1) Is Google Home and Alexa always recording every sound me and my family are making ?
Relax (a little). The official line from these companies is that they only record sounds after the “wake word” is heard e.g “Hey Google”. And even then, it’s easy enough to delete this from your history.
To delete your message history in the Alexa app, go to SETTINGS -> HISTORY and delete the individual voice recordings you want. Perfect if you just quietly asked for motorcycle dealerships in your area while the wifey was in the other room!
To delete all voice recordings on Google Assistant, go to https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity.
2) Can a Smart Home be hacked? Is a smart home safe?
Short answer - if the US military can be hacked, anything can be hacked.
Longer answer - over the last few years, there have been several staged hacking events that demonstrate a smart home device can be hacked.
Astute password management, frequent firmware updates, buying well know established smart home brands, and using a router with built in iot security are among the most powerful tools you have to keep your smart home safe.
3) Will a smart home become dated quickly?
The same question can be asked of any tech you buy, but even more for smart devices than say a more traditional purchase like a TV set you may have for 15 years. One might ask what you gain out of an LED smart bulb's 22.5 year lifespan when it will probably be a paperweight by then based on technological advances.
In general there’s nothing really to fear here. Most devices provide very frequent firmware updates and backward compatibility with their phone apps. There will be feature updates with any new hardware versions, but your legacy devices will keep working just fine. For things like Light Bulbs that already offer 16 million colours, you're not likely to care for an upgrade too quickly. The smart securty space might be different e.g in the Arlo Pro vs Arlo Pro 2. Feature upgrades may be more appealing. They both use the same app. We have been running the Arlo Pro in our showroom for 18 months, only to recently find out they have release the Arlo Pro 2. So what’s the difference ? Higher resolution (1000 vs 720) which means better night vision, AC charging, “look back” 3 secs before motion is detected etc. Are these features pivotal enough for an upgrade? For many people they will be.
4) Will a smart home cost a lot?
Short answer - how long is a piece of string?
Longer answer - not necessarily, and you can grow it at a pace and budget that suits you. Based on an 80/20 rule, a voice assistant + one smart bulb + smart switch would be a great start, building large effiencies at a great price. A smart home could cost you less than a smart phone!
Larger projects like fitting out an entire new build (locks, lights, cameras, appliances, blinds, thermostats, the whole shebang) could run into the 10s of thousands once all hardware and installation is factored in.
One important thing to keep in mind is that a smart home is not just a "cost center", its a "profit center" for the home. Saving on your power bills by automating heating, appliances and lighting can be a large cost saver over the years. Items like the eve smart switch with energy monitoring and eve aqua water controller can not only control power and water, but give you detailed diagnostics and recommendations on how to save on these staple household expenses. Piece of mind and convenience from items like smart locks and smart cameras can secure your family and free you up to do more profitable or enjoyable things in the home.
5) Homekit, HomePod, Alexa, Z-wave, Zigbee, Siri, Google Home - have I picked the right backbone?
Are you extremely interested in a centralised app or controller to handle all devices? Then Apple HomeKit or Z-wave (with a Vera Plus) may be your best option. If you are more casual in your approach and not an Apple lover, you're probably among the 2018 majority who are happy to add Alexa, Google Home, Cortana compliant smart devices and slowly build up your smart home through a series of apps. You will find that most apps are frequented less and less anyway, as the user builds up their scenes, schedules and automations, and eventually relies on these coupled with voice commands to extract the benefit from the smart devices.
Who is better Siri or Google or Alexa?
If you are big on entertainment and streaming, we love Google Home coupled with a Google Chromecast. Tell your TV what to on Netflix, Youtube, Arlo Cameras and more. If you are keen to get into 'skills' of the voice assistants e.g ordering Dominos to your house, Alexa definitely has more than the rest. It's also very easy to connect Alexa to any blue tooth speaker, something harder or impossible to achieve on the other devices. Finally, Siri will be irreplacabe for anyone already in the Apple ecosystem, and with Homekit such a good aggregator, it's definitely a great choice to go with Apple in your quest for a smart home.