WORDS Carlo Ople, Vice President for Digital Strategy and Disruptive Business, PLDT
Instead of buying a new flagship smartphone for Php50,000 last year, I opted to invest that money into making my home “smarter.” There are now a lot of competitively priced IOT-enabled (Internet of Things) furniture that can make everyday life a little more fun and efficient. Apart from the affordability, setting them up has also become painless and easy thanks to advocates of UI/UX in the creative industry.
For this article I’d like to share with you guys how I went about setting up the Smart Home system that I have in my own condo. It’s not the most advanced set-up that one can have but it’s the one that fits my lifestyle and suits my needs the most. Hopefully you can learn something from it and you can being your own adventure in making your home a little smarter.
Quick disclosure. I work for PLDT and Smart and I use several of our products for my system which you will read in this article.
Let’s get started.
GET FIBR IF AVAILABLE IN YOUR AREA
At the very core of my Smart Home set-up is Internet connectivity. One of the first things I did was to upgrade my connection from copper-based DSL to Fibr. The good news is that the prices of Fibr connections have gone down dramatically over the years. The more popular offer is 20 MBPs (unlimited no cap) for just Php1,899 monthly. I can still remember paying Php3,000 for a 5MBPs connection several years ago and thought that I was already on a blazing fast connection (LOL).
PICKING A SIDE: GOOGLE VS APPLE
Next up was picking between Google and Apple for building out the ecosystem. This was an important decision because the smartphone will be the central command unit for the smart home ecosystem.
After a lot of research and looking back at my early experience with Smart Home gadgets, I went with Google. They’re more advanced, especially with their relentless focus on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. I’ll get into this more once we dive into the different Smart Home verticals in this article.
VOICE COMMAND UNIT OR SMART SPEAKERS: GOOGLE HOME
My Smart Home adventure started with getting a Voice Control unit. I went with the Google Home speakers which I picked up in the US for a little over Php5,000. I preferred Google Home because Google Assistant was much better in learning my accent compared to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.
If you find the Php5,000+ price tag expensive, the good news is that there is a big wave of Smart Speakers with Google Assistant coming next year. There’s also the Google Home Mini which will sell for half the price of the original Google Home. I plan on getting three units of the Google Home Mini so that anywhere in the house I can use voice commands.
UTILITY: PHILIPS HUE LIGHTING SYSTEM
The idea of telling Google to turn my lights on and off or change their color was probably one of the more novel reasons what I wanted to build a Smart Home system. Little did I know that this would be the most expensive part of this journey.
I went with the Philips Hue lighting system and I was honestly not prepared for how expensive it would be. Each light bulb costs from Php2,500 to Php3,000 and I had to change a lot of bulbs in our condo. Since I didn’t have the budget to do it all in one go, I set aside money monthly until I could fully change all the bulbs in the living room, my home office, and the bedroom (took around six months in total).
It was worth it after setting it all up. Now I can just say good night to Google and all the lights will automatically turn off. I can also change the colors depending on my mood, especially if I have guests over or if I’m just sound tripping in the living room with a glass of Dalmore after a long work day.
ENTERTAINMENT: CHROME CAST AND THE 3RD GENERATION APPLE TV
This is where it became a little complicated for me. While I chose Google, most of my video library was with iTunes (I’m a sucker for paying to download good movies and not just torrenting them). To solve this I installed the third generation Apple TV on the living room TV but I also connected a Google Chrome Cast to it. This made it so much easier to binge on the big screen regardless if it’s via Netflix, iTunes, or YouTube.
For music I bought two units of the Google Chromecast Audio which I connected to the speakers in my home office and the bedroom. All of the Chromecast units were connected wirelessly to Google Home and Google Assistant. With voice commands I can say “Play Spotify Maroon 5 in the bedroom” while in living room or even outside via Google Assistant on my phone.
SECURITY: PLDT ADVANCED FAM CAM
Since I live in a condo unit, I didn’t need to set up multiple IP cameras for the gate. I just needed to set one up in the living room. For this I went with the PLDT Advanced Fam Cam (bundled with my Fibr connection). It has a mobile app which lets me see what’s happening even if I’m not at home.
All in all the hardware cost of the set-up I have is less than the cost of a new Galaxy Note 8 or iPhone X. Here’s a quick tabulation:
Google Home: Php5,000
Philips Hue Lighting System (10 Bulbs with Base
Google Chromecast: Php2,000
Google Chromecast Audio (2): Php3,000
PLDT Fam Cam Advanced: Php11,500
Total Cost: Php46,500
As you guys can see the main cost driver was the lighting system. In hindsight though I should have went with the single color bulbs (less than Php1,000 each) instead of the multi-color Hue bulbs (Php2,500 each).
This year I plan to make the condo a little smarter. Our bedroom has a fantastic view of Greenhills because of the massive ceiling to floor windows we have around the room. My main goal this year is to install Automated Smart Blinds so it automatically opens come sunrise. Apart from this there’s installing a few more Google Home Mini’s and then maybe a camera outside our condo unit door.
Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes everyday life more fun and efficient so instead of just buying a new iPhone or Note this year, consider putting that money into a Smart Home project of your own. Good luck and enjoy.
Carlo Ople is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of unbox. ph, and the VP for Digital Marketing Strategy and Consumer Disruptive Business for PLDT and Smart.
This article has been published in the September-October 2017 issue of the magazine.