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How to set up your smart home

By Martin Pratt

Smart devices are designed to make your life simpler, but they can seem daunting to configure. We show you the easy way to set up your smart home.

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The point of smart technology is making it easier to control everyday devices, and this should extend to how easy they are to set up. Whether you've just bought a wireless security camera or a full Samsung SmartThings hub, getting the devices working can seem difficult at first - but the setup typically boils down to a few simple steps.

What is a smart home? From app-controlled bulbs to video-streaming TVs, find out how homes are getting smarter.

How's your internet?

Before you buy any smart devices you need to have wi-fi at home. Most smart devices include all the bits and bobs they need to work, but they'll still need to be connected to the internet, either through a wireless router or through a hub that connects to your router. The wi-fi enables your smart devices to talk to each other and to you.

If you struggle to get a wi-fi signal in some of your home, or you find it takes a long time to load a webpage, then your internet speed may be too slow for smart devices to be able to connect. 

1. Download the app

Your phone (or tablet) is essentially the remote control that operates your smart devices. The first thing you need to do is download the companion app for the smart device you've bought. We found searching for the name or manufacturer of the device was the easiest way to find the app you need. The apps are generally free, but it's worth checking beforehand to avoid any extra charges.

Smart technology lives and dies by the app that controls it. If the app doesn't work well then odds are the connected device won't either.

2. Connect your device

Connecting your smart device to wi-fi should be straightforward. Just plug it into the mains and follow the setup instructions on the app. You'll either be able to sync the device by pressing a button on your router, or you may need to enter your wi-fi router password into the device.

If you are planning on buying a smart device with a wired hub make sue you have free Ethernet ports: Sky, Virgin and BT router will have at least four or five.

3. Make your device secure

Because your new smart device is connected to the internet it's very important to keep it secure. Just like your computer or phone can have a password, so to can your smart device. For maximum security choose a password that is different to the one you use for your wi-fi router.

4. Making sense of multiple smart devices

The more smart devices you get, the more apps you'll need to control them. Continuously switching between them can be confusing, and could lead to you to starting a cycle on your washing machine instead of turning your lights on. Smarts hubs provide a solution to the problem of too many apps. They work by creating a hub for any compatible smart devices you already have, meaning you only need one app to control them all.

Not all smart products will be compatible with smart hubs so always check whether your devices will work with one before you buy it.

What can go wrong?

If you encounter any issues during setup there are a few things you can try to get things moving again. Some apps and devices can be fiddly and you'll need to make sure you follow each step in the instructions to the letter. If your router can't find your device, reset the router and try again; putting the device closer to your router will help too. If the app causes you problems try uninstalling it and starting the whole process from scratch.

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