Cheaper smart home options for Australia

Markets outside the United States tend to have fewer options for smart home products. This can often be due to different electrical standards, but also comes down to regulatory approvals in many cases.

For smart home enthusiasts in Australia the field is particularly limited. A small population and a different regulatory framework mean many device makers simply don’t bother, even when the device would work just fine because it’s simply USB powered.

There are, however, a number of Australian brands that have taken up the torch, even though they are not smart device companies. To do this they are using the Chinese IoT (Internet of Things) platform called Tuya.

What is Tuya?

Tuya offers an end-to-end solution for companies wanting to enter the smart home market without needing the expertise and R&D costs associated with developing new technology. From the required hardware components, the cloud platform, all the way to branded smartphone apps, Tuya provides the whole deal.

An sometimes unrecognized benefit of all these brands using the same underlying platform is that you can use any Tuya app to control them, regardless of the branding.

You may have seen some of these brands in stores around the country, while others are only available online. Key ones to look for include:

Is Tuya safe?

Being a Chinese-based cloud platform may give some people pause, and rightly so. Not so much because it’s Chinese, but because cloud platforms present a huge unknown when it comes to cyber security risks. When you are dependent on servers somewhere on the internet to control your lights and switches you are inherently exposing those devices to potential intrusion.

Poor server security, poor use of encryption between end points, and poor protection of stored user data are all big issues that have all too frequently resulted in problems for many unwitting customers. The companies behind these servers always make claims that they take security seriously, but we have no choice but to take their word for it.

Tuya has a security policy which includes third party audits, and holds multiple such certifications. This goes a long way to building trust in that pledge, and Tuya being a major market player now always adds some peace of mind. Smaller operators are much more likely to have lax security standards because of cost, lack of experience, or lack of scrutiny.

Security is not the only consideration, though. As Tuya makes it easy to quickly put out cheap devices, it’s also important to be wary of quality. There have been plenty of cases where these devices are shoddy and unsafe. That’s not Tuya’s fault, but that of the manufacturer trying to make a quick buck. You get what you pay for, after all.

What about voice assistants?

No smart home can be complete without voice control, and Tuya provides native integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. That leaves HomeKit users out in the cold.

There is a way around this, however, but it needs you to get your hands dirty and set up a Homebridge device on your network. Once done you can use a Tuya plugin to connect to your Tuya devices and add them to HomeKit

If, like me, you really don’t like having the cloud connection, you can go the extra mile and extract the device keys from Tuya to give you complete local control, just like native Homekit device.

This process can also be used on other smart home platforms, like Home Assistant, that also have Tuya plugins available.

The Wrap Up

As smart home enthusiasts, we’re always looking for more ways to add smarts to our home, and this requires different devices types, designs, and ways to integrate things together. For Australian customers, these cheaper options provide a wide field of devices and can help fill some gaps such as smart power points and power boards that can be hard to find from major smart brands.

Tuya provides a solid and mature platform, but comes with the inherent issues of cloud-based control. Your internet connection is critical to your smart devices working at all, and can also add delays to sending commands to your devices. Using third party solutions, such as third party firmware and hubs can eliminate these issues and provide better integration options to boot.

Ultimately, if you can’t find a device to suit your specific need these local brands might be worth a look.