All good smart homes start with a voice assistant—but here’s how to take it a step further.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated July 19, 2019
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For most people—everyone who’s not a tech junkie, essentially—that first exposure to smart home gadgets comes in the form of a voice assistant. Voice assistants have, arguably, jump-started the current wave of smart home must-haves; they can answer questions, check the weather, help coordinate calendars, and more, but they can also control other smart home products for an at-home experience that feels straight out of the future.

The top voice assistants are Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. They can be accessed through a smart phone or, most often in smart homes, through smart home devices or hubs—the Amazon Echo line, the Google Home collection, or the Apple HomePod. Other voice assistants are out there, but these are the big three, and (at least for now) they’re the key to building a connected smart home.

Some people kick off their smart home journeys with a smart home starter kit, which does include a voice assistant, but others just pick up the assistant device. One can do a whole lot on its own, but eventually, it’s time to move on from playing music and asking about the weather—and that’s where these smart home devices come in.

Some smart home devices can be pretty high-tech (and expensive)—picture smart ovens, washers and dryers, and more. These clever appliances have their uses (and they can be very useful), but they can also be overwhelming to anyone new to smart homes. These smart home devices aren’t. They can connect with a voice assistant to truly make a home smarter and be used in tandem with other devices for a fully controllable home, without too much hassle. If you have (and love) your voice assistant and are ready to take your smart home to a new level, start with these—just prepare to quickly get used to the convenience of controlling your home with just a few words.

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1

Even watching TV is smarter now. Turn an older TV smart with a streaming stick or other device (this one works with all three top voice assistants) that streams your favorite programs but can also be controlled with voice commands to a connected assistant, for those times when you can’t find the remote.

To buy: Roku Premiere, $39; amazon.com.

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2

Turning on the lights from across the room has been popular for years—clap on, clap off, anyone?—and smart bulbs make it truly possible with just a verbal command. (Phone apps can also adjust the light.) Set lights to turn on and off while you’re away for added security, or put them on a schedule to help wake the household each morning.

To buy: C by GE C-Life Smart Bulbs, $45 for four; bestbuy.com.

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3

Smart cameras and security systems make DIY home security possible by connecting live video streams of inside and outside the home to your phone and other devices. Get alerted by sudden motion or check on incidents that occurred while you were away with the recordings. Indoor cameras can even function as baby cams, pet cams, and more, so you’re always aware of what’s going on in your space.

To buy: Logitech Circle 2 Camera, from $180; amazon.com.

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4

Climate control is important, and being able to adjust temperatures while on-the-go is a game-changer. Never arrive home to find it much too hot or too cold again, and take full advantage of making yourself a little more comfortable by asking your voice assistant of choice to adjust the temperature whenever you want.

To buy: Nest Learning Thermostat,$210; amazon.com.

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5

Smart plugs can make any electrical device smart: Imagine turning off your fan, table lamp, or small appliance without having to lift a finger. Like most smart home devices, smart plugs can be set to schedules and controlled through a voice assistant or app. This option is only compatible with Amazon Alexa–supported devices, but a huge range of smart plugs is available to work with any voice assistant.

To buy: Amazon Smart Plug, $25; amazon.com.