Every time you add a new smart device to your home’s Wi-Fi network, it becomes an increasingly bigger challenge for your router to perform optimally. Sometimes, the router can handle the new additions just fine; other times it struggles, leaving you with dead zones, connection difficulties, and slow downloads. In a smart home, the issues might result in a Wi-Fi thermostat failing to catch a command you sent it to set back, a Wi-Fi light switch totally missing its cue to activate, and music and video might stream at a snails pace.
Plain and simple: If your home’s Wi-Fi is spotty, the performance of your Wi-Fi-enabled smart home products is bound to suffer. Often, the problem boils down to the router, and thankfully, there are many options on the market today that can turn a finicky Wi-Fi network into a fine-tuned machine. If you’re experiencing problems, or want to prepare your house to handle a network of smart home products, it might be time to upgrade to a better router. Here are six ways manufacturers are making Wi-Fi routers more accommodating of smart home products:
1 Better Control: Intuitive Apps and Voice
Many of today’s routers come with companion apps that enable you to monitor and manage your home’s Wi-Fi network via a smartphone or tablet. You can administer rules and limitations for your kids (like blocking access to the network from certain devices after 9 p.m.); provide easy access for guests; and manage and monitor Internet usage of everyone in your family.
The Luma system and Securifi’s Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System even let you supervise the network with simple voice commands through integration with Amazon Alexa. For example, you could say, “Alexa, Tell Luma WiFi to Prioritize Me” to make sure your Apple TV is prioritized to ensure Game of Thrones won’t buffer. The router listens and makes the adjustment.
2 Lag-Free Multimedia Streaming
Video eats up a good chunk of bandwidth, and even the best router might not be able to stream video perfectly when other products are on the Wi-Fi network at the same time. However, when a router offers the ability to prioritize which devices should get the most bandwidth, you’ll have a much better viewing experience. The OnHub router from Google, for example, lets your prioritize with the press of a button or the wave of a hand.
The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app that works with all of the company’s Smart Wi-Fi routers even lets you select which three devices get priority, like the smart TV , the home office PC and family tablet one day, and then another day its Mom’s smartphone, Dad’s tablet, and the X-Box.
The ability for a router automatically switch channels to maintain the best Wi-Fi signal strength is another helpful feature to look for. If your household does heavy streaming, Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) supports simultaneous streams to multiple devices, a feature integrated into Netgear’s Nighthawk X10 router, which also has a Plex Media Server built in so that it can organize your movies, TV shows, music, video and photo collections.
3 Home Automation Features
Because so many smart home devices are control via signals dispatch via Wi-Fi, it makes sense that a Wi-Fi router also function as a hub for automating devices on the network. A router like the OnHub from Google and Almond 3 can sync with Philips Hue light bulbs and Nest thermostats. These hubs also support IFTTT, enabling you to create simple commands, or recipes, for the smart home devices in your home to follow. Rules like this are most commonly triggered by going to the router’s companion app, but expect companies to create even simpler ways to communicate with your router. Securifi, for example, offers the Almond Click, a button that pairs up with the Almond 3 router. It’s compact and portable that can be either stuck to a wall or even used as a keychain. With three actions — press, double press, long press — you can launch a variety of different commands.
4 Mesh Networking
In many homes, one router simply won’t cut the mustard, requiring you to add access points and range extenders. This arrangement can be a tough set-up to configure, which is why many router manufacturers have started to offer “wireless mesh networking” solutions. eero, for example, is a system that comes with a main hub and two satellite devices that can be placed anywhere in the home (one needs to plug into your modem). The Orbi Kit from Netgear is employs mesh networking, too, and comes with one hub and one satellite. Both systems eliminate any guesswork with the setup and the need to place the satellite within line of sight of the hub.
5 Proactive Troubleshooting
When a smart home device seems to be malfunctioning, it can be hard to pinpoint the problem. Usually, the issue boils down to the network. A helpful feature that better routers include is the ability to notify you the second the router is offline. Sent to your mobile device, you’ll know immediately why your smart door locks, IP cameras, and thermostats might not be working.
6 Great Cosmetics
Last but not least, there’s the potential cosmetic benefit of buying a new router. Incorporating modern shapes, textures and colors, many new routers are so aesthetically attractive that you’ll want to leave them out (where they also work better) instead of stuffing them in a corner in a utility room.
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