When looking at making your home smarter to help a family member with Alzheimer’s, you need to learn the basics and this is the place to start.

Alrighty, time to go through the techno-exotic and weirdo mumbo jumbo talk stuff, learn some basics to get a good understanding of these stuffs, technologies and uses. If this is new don’t worry we’ve all been there and yet we made it work!

View your introduction to home automation as a journey, not a destination. Sometimes you have a flat tire and sometimes you make an amazing find along the way like a restaurant. Take your time, don’t stress and enjoy!

This section is split into 4 parts to try to make it more digestible but there is a fair amount to take in, take your time if you have the “new car smell” for smart homes.

Part 1: Home Automation Hubs

Part 2:  Home Automation Standards and Technologies

Part 3: Home Automation Devices

Part 4: Let’s Automate!












If you wish to speed things up on choosing one, here are the ones I’d use if I was in a beginner’s shoes: Amazon Echo, Google Home & SmartThings as they are the easiest, flexible, compatible and available.





















BrandInformation, Thoughts & Comments

Amazon Alexa & Echo

It’s affordable, fairly easy to use, has tons of online support and a smart speaker and/or display. Has tons of integrations for other products, decent routine capabilities. Just make sure you get the model(s) with “ZigBee”, see section 2 below. This is what I use at my mom’s house as the price gets really interesting on a regular basic and it’s plenty for what we need to do.

The images below below with green rectangles show which models include the home automation capabilities (ZigBee is the key word here) so you don’t get the wrong ones. Pricing in the images below is from where I did the screen captures and will vary based on seasonality and your region. Bear in mind that you can use other hubs or bridges to add products which are not natively supported if they are listed in  Alexa Skills

Amazon also has it’s Eero WiFi mesh router product line where some models have the hub built-in as well. You need the Eero 6 or higher for smart home connectivity and it uses ZigBee like the Echo products. Before you buy check this page to see if the one you are considering has the smart home features. Bear in mind that Eero uses it’s own app for this stuff but you can connect it to your Amazon account to get Alexa to play with it.

One shortfall which I’ve experienced is that the Echo/Alexa hubs do not usually relay “secondary” information from a ZigBee device like remaining battery life, which made me re-think and re-do things at my mom’s house which is 3 hours away by car.

Google Home


This hub is cloud-based (no physical hub needed as it exists in Google’s servers on the Interwebs), and the app is getting an upgrade soon if it did not already happen (supposed to be a major one too and the early reviews are very positive). If you are a Google/Android user, this is a viable option and it is part of your phone’s control center. Visit their site for more info and see what you can do. Plus Thread and Matter support is coming soon.

Bear in mind that you can use other hubs or bridges to add products which are not natively supported. Good beginner option as it’s easy to use and you can do plenty with it.


That’s what I use at my house as I found it has the balance I seek for my home. Supports almost anything and has tons of support online, I can automate whatever I want, keeps current with emerging standards and easy to use. If you want a “Swiss Army Knife” with usability, this is a great choice. This is technically owned by Samsung but they sold the hardware division (or licensed it) to Aerotec which now makes the hub along with the add-ons. 

UPDATE: SmartThings has announced a more affordable hub which is disguised as a charging pad for your phone, details here. Do note there is no Z-Wave support but it does support Thread and Matter (keep on reading).

Hubitat Elevation

This is possibly the best commercially available hub for true geeks out there, who wish to have the option to write scripts and go in very deep. I own one and found it too geeky for my linking as I just want to plug things and make them work with a nice interface.

It supports tons of things and recently got Apple HomeKit support. If you want to have absolute control this is a great option and everything happens locally as it does not rely on the cloud. You do have the option of their service for remote access. Not for beginners and the interface is not as nice as others out there. It uses industry standards to connect devices listed in section 2 below and am assuming it will support Thread & Matter.

Apple Home 

If you have an Apple ecosystem, this is worth looking into but there are usually less options but with Apple supporting Matter (see next section) that will be improved greatly. The way it works is simple: you technically don’t need a hub, you connect your smart home device to the “Apple Home” app then you do things with it, but there is a caveat, if you run “hubless” you cannot do anything while you’re away from home. 

Enter the Apple TV, the Apple HomePod or an iPad as they can be set to be the “local hub that will speak to the local devices and you can access from your iPhone”. The two caveats with the iPad are 1) it must stay at home and 2) make sure it does not run out of battery (keep it plugged in). To get started here is a good guide.


Don’t be (too) surprised, this is actually a good option and is budget-friendly. Their recent hubs support devices from Ikea plus those made for Apple Homekit/Siri, as well as Amazon Alexa & Google Home. Don’t expect the same level of community support due to the popularity factor but for basic things, this works. The cool thing is that Ikea is pretty much everywhere.

The new Ikea hub named Dirigera released fall 2022 supports Thread & Matter (read below!).

Home Assistant

This is the king of the hill in home automation for the open-source enthusiast. When you say open-source, it should imply some DIY (do it yourself) and if you’re not used to this stuff, go for something commercially made. This can run on so many platforms, is loaded with features, amazingly flexible and had a large community.

Why I would shy away: if you need to add this to someone’s home where you don’t reside, you may have to make some trips and add extra configurations plus services like a VPN server (or use their cloud connector). Not for beginners to the world of geekdom but really awesome.  Plus they have launched their own “approved products” program, nice.

I have taken the plunge into this rabbit hole and it’s pretty cool. Great to look at when you have your sealegs. The more I use it the more I li


Formerly known as Vera, Ezlo has been around for a while and offer multiple hub options, including a free software hub for you geeks out there (may need knowledge and extra parts like a ZigBee or Z-Wave antenna). Ezlo supports many things like voice assistants, IFTTT, ZigBee, Z-Wave plus a compatibility list for devices (nice).  At the time of writing this, I could not find anything official for Thread or Matter.

Their commercial hub product offers 3 flavors:

  • PlugHub: a hub which resides in an electrical wall outlet but seems to be Wi-Fi only
  • Ezlo Plus Smart Home Hub: their complete solution, supports Zigbee, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi.
  • Smart Home Controller Ezlo Secure: their top-of-the-line model, includes 4G LTW connectivity in case your ISP connection drops.

I have never used this products (I do have a life after all) but would look into this and get feedback in online communities as it seems to be a viable option.



SwitchBot is a smart home company which makes interesting products, including the SwitchBot Hub 2. Nice looking hub with useful information on the display, supports Matter, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IFTTT (see below), Alexa, Google Assistant and  HomeKit/Siri. Interestingly it does not support ZigBee but with Matter it should be able to talk to other hubs who do support ZigBee and other protocols but don’t take my word for it, check before pulling the trigger.

This hub also is a temperature/humidity meter plus has an infrared remote hub built it for those remote controls you may have. Worth the look.


For the serious home automators, I never tried it personally. Worth a look for the real geeks. Not for beginners and may not be the most popular choice either. But if you want flexibility this is worth the look.

Tuya & Smart Life

This is an up & coming platform and reviews on their usability are pretty good. They’re the same thing by the way, one has the Tuya logo, the other not. Confused? I don’t blame you, it’s the same tech, same app, etc. the main difference is branding. If you use A and want to switch the other, you need to re-do everything as you cannot transfer what you did. This article is a good place to start if you want to know the differences in full detail.

Tuya/SL focuses on ZigBee, WiFi & Bluetooth for connecting devices, and has interesting partners in their ecosystem like Philips, Schneider and many others. This is coming from China and as to be expected some expressed their concerns in regards to privacy issues and data collection but have servers in 6 datacenters over the world, so latency (aka speed of doing things) should not be an issue.

Plus of all the platforms this is probably the most affordable (by far) as my order for these 2 devices was $22Cdn including shipping. If you “want to try stuff and don’t care about shipping delays” knock yourself out. If you don’t expect a “premium” experience but for basic stuff this should work.

From there you can integrate the hub to other smart home systems like Alexa, SmartThings, etc., so you can keep on using what you have in place should you decide to expand.

Where do you buy these? Amazon, AliExpress and similar sites are your best places but based on where you are on the planet do expect shipping times to be longer than shorter. Can be a good choice for the patient budget-minded user.

Warning: the Tuya ZigBee products technically need a Tuya hub to control them so I decided to test using my new Tuya door open/close sensor to SmartThings without using the Tuya hub and did not go well. Then I tried to add it to Home Assistant  without the Tuya hub again, worked like a charm. Assume if you want to use these outside of Home Assistant and the recommended Tuya hub to have some trial and error experiences.



I find this brand mostly on Amazon and it has a decent reputation/reviews, good prices and a wide selection of devices. The thing is you need their hub if you want to use their devices. The Aqara can use other branded products but others hubs cannot use Aqara products, so there is a “lock-in” factor at play. Their hub can integrate with others like Echo, Google Home, HomeKit and SmartThings so you don’t get to cry your money away.

One of the fun things with Aqara is the selection of hubs, as some are “combo items” as they are built-in security cameras or speakers. Just make sure you read up before deciding what to get. They are focusing on ZigBee as a connectivity standard and work with voice assistants. Worth a look. Also Thread and Matter support is coming if not here already.


Sonoff has recently entered this space as well with their iHost Smart Home Hub, mostly known for home automation devices like sensors, lighting, ZigBee adapters and more. I have not tried this hub and they also have an interesting smart home control panel which is also a hub. 


Homey is a newer-ish player in this space and looks quite interesting. Fair warning, pricing is on the premium side, but the product seems to aim for that space as well. They also seem to focus a lot on integrations which is really good. Keep an eye on this vendor!



From what I hear this stuff works really well but is its own proprietary system which means does not play well with others, plus in 2022 the company had serious financial troubles. Unless you’re already invested in this, I’d look at Thread, ZigBee & Z-Wave hubs + products.


Ok you got me there, IFTTT is not a home automation hub. It’s actually a cloud-based service which stands for “If This Then That” (IFTTT!). You connect what you use into IFTTT like Arlo, iRobot, Gmail, Facebook and Nest you get them to do things together when it’s not “built-in” your hub.

In other words, IFTTT is a cross-platform automation tool. Here is an example: “Nest Protect (smoke detector) detects smoke then blink lights connected to Home Assistant”. You get the idea and this is good when you want to take things further, like your specified events in Home Assistants get added to a Google spreadsheet or whatever you can think of. Lots of fun and ways to do things, worth exploring and they have a free plan.





Technology or StandardInformation

Yes, home automation devices can use Wi-Fi to talk to the hub, and some are pretty decent. The good news is that these usually work with pretty much all hubs (your hub needs to be connected to your router via Wi-Fi or with an Ethernet cable ). The downsides are 1) battery life is usually less than other technologies (think smart locks and changing batteries often) and 2) a large number of devices may impact your ISP’s router’s performance as these routers are made for “up to” 25 devices-ish usually. Wi-Fi is a good place to start, cheap and simple.

If Wi-Fi suits your needs, go for it today, do not worry about “bleeding edge” and future standards like Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7, odds are you will not really benefit from the newer specifications. If you’re reading this site it means you probably need something today, and the Wi-Fi standards are always backwards-compatible. For the curious out there, there is another emerging standard nicknamed “HaLow” which is designed for Internet of things (IoT) applications and smart homes fit in this.

Yes like your phone or a portable speaker, you can do cool things with this and if your hub does not support Bluetooth (and many don’t) device vendors usually sell an “optional bridge” to connect the Bluetooth device you selected via Wi-Fi to your hub (here is an example from August). The good includes direct smartphone support and good battery life, while signal range is usually limited to about 10 meters (or 30 feet).
One of the big ones in home automation standards, it offers great device range and battery life. Tons of devices out there use this standard to communicate to the hub but (as you might have guessed) you need a Z-Wave capable hub like the Aeotec SmartThings V3 or Hubitat. Most entry-level hubs do not support Z-Wave.

The other big device-to-device standard, used pretty much by all the hubs (SmartThings, Amazon Echo, Hubitat, Ikea, etc.), offers great device battery life and range. It’s the most commonly used one with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

For the forward-looking out there, a ZigBee PRO 2023 standard has been released. Don’t wait for it as what ZigBee does today should be plenty for this context.

Think “ZigBee: The Next Generation”. As I’m writing this site, this standard is being rolled out by device and hub vendors and is meant to work hand-in-hand with Matter (see next item). So like with ZigBee, I’d expect great device range and battery life. Plus if you can select devices built with Thread now, you add a layer of future-proofing to your investments.

This is also an emerging standard, and Matter’s mission is to “bridge systems” (not devices) so you can have a more “harmonious” smart home experience across multiple vendors. In other words, systems which usually don’t talk to each other will now be supper friendly and chatty between themselves to do things and stuffs.

Matter supports Thread and Wi-Fi. If you’re into future-proofing this is worth considering but not a dealbreaker as if you are reading this you probably need to do stuff now. Here is a link which does a good job at explaining more if you’re curious. I have not yet toyed with this, more to come. If you wish to get starter with Matter over Thread here is a really good read.



  • Screenshot of a motion sensor in Alexa
    Screenshot of a motion sensor in Alexa

    Motion sensors: will alert, start a routine when the device detects movement or lack thereof, and some are “pet-friendly”. Think battery life here, changing them is no fun. Personally I try to go ZigBee.

  • Temperature sensors: if it’s too hot or too cold you can adjust stuff automatically via routines you set hub in your smart home hub. See next item!
  • Thermostats: paired with temperature sensors (and most have that built-in) you can manage this important part of the quality of life experience automatically. Common brands include Nest, Honeywell or Ecobee. Not comfortable with 200-240V systems or HVAC? Call an electrician, it’s much safer. Make sure you know what you have (central heating or baseboard/convector) and from there you can put this in place where it makes sense. You can probably save on your electric bill as well.
  • Humidity sensors: same idea, you get the picture. Again, battery life matters if not plugged into a wall outlet.
  • Water leak sensors: with Alzheimer’s, this is a good tool to have in the home as when someone forgets to close the water faucet, these devices will detect, alert and start routines. They can be paired with water valve controls, too. I’ll just mention again batteries 😁
  • Light switches and dimmers: the classic starter item, pair these with motion sensors, add schedules, etc. Lots of fun. In the case of Alzheimer’s I’d avoid the color-changing stuff as it will cause confusion. Also automation for lights may also cause some confusion as well as you’re altering what they expect and know.
  • Smart locks: forgot to lock the door? No longer a problem! Need to let someone in remotely? Now you can! I have not deployed this yet at my mom’s but it’s on the radar and will probably use a device to replace the “deadbolt only” and keep the current key, like an August. You don’t want to introduce new things and your loves ones look for the old key and stay out in bad weather. Also some have keypads sold separately and that is a nice option as you keep everything “as is” yet you can make a code for someone to come in like a caretaker.
    • While at it look at garage door openers too!
  • Smart outlets: these are really useful for things which are operating with only on & off states, lights being the easy one. Guess how I automate things like the Christmas tree? You can also do much more with these if you get creative. I have one for my mom’s Echo Show in case I need to reboot it remotely. 
  • Alarm systems: can be done but do your homework, as there is a variety of these things (old & new), and they don’t all behave the same way. Am no expert here but need to connect mine to SmartThings sooner or later. From there, explore if you can use the system’s motion detectors and other items to add to your project.
  • Vacuum cleaners: ok for the context of Alzheimer’s this can be tricky but smart vacuums can help with the chores. You could set up a routine between 8AM & 8PM, when there is no motion or presence detected, clean the floors.


  • Smart speakers: maybe not only for music after all if used creatively. You can get some to say stuff like “close the refrigerator door” with your voice. But may startle some. If you have kids at home you can add a the routine so that if they open a cookie jar they get warned. Fun times!
      • Open/close sensors: make sure doors are closed like entry doors, refrigerator doors, etc.
      • Smoke & CO2 detectors: interesting upgrades to consider, especially in later stages of Alzheimer’s while living at home.
      • Smart buttons: if used properly and in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, you can make more complex tasks easier. “‘Mom if you press the button the TV turns on and the lights dim”.
      • Smart tag: you can use and hide these in pursed, coats and such. Great for location-based ideas.
      • Label machine: ok not an automation thing, but I use a Brother P-Touch to label things so my mom does not wonder about things or move things.
      • Plenty more out there but this is a starting point anyone can build from, have fun!


















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Microsoft Excel Google Sheets


      • Data from your devices in section 3, like movement, presence of water, temperature or time of day
      • Geolocation (where someone or something is)
      • Outdoor weather and other such things can also be added
      • Think in “conditions”: also known as “Boolean logic” for you nerds out there, the key words are IF, THEN and ELSE.  If A happens THEN do B, ELSE do C or nothing. You will speak robot soon enough, bleep bloop.
      • Anything you can think of if within reason can be done. Here is an example: when someone walks in with a “smart tag” walks in the house 30 minutes before sundown, turn on the lights in specific rooms and send a notification to user Mom (your son is home from school). When the tag is not present within a radius for a certain time, turn off the lights, might as well save some energy. This is fun.
      • Reminder: new things for folks with Alzheimer’s need to be subtle, if you do anything funky which disrupts their routine or what they are used to, you end up causing more problems than anything else.
      • Start with basic things, see how they work, and then build from there. This is a journey, not a destination after all.

Also, don’t go overboard with residences housing Alzheimer’s patients. But other home are .. fair game!

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