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There’s a common misconception that if you don’t own a home, you can’t own a smart home. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to transform your apartment, duplex, room in your parent’s house, or anywhere else you might live into a smart place, one that’ll impress your friends and ease your life.

I tell you this, because I’m about to transform my apartment, and I want you to know that you can do the exact same thing.

Smart Equipment Advice

The best way to go about transforming your place into a smart place is to understand what you’re buying. By buying products that you’re comfortable with, you can better set up your place to be smarter than it was before.

Raspberry Pi

For me, that first step was getting a Raspberry Pi, which is an inexpensive computer and great for learning about programming languages. Additionally, it opened me up to the world of DIY projects, which changed the way I spend my weekends and got me excited about other smart home appliances.

While I’m still learning, and might have taken much longer than expected to build projects that interest me, I at least feel like I’m on the road toward success.

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The best thing about the Pi, and why I think it should be the first item on your smart product list, is because it can do so many things. As we’ve covered here at MakeUseOf numerous times before, the Pi is essential for many cool and various DIY projects Home Automation with Raspberry Pi and Arduino Home Automation with Raspberry Pi and Arduino The home automation market is flooded with expensive consumer systems, incompatible with one another and costly to install. If you have a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino, you can basically achieve the same thing at... Read More , and is perfect with the free and open source home automation OpenHAB system.

Amazon Echo

Up next: the Amazon Echo, a bluetooth speaker that costs nearly $200 USD. Though the price tag is more expensive than a Pi, it can easily be configured to work with other smart products. For many, it’s a must-have, as it can easily spice up your place and can be used for all sorts of home innovations.

The Amazon Echo could also help you get into the smart product craze, as it’s fairly easy to set up right out of the box.

WeMo Mr. Coffee

Another smart product to consider is an automated coffee maker, because we all know getting up in the morning is a chore.

Mr. Coffee by the reputable WeMo brand created a coffee maker that is Wi-FI enabled, connects with your iPhone or Android device, and brews a delicious pot of coffee in just under 7 minutes.

It’s not a must-have, as you can easily brew coffee without it, but it can really make your morning routine a lot easier. I can’t stress that enough.

Philips Hue

As you get a little more serious, you might want to check out the Philips Hue smart LED light system, which can push the light to the next level 4 Ways Philips Hue Can Push Your Lighting to the Next Level 4 Ways Philips Hue Can Push Your Lighting to the Next Level Without Philips Hue, however, the smart home concept might never have gotten off the ground. Here are some cool ways to make use of them. Read More .

The smart system can feature up to 16 million colors and can be controlled by an iPhone or an Android smartphone, and has proven time and time again to be a reliable piece of smart equipment.

Logitech’s Harmony Elite

At this point, you’re almost all-in on transforming where you live. And if you’d like to go further, you should definitely consider Logitech’s Harmony Elite. The universal remote controller is easy to set up, as you can do so through a mobile deive app, and can control a wide-range of smart devices, such as a TV, game consoles, lights, etc.

Much like the Amazon Echo, it’s also a must have and is easy to use.

Smart Projects

Now that you have an idea of what to buy, you might want to know more about what your products can do. Here is a quick project list to help you get excited:

DIY Smart Sensors DIY Smart Home Sensors with Arduino, MySensors and OpenHAB DIY Smart Home Sensors with Arduino, MySensors and OpenHAB Smart home sensors cost a ridiculous amount of money. Wiring a whole house is the domain of those with silly amounts of disposable income. Let’s build our own with MySensors. Read More

With the Raspberry Pi and OpenHAB home automation system (that also works with Arduino, an open-source electronic platform), the number of projects you can do is almost unlimited (with some easier than others).

First, you’ll want to check out the automation guide Getting Started with OpenHAB Home Automation on Raspberry Pi Getting Started with OpenHAB Home Automation on Raspberry Pi OpenHAB is a mature, open source home automation platform that runs on a variety of hardware and is protocol agnostic, meaning it can connect to nearly any home automation hardware on the market today. Read More  so that you can better understand what you’re working with and install OpenHAB on your Pi. Then, consider creating smart sensors that can help keep an eye on your home.

If that’s too difficult, consider checking out the Raspberry Pi beginner project list Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners These 10 Raspberry Pi projects for beginners are great for getting an introduction to the hardware and software capabilities of the Pi, and will help you get up and running in no time! Read More  for more ideas.

Remember Your Keys

This project — which brings together Amazon’s web service 4 Great Uses for Amazon's S3 Web Services 4 Great Uses for Amazon's S3 Web Services Despite Amazon being most well known for their retail services, they actually offer a host of web services for developers and home users that take advantage of Amazons experience and scalability with massive amounts of... Read More , Alexa (Amazon’s virtual assistant), and Echo — can help you remember your keys or anything else you might forget during the day. Seems pretty cool, ’cause who doesn’t want a voice-activated system that you can interact with?

This one is really simple. Alexa asks whether or not you’ve remembered your keys (or whatever else you might want to include). You answer in reply with a “yes” or “no.” If you say “yes,” Alexa moves on to the next item. If you say “no,” Alexa then tells you to solve the issue and then closes the session. When you’re finished, Alexa closes and wishes you well on your way with keys in hand. Not bad.

Amazon Alexa array list

Augmented Reality Light Switch

Using Philips Hue, this project aims to replace your physical light switch with a virtual one. While it might sound more like a novelty smart project, turning the lights on or off from your couch could be very convenient.

The project also connects with Unity Get Started Making Virtual Reality Games in Unity 5 for Free Get Started Making Virtual Reality Games in Unity 5 for Free Let's say you want to get involved in VR development. Where do you start? This guide will provide you with all the tools and info you need to get started! Read More , a platform that can create multiplatform 3D and 2D games and experiences.

Smart Tips

Now that you have some options on what to buy and what projects to tackle, a couple of tips might help you further. Here is a quick list of tips to consider when tackling your smart projects:

Stick With the Reputable Brands

As Joel Lee writes, sticking with the reputable brands the first go-around is absolutely crucial 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust The modern world is moving toward all kinds of smart home automation, and the longer you hold out, the more difficult it's going to be when your day of conversion finally comes. Read More , as it can really keep you on the right path and away from shoddy and buggy equipment. Not every brand is perfect, but the well-known brands – such as Philips, Amazon, Samsung, Google, etc – have proven to be reliable and must-buy products.

Buy What You Can Afford

It doesn’t have to be expensive to work. A Raspberry Pi (and the free OpenHAB home automation platform) is a solid and affordable choice, and options serious smart place people choose. If you must buy something expensive, make sure it’s reliable and something you’re willing to take the time and invest in.

Don’t give up

The last tip, and one that I’ve personally had to tell myself more than a few times: Is to never give up. Smart projects don’t haven’t to be technical 7 Common Smart Home Myths That Simply Aren't True 7 Common Smart Home Myths That Simply Aren't True Smart home devices are no different than most other gadgets -- and there are many misconceptions that people have about them. Let's clear those up! Read More  or difficult in order to be cool and functional. They just have to be something you’re proud of. Most DIY smart guides have ratings that indicate if the projects are for beginners, intermediate learners, or for experts. If you must, start with easy projects.

Put It All Together

With the right tips on what to buy and what projects to tackle, turning your apartment, duplex, room, or wherever you live into a smart place can now be a much easier task. What will you tackle next?

Do you have a smart home, apartment, room, etc? What products do you own? What projects are you willing to try?

Image Credit: Remote home control by scyther5 via Shutterstock

  1. Shay Meinecke
    May 31, 2016 at 11:19 am

    I imagine quite a lot. According to their privacy statement, Amazon stores information gathered from all sorts of services, including email, surveys, purcahses, etc; http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=footer_privacy?ie=UTF8&nodeId=468496
    Though, I'd argue that the data that is stored is used 'for' us, rather than 'against' us.

  2. fcd76218
    May 30, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Since Amazon Echo responds to voice commands, that must mean it is always on and listening. I wonder how much of what it "hears" is sent back to the mothership and stored for future use? Similar to Samsung Smart TVs.

  3. Cally X
    May 29, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    All this cool tech makes my place look like a cave dwelling. Time to look into one or more of these projects!

    • Shay Meinecke
      May 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Buying an Amazon Echo is a great first-purchase for your home! If you want to learn a bit of code (don't let that scare you!) and have more control over what you want in your smart home, then you should buy the Raspberry Pi!

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