Three devices that can help you set up a smart home

Once it is set up, users can ask the Amazon Echo to play music, read the news, check the weather or buy items.
Once it is set up, users can ask the Amazon Echo to play music, read the news, check the weather or buy items.PHOTO: AMAZON
The Philips Hue (top) and the WeMo Switch.
The Philips Hue (left) and the WeMo Switch.PHOTOS: PHILIPS, BELKIN

Who better to put together an Internet-connected home than ViewQwest? Besides providing broadband access to homes, the Internet service provider is selling a small selection of smart devices that can turn your home into a smart one, where you can control the lights with your phone, stream music with your voice and switch on appliances without having to touch a switch.

Smart-home devices such as the Belkin WeMo switches or the Philips Hue lights are not new. They work via your home network, and can be controlled using your phone because of the shared Internet connection.

What ViewQwest is bringing to the table, though, is making sure that devices from different brands can work together.

Here are three smart-home devices that ViewQwest will help subscribers set up in their home.

Amazon Echo

Price: $360

Think of the Amazon Echo, a voice command module, as a better version of Apple's voice assistant, Siri. Once it is set up, users can ask the Echo to play music, read the news, check the weather or buy items.

In the United States, the Amazon Echo is linked to Alexa, a cloud- based voice service, and can even be used to make online purchases on the Amazon store.

This option is not available here, since some items cannot be shipped to Singapore.

If you want to stream music or watch a movie by speaking to Echo, you will need an Amazon Prime membership, priced at US$99 (S$140) a year. You will also need a VPN service, which ViewQwest provides.

What ViewQwest is also doing is enabling the link between the Echo and the Philips Hue smart lights, so that users can use their voice to turn lights on and off.

Philips Hue

Price: $319 (Starter set with three bulbs and wireless bridge), $89 per additional light

If you think that home lighting is just a matter of switching on - or off - a simple light fixture, think again.

With the Philips Hue, a light at home need not be just of a single colour. And with the wireless bridge installed, users can control each and every Hue light from their phone, and change the intensity and colour.

Users can even pair the lights to notifications on their Android or iOS device, so that the lights flicker with an incoming e-mail or shine a different colour with incoming notifications. You can also link the Hue lights with the Amazon Echo by asking the Echo to detect any devices within the same Wi-Fi network.

Once linked, you can tell the Echo to turn any Hue light on or off.

WeMo Switch

Price: $79

Not every electronic item has networking capabilities, and this is where the WeMo Switch comes in.

The WeMo Switch is a plug that you place between the power plug of a device and a power outlet.

It can be linked to your home Wi-Fi network and be controlled by a smartphone app. Turning this plug off via the app, even when the outlet has been powered up, cuts off electricity to the device that is connected to it.

Each plug can be linked to the Amazon Echo. Once linked, you can tell the Echo when to switch the plug on or off.

The smart option can be taken a step further, by grouping different products. Say you have a Philips Hue light with another device linked to a WeMo Switch in a room. Once you group them together, you can turn both devices on or off at the same time simply by telling the Echo to do so.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Three devices that can help you set up a smart home'. Print Edition | Subscribe