The market is saturated, saturated with many Smart Home vendors coming up with various solutions. We speak with an average of 7-25 clients on a weekend and we get various feedback about what the industry is offering. Here are 5 things your smart home vendor is not telling you, while you sign on the really affordable contract they're dangling in front of you. Do note that once the contract is signed, you only have 7 days in Singapore to request for a refund. This will not help any of us as renovation takes more than 1 month to complete.
1. Linking up to Google Home as an alternative
Q: "Are you able to link up to S**** Soundbar & also the D***** Air Con?"
Most vendors will say "YES".
Before you believe that, you might want to ask a few more questions, such as "You mean you can link it up in your mobile application?" or "Are you linking it up by Google Home or Amazon Alexa?"
Why this happens? The truth is "yes" they can integrate 3rd party devices into the smart home, however, it is not into their application; this is especially so if the SI is running their application on the Tuya Platform. What does this mean? This means that the home owner will be leveraging on Google Home as a secondary application, i.e. the smart home ecosystem will be on cloud. This will result in longer latency period and also multiple applications running in your smart home.
Note that this is not the only issue. Imagine the rule maintainence you need to do once your SI leaves your home. In programming this is similar to what we call "Spaghetti Code". There is no way for you to debug your smart home if you want to do regular maintainence i.e. add a new device or change a standby timing.
At Home-A-Genius we integrate 3rd party devices into our rule engine allowing for all the rules & logic to be in a single application. This allows for the rules to sync to downstream User Interfaces (UI), eliminating any confusion due to spaghetti codes.
2. Lifespan of smart home devices
Their warranty may be X number of years, but how many years were they in Singapore? How many times have they gone on site to change the smart switches out? These are questions only a mature smart home vendor can reply you.
At Home-A-Genius, we started our business since 2017 and have since worked with various smart switches. Some we've decided not to continue with various suppliers due to various valid reasons: no response from technical support team, poor switch quality, high influx of similar switches on e-commerce websites and many more.
While the sense switch and smarter switch are designed and built by us, you can see that the quality of the switches, especially on the hardware, is different from those readily available from OEM vendors. The button on the sense switch is reinforced with an additional frame to ensure sturdiness and integrity of the switch's hardware. For those who've come to our showroom, our friendly consultants would have showed you the sturdiness of the switches we've designed!
3. How much resources catered for your warranty period
When smart systems go down, the ones taking the hit is not the SI, but the family living within the household. The questions here is how fast will the turnaround be should there be a device downtime? Next question will be how many headcounts have they catered for for such scenarios?
For such situations, the warranty period does not matter. What matters would be how fast the turnaround be. You might want to ask the SI questions on "How many headcounts are there in the team?", "If my switch malfunction, how fast will the on-site support team be able to assist?"
At Home-A-Genius, we are a team of 12 headcounts, more than half belongs to the Operations and Support team. Depending on the severity of the situation, we will arrange for on-site maintainence on a daily basis.
4. How much can they integrate to a device/appliance?
It's quite a difficult question to catch, but it is something deeper than just "can you link up with device 1 , and device 2?". You might want to ask if the system is able to have more than just an on/off feature. Technically, on/off can be controlled by a smart switch/smart plug isn't it? Duh.
We've came across clients coming to us saying that ceiling fans are controlled by IR blasters. Do note that most ceiling fans in Singapore are powered by RF remote control. You may want to take another quick read on our ceiling fan blog here.
Whenver the smart home vendor says "yes" to any integration, you might want to ask for a demo or even see how the integration is made. This is to ensure that you experience the true lag time and also be able to understand how the system(s) work together.
At Home-A-Genius we talk about depth, which is why our demo sessions are at least 1h. We not only can on/off aircon, we can adjust fan speed and air con temperature. We can also eliminate ceiling fans with no last state memory. How do we do that? We take in feedback by clients over the years and reiterate the system's functions such that evey feature is as seamless as possible for our clients. Home-A-Genius is even able to label the switch to be a fan switch so features unique to fans will be incorporated into that switch.
5. Why are their solution priced at this price point
There must be a reason why smart home companies are priced in a certain way. Here is the price point of some of the smart home systems we see in Singapore.
OEM switch: $85/switch for 3 gang or $20/switch when purchased from e-commerce website
Sense Switch: $120/switch for 2 gang or $170/switch for 4 gang
Switch from Control4: $450/switch for 2 gang
Instead of focusing on the price point, you might want to find out why switches are priced this way. Reasons like hardware quality of each device: switch quality has an impact on the cost. How the system functions, if the system runs on cloud server, there is no need for a hardware for a local server. Sustainence of the maintainence workforce etc. these factors attribute to the cost that company has to cater for.
Before signing up with a company solely due to pricing, you might want to evaluate if the system is sustainable if it is managed by a lean team; or even check in on the quality of the switches if possible.
Bonus comment: "You only need a simple system"
Does this sound familar to you? The exact same thing happened in 1886 when motor cars were invented. The world of smart home will only become more complex and the issue here is, you only renovate once in a 5 to 10 years. Once you've invested in a smart home system that does not meet your requirements, you can only wait till the next cycle before you can change out the system.
While most clients mention to us that there is budget limitations, our advise is to invest small in a good system, that allows for stability and consistenty while you can slowly add on the additional features once your budget allows. The key concern here is not being able to freely add on appliances that are proven to be connected to an ecosystem.
While Home-A-Genius works on a rather wide range of brands, brands that cater to at least 80% of the requirements from our clients, there are brands out there that does not link up with us. These "linking" does not come easy and some of them also ensures stability and support from the parent brands that work with us. While there are brands that links up with other open source appliances, you might want to take a look at their app reviews to see how often the device disconnects from the smart home hub.