others.

  1. When Should I have A Smart House Instead of Several Plug and Play Devices?
  • If you are looking to control multiple devices including TV, music sources, lights, temperature, appliances, home theaters, different rooms, ect.  you will need a smart home.
  • If you would like to have the different media work together and talk to each other you will need a smart home.
  • If you think having several different apps is annoying, you will need a smart home.
  • If you have any concern about smart devices spying on you or becoming hacked and your information being stolen, you need a smart home.
  • If you have more then one home and would like to be able to monitor the home’s security, water leaks, heat and more you will need a smart home.  This is called Remote Access.


For More Information on What is a Smart Home Click HERE

For more information on smart home services or integrating smart devices contact Nexus Electric at 800-618-0874.