How to turn your ordinary Malaysian home into a Smart Home

Level up your game and turn your boring ol’ abode into a Smart Home. 

Most of us know that owning a smart home is no longer a dream or part of a futuristic movie: You finish work and are on your way home. You use your phone to remotely switch on your house air-conditioning and start cooking the rice that you prepared before work. You get a reminder from your fridge to pick up a bottle of milk at the shop close by.

Nearly everything in your home can be connected to the internet so how do you make your home smart?

In the first part of this 4-part series, we will guide you on how to get started on it.

Choosing a smart assistant



Apple, Google, Nest and Amazon are all major players in the smart home arena now, with their ecosystems and smart assistants on hand to not only make connecting your tech easier but to also make home automation a breeze. Then there are electronic companies such as Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Zigbee and Honeywell, who also do their best to make setting up your smart home system a breeze.

Unlike iOS versus Android or PC versus Mac, you’ll find a smart home kit that works with multiple ecosystems and you’ll even find native devices from one major platform that sync up and plays nicely with their competition.

Now smart home tech is labelled with a “Works with…” sticker on the box so you can be assured that it fits well with your existing home setup.

Virtual voice-controlled assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa make it easy to control smart home products by speaking simple commands like “Alexa, turn on the lights.” Each of these tools has its strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that will be more likely to work for your needs:

1. Amazon’s Alexa




Amazon’s Echo product really helps you quickly set up a smart home. They are easy to set up and plug in anywhere that you need to summon Alexa.

At RM225.60, Echo Dot, the smaller speaker, is one of the cheapest smart home controllers in the market. AI assistants are the future and every home ought to have one right now. They are capable of making your life so much easier, and all you need is to speak out commands and ask for basic information. You no longer need to take out your smartphone just to perform basic tasks.

Alexa has more than 10,000 skills, or third-party capabilities, allowing it to interface with smart homes, order food, call for services, play streaming video and organize schedules (among others). The smartphone apps for setting up Echo products work with Apple and Android devices.


  • Amazon’s Alexa app for iPhones and Android phones, required for setting up some smart home products can be clunky.
  • Alexa sometimes has difficulty responding to what you are asking it to do (it can be hard of hearing sometimes).
  • The speakers on Echo products are generally mediocre.
  • You can’t trigger Alexa by speaking to a smartphone; you have to talk to the speaker itself (which can make you feel quite silly in the beginning or if your neighbours don’t know that it’s a smart device and think you’ve lost your marbles).
  • In its privacy policy, Amazon says it takes no responsibility for third-party products that work with Alexa. In other words, the onus is on you to find out what third-party home accessory companies can do with the data they collect from you. (Hmmmm)

2. Google’s Assistant




  • This works with Android based smartphones, the Google Home smart speaker and Android Ware (watches, etc.). Many smartphone brands use Android so this has become the default assistant installed. The app integrates well with the home function button.
  • At RM510, Google Home costs RM89 less than Amazon’s standard Echo speaker.
  • In terms of artificial intelligence, Assistant is generally smarter than Alexa and Siri because it is powered by the brains of Google search, meaning you can ask it about anything in the world and are more likely get a correct answer.
  • Besides being a knowledge bank, Google Assistant can also call a person from your contact list, order pizza from online delivery service and remind you of what’s on your calendar. A standalone device called Google Home can also run Google Assistant much like Alexa on Echo.


  • You summon Assistant by saying “O.K., Google,”. (It’s cute in the beginning but can get annoying fast especially when you are the type to get straight to the point)
  • There are far more smart home products supporting Alexa than Google’s Assistant.
  • Google Home’s audio quality is just mediocre.
  • While Assistant is slightly smarter than other virtual assistants, it is still flawed and has trouble responding to some requests appropriately.
  • Google’s privacy policy on the data it collects with Google Home is vague. It says: “Google collects data that’s meant to make our services faster, smarter, more relevant and useful to you.” (Hmmm)

3. Apple’s Siri




  • With privacy in mind, Apple worked directly with home accessory makers to ensure that the data transferred between accessories and Apple devices are secure and encrypted.
  • The integration of Apple’s HomeKit into its mobile devices makes it much easier to set up Siri with home accessories.
  • Siri runs on a variety of devices from an iPhone to an iPad and now even a MacBook Pro or iMac.


  • Partly because of Apple’s stringent privacy requirements, it has taken longer for smart home accessories supporting Siri to reach the market, meaning there are fewer available.
  • Siri sometimes has trouble understanding what you are asking it to do. (A common problem among the other assistants)
  • Siri is exclusive to Apple products. (but, of course)


When choosing an assistant, remember that Smart Home Assistants work in different configurations depending on the environment, form factor and type of device. If you really need to choose just one at the moment, you may realise you can actually use two or more.

So if you work on a Mac use Siri; if you use an Android smartphone, Google Assistant; if you neither of the three interest you or does not apply to you, just go get a standalone speaker assistant like Alexa. You will probably still need to use another assistant though since you can’t really bring an Echo to the beach with you, so that is why there are assistants available on smartphones and tablet devices as well.

This article was originally published by Habitat.

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