Smart Home

Kickstart Your Smart Home With 4 Easy Projects

Dann Albright 07-11-2014

Creating a smart home What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More might sound like a huge undertaking, and it can be difficult to know where to start. But it’s not as hard as you might think! There are a lot of projects that you can do in just a few minutes or over the course of an afternoon to get started. These four will introduce you to some of the principles of creating a connected home and add a bit of cool factor to your house.


Install a Nest Thermostat

The Nest thermostat kicked off a huge amount of interest in smart home technology, and paved the way for many new entries into the market. It’s also a great way to get started on smartening your home because it’s dead easy to set up—which is one of the reasons that we included it in our list of five smart home products you should be buying 5 Smart Home Appliances You Should Be Buying The "smart home" concept is taking off and you should be keeping up, otherwise you'll end up missing out on the future. Read More . To install it, all you’ll need is a Phillips screwdriver. There’s even one included in the Nest box, though you might find it easier to use a set of your own to take advantage of different sizes.

According to Tom’s Guide, which has a great guide on how to install the Nest, the whole process should only take about thirty minutes, and it’s quite easy. Of course, it should be noted that Nest recommends that you have a Nest-certified professional installer do it for you, but if you’re even remotely comfortable working with electronics, you shouldn’t find it very difficult. And if you like the thermostat, you can also get the Nest protect, a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector Nest Protect Review and Giveaway Read More .

Buy the Nest thermostat from Amazon

Smarten Your Lights

The lights in your home get used all the time, and it’s easy to take them for granted. You walk into a room and turn them on, and turn them off before you leave. But there are so many more cool things you can do! We’ve shown you a few dedicated smart lamp systems, like the Phillips Hue Light Your Home the Smart Way With Philips Hue If you can afford the initial expenditure, you won't find a better-supported and more user-friendly smart lighting system on the market. Read More and the Holi smart mood lamp Holi Smart Mood Lamp Review and Giveaway Is the Holi Smart Mood Lamp the ultimate night lamp? Mood lamp? Disco ball? Read More , but if you want to start with the basics, all you need to do is purchase a Belkin WeMo and plug your lights into it, as we detailed in this post about how to smarten your lights with WeMo 3 Ways The Belkin WeMo Can "Smarten" Your Regular Household Lamps We took the time to look at the possibilities for turning your regular household lamps into smart lamps. Read More .



The WeMo setup lets you put your lights on a schedule, operate them remotely with an app, use the attached motion sensor to control them, and even to integrate with IFTTT triggers. The great part about setting up your lights with WeMo is that no tools are needed—just download the app, plug the switch into your power socket, and you’re ready to rock. And once you get the hang of it, you can start integrating WeMo with other appliances, too.

Buy the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch from Amazon

Switch to a Smart Lock

There’s nothing that says “smart home” like unlocking your front door with your cell phone. And with the recent proliferation of smart locks, it’s become easier than ever. We profiled a number of options in our article on five great smart locks Forget Keys: 5 Smart Locks You Can Unlock With Your Phone Here are 5 different locks that you can unlock with your phone. Read More , and new locks from reputable manufacturers like Yale and Kwikset are hitting the market all the time. In addition to being able to unlock the door with your phone, you can enable proximity-based unlocking, give temporary keys to people who need access, and have the door automatically locked behind you.

For most of these locks, all you need is a screw driver to remove your old lock and install the new one—it’s one of the easiest upgrades you can make.


Create a Motion Capture Security System with Raspberry Pi

If you’re ready to take the next step in smartening your home, Raspberry Pi is the tool for you. Both the Pi and the Arduino are fantastic tools for automating your home Home Automation Guide 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 we’ve written about a few different projects you can take on, like this Arduino-powered nightlight and sunrise alarm Arduino Night Light and Sunrise Alarm Project Today, we'll be making a sunrise alarm clock, which will gently and slowly wake you without resorting to an offensive noise-making machine. Read More . One of the most useful projects we’ve discussed is creating a motion capture security system Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Of the many projects that you can build with the Raspberry Pi, one of the most interesting and permanently useful is the motion capture security system. Read More .


Installing this system requires a Raspberry Pi, a webcam, an SD card, and a power supply for the camera. It also requires a bit more technical expertise for installing drivers and things on the Raspberry Pi, but our tutorial outlines how to go about doing all of these things, so it’s a great first project for an aspiring Raspberry Pi home automator. And it’s significantly cheaper than most standard home security systems!

Get Started!

These four projects are some of the best for people interested in starting to create a smart home without going through the hassle that’s required for some of the more advanced projects. If you’re feeling motivated, you could easily complete all of these projects in a weekend. So what are you waiting for? Pick a project and start smartening your home this weekend! (Don’t forget these six smart home projects you can tackle in a weekend 6 Smart Home Projects You Can Take On This Weekend Here are six ways to add a little ambient intelligence to your daily routine. Read More , too.)


What are your favorite simple smart home projects? What would you recommend for first-time smart home enthusiasts? Share your thoughts below!

Related topics: Smart Lighting, Smart Locks.

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  1. Guy
    November 11, 2014 at 12:20 am

    What is the most likely scenario for a thief to break into your house?
    The scenarios you state or that it's a crime of opportunity?

    What is the most likely goal of a thief committing a crime of opportunity?
    To get in, get the stuff, and get away, or to prove their hacking prowess?

    Perhaps I reveal too much of my past when I say that a window can be smashed incredibly quietly without much, if any, advance preparation.
    Or as someone who has sold windows, that many windows are incredibly easy to open without any special tools or skills.

    I could go on and on but then, that would be feeding the dragonmouth! :)
    I have no problem saying this, but your my favourite 'troll'.
    I mean that in the best way possible.

    • Dann Albright
      November 11, 2014 at 9:28 am

      A quick search online reveals that you're not alone in thinking that burglaries are usually crimes of opportunity. A number of police forces have documents and advice online that state that burglars don't usually single out people for burglaries—they target easy-looking opportunities. That applies to both home and vehicle burglaries.

  2. Guy
    November 9, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Unless you're mega-rich, why would a thief go through the trouble of hacking your phone to get into your house and steal all your crap?

    Why wouldn't they just jimmy or smash the window right next to the door?
    Locks only reduce crimes of opportunity.

    • dragonmouth
      November 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      "Unless you’re mega-rich, why would a thief go through the trouble of hacking your phone to get into your house and steal all your crap?"
      Is that "security through poverty"? :-)

      Didn't MUO recently publish an article on the vulnerabilty of smartphones?

      "Why wouldn’t they just jimmy or smash the window right next to the door?"
      I can think of a couple of scenarios on why a thief would want to hack your smartphone.
      1) Just for the heck of it.
      2) While mining for other "gems" on your , the hacker discovers the code for your smart lock.
      3) Because people with smart locks usually have the doors and windows wired with allarms. Even if they don't, a brick through a window in the middle of the night tends to be noisy.

  3. dragonmouth
    November 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    "There’s nothing that says “smart home” like unlocking your front door with your cell phone."
    And finding out that thieves have have hacked your phone and cleaned out your house. How cool would that be?! Cell phones are some of the most insecure devices around.

    • Dann Albright
      November 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      Have to agree with Guy on this one. I really don't see this being an issue. If someone is willing to hack your phone or figure out how to duplicate its Bluetooth signature, then they're going to get into your house no matter what you do. It's way harder to hack a phone than it is to throw a brick through a window, nab some stuff, and bug out.

    • corb
      April 30, 2015 at 7:29 pm

      It's ridiculously easy to "bump" open 90% of the door locks. Unless you have a very special/expensive lock, it takes a couple seconds to bump it. And if that doesnt work, break a window or kick in the door. Much easier for your average thief, than hacking a phone.