Smart Home Compatibility FAQs (Part 1)

Today’s post is written by Lee Adkins, founder of Amplified Solutions, continues with his series about Smart Home Tips for REALTORS® with information about setting up smart home devices, and for REALTORS® who encounter these devices when buying and selling homes.

Smart home devices are fun and trendy now, but this trend is here to stay. As a REALTOR®, you should have a basic familiarity with these devices, what they do and how that affects your clients and your clients’ transactions. These devices not only offer convenience for a home, but they also provide safety, security and data that can help us conserve energy use.

Pro Tips:
• Be sure it’s clear – in writing – if (and which) devices are included in the sale of the home.
• Be sure that all devices included in the sale are reset or wiped of any personal data – including the previous owner’s ability to control or monitor the devices. For more info, check out this handy Smart Home Checklist for resetting devices.
• CRT Labs has recently published Smart Home Simplified guides to help you learn more about possible smart home devices and what makes each type unique.

Nest Thermostat

What does it do?
Controls the temperature of your home – automatically or based on when you are home or come and go or on energy usage. Also provides historical energy usage data and compares to other users (anonymously of course) and even the local weather.

What is needed to run it?
The Nest thermostat communicates with your phone and the Nest servers via your wi-fi, so having a wi-fi connection is generally the only requirement beyond HVAC system compatibility.

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes. There is fairly nominal work to remove the thermostat if you are moving. Just be sure to keep the “old” thermostat if this is a possibility so you have something to replace it with. Generally speaking, there is no modification to the wall area around the thermostat needed.

Difficulty of set up:
The Nest thermostat is pretty easy to install – it basically walks you through setup once powered up. Everything you need is in the box including a wall plate in case your older thermostat is larger and you need to cover up an unpainted area or larger holes visible beyond the size of the Nest thermostat. I would highly recommend using this wall plate you are installing it knowing you will move it later.

$250 one time for the 3rd generation (newest) model

General compatibility tips:
Nest in generally compatible with most modern HVAC systems. Full compatibility information at: (click the link towards the bottom for an easy guide specific to your system)

Nest Protect Smoke and CO2 detector

What does it do?
Alerts you to smoke or carbon monoxide in the home or area you put it in – even remotely via your phone if you are not present at the time.

What is needed to run it?
The Nest Protect communicates with your phone and the Nest servers via your wi-fi, so having a wi-fi connection is generally the only requirement.

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes, relocation is very easy – please be sure to comply with local laws and fire code when removing any type of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors

Difficulty of set up:
Very simple to install – essentially replaces your old smoke detector, including hooking up via the backplate.

$99 for the latest model

General compatibility tips:
The Nest Protect can be used by itself and is also compatible with a number of other devices and all other Nest products. Comes in both wired and battery varieties, so make sure you pick up the right one for your needs!


SmartThings System

What does it do?
Controls lights and plugs in your home, monitor doors and/or windows, monitor temperature and/or moisture.

What is needed to run it?
A wi-fi network and a device to run the app on (iOS or Android).

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes, pretty easily. For the most part, the system is not permanently installed. A double-sided tape is used for the door/window sensors that is pretty easy to remove or relocate those devices. Many of the rest of the devices are not permanently installed at all – such as outlet switches that just plug into outlets, then devices plug into them.

Difficulty of set up:
A kit is very easy to set up and the app will help walk you through the process of connecting and installing each component.

Basic kits start at $199. A hub ($99 for most recent model) is needed to control the devices, which can be purchased separately. A starter kit is highly recommended for cost effectiveness and to understand the full ability of a system.

General compatibility tips:
SmartThings runs on Z-Wave technology which makes it compatible with any other Z-wave devices. There are no specific compatibility requirements for the home.

TP-link smart plugs and switches

What does it do?
TP Smart Plugs can control outlets in your home via an app. You can set a timer that runs consistently, check the status of an outlet (is it off or on) and turn any item plugged into them off or on from anywhere in the world.

What is needed to run it?
Wi-fi and a device to run the app (iOS or Android)

Can you “relocate” it?
Yes! Just unplug and take with you – nominal setup if your wi-fi network changes names or settings.

Difficulty of set up:
Just plug back in (possibly rename outlets in app) and go!

Currently selling around $25-35 for a single plug and a 4-pack for $120

General compatibility tips:
Fully compatible with any setup – very simple to use and setup (also works great with Amazon Echo, but works as standalone device)

Lee Adkins is the Founder of Amplified Solutions – a consulting company focused on operational excellence for real estate teams and brokerages. He has served in many leadership and committee roles at the State and Local Associations and is currently a Vice President at the Atlanta REALTORS Association. He frequently teaches and speaks at various conferences around the country. Visit to learn more or find free resources, tools and suggested reading list.

#015-Things Thursday: Learning to Love Security & the Smart Home Simplified

A picture of a heart-shaped padlock on a metal bar with a city in the background.

Security continues to be the topic du jour of the smart home security. Let’s hope it’s more than just lip service.

Security is looming huge on the smart home horizon. I’ve been having more and more interview requests on the topic of the smart home and what we are doing to help members protect their clients. In this weeks Things Thursday, you’ll see a few on security, plus a new section of our site! Check it out below.

  1. How to Build a Hack-Proof Smart Home (via Mansion Global)
    Okay, I am not a fan of the title, but there’s some good advice on this site. Pair it with our Smart Home Checklist and you’ve taken some good steps to securing your smart home. They recommend regular password updates and changes and password managers to keep track of your passwords. This is good, practical advice and you should consider employing it. I would not go so far to declare the home will be hack-proof, but hey, headlines sell, right?
  2. Discover the Top Smart Home Security Systems of 2017 (via ReadWrite)
    Nice list of a few systems that you may want to employ to make your home safer. Scout is a local Chicago company who are continually working to improve the experience of their system. I am surprised to not see the Canary Smart Camera on here, as their product has encrypted hardware and software on it. They’ve done a great job of making a secure product. They also have partnered with State Farm to offer discounts on burglar alarm insurance if you install one of their cameras.
  3. Apple’s Website Now Has a Useful List of Smart Home Gadgets That Work with Homekit (via The Verge)
    Apple’s making efforts to promote Homekit an dhave now published a web page intended to make it easier for you to find devices that works with its Homekit system. The system has been slow to roll out and I think that is due to the Homekit onboarding process. Not only is software involved, but hardware as well, as Apple requires the addition of an encrypted hardware chip into the smart device. This has proven to be a challenge for companies and has lead to longer development times. BUT, there is a reason for that. Apple’s trying to build a hack-proof system. Some good products listed on here.
  4. Smart Home Simplified by CRT Labs (via this here site.)
    Okay, you want to start talking to clients about smart home tech, but don’t know where to start? You want the basics on what devices are out there? Well, say no more. We have you covered. This week, we’ve released our series of pdfs and web pages called Smart Home Simplified. These documents explain the basics of smart home tech by looking at the device verticals. So far, we have papers on:

    1. Doorbells
    2. Thermostats
    3. Locks
    4. Cameras
    5. Lights
    6. Air Quality Sensors

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook.

Tech Trends 2017: A New Webinar from CRT Labs for REALTORS®

Looking for an in-depth look at the Smart Home trends of 2017? Look no further than this new webinar!

Join our User Experience Designer, Joe Sullivan, as he talks about six product categories making waves this year. Joe has a lot of great information on current smart devices, including a look at what each product does, the benefits of incorporating them into your current lifestyle, and some questions buyers and sellers may have about homes with smart home fixtures. Joe also goes over some tips for REALTORS® when working with smart home tech during the listing process. The webinar covers three security and three lifestyle smart home product families – smart locks, smart security cameras, smart doorbells, smart lights, smart thermostats, and smart air quality monitors. If you’re interested in this webinar, head on over to the product page at the REALTOR® Store and check it out! And let us know what other topics you’d like to see covered in webinars – we’re always excited to help our members learn more about technology and its impact on real estate.


#014-Things Thursday: Bad bear, wifi parking, and more

An overhead shot of intersecting streets in a dense urban environment at night.

Strides are being made in urban connectivity, but toys are causing IoT nightmares. Do we need internet enabled teddy bears? Also, a major manufacturer is entering the air quality market.

  1. Acer is making an air quality monitor (via Engadget)
    Acer is known for laptops but now seem to be entering the smart home market with an air quality sensor. The device isn’t out yet, but will hit the market this summer. They’ll be looking for carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter (pm2.5 – fine dust and pm10 – pollen), temperature and humidity. Sounds intriguing. No word on pricing.
  2. Smart Road to Parked Car: Talk to Me (via IEEE Spectrum)
    As we add more smart cars and smart city infrastructure, how do we make sure the network connected devices stay connected? Well, there’s a group at Carnagie Mellon looking at how to do this using parked cars. Check it out.
  3. Light up your house for less with our illuminating guide to LED bulbs (via DigitalTrends)
    A really nice explainer on LEDs and how to compare watts and lumens as well as many other factors that go into choosing. Also, do you need smart bulbs? Find out in this great piece.
  4. Electronic teddy bears the latest target for hackers (via ReadWrite)
    Another year, another internet enabled toy hacked. Come on guys. Seriously. To quote the article, ‘Just because you can connect something, doesn’t mean you should.’ Either beef up your security or don’t connect it.

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook.

The Long Road Around The Weather Underground

The Long Road Around The Weather Underground

The year is 2013, I’ve bought a small vacation house in western Michigan, in the country, way out in the country. Western Michigan gets a lot of snow in the winter, or at least it used to. We haven’t had much snow the last 2 years, but that’s not the point. Weather can make or break a weekend away, so knowing what’s going on in the area, weather wise, is really helpful.

Being an engineer and programmer I really wanted to be able to automate systems around the house and track the weather patterns over time. There are certain websites that will give you access to this data, some charge a nominal fee, others not so nominal, and others offer that data for free with limited access. Free sounded really good, especially after buying a house, but limited access wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted access to the data as often as I needed, and near real-time. Also, for a reliable system, this would require extremely reliable internet, and my internet connection at the house is anything but reliable.

This led me down a very long path to finding reliable sensors that allowed local access to the data, outside of a simple display. After a few searches on the internet I found myself at Ambient Weather. This is a great site for everything weather related, most of their offerings are around a basic weather display, but they also sell some kits that are WiFi enabled. In general the the WiFi systems use their connectivity to send data to Weather Underground, which is one of those free but limited sites I mentioned before. Wunderground is a great community of weather enthusiasts who install their own sensor arrays and push data to “the cloud” aka Wunderground’s servers. Developers can get access to this data using the Wunderground API, which I’ve used many time before on less intensive projects.

This is great, but again my access would be limited. I needed reliable real-time data if I wanted to integrate it into an automation system. I knew the sensor arrays had radios to transmit their data to the base stations, but intercepting and decoding that data was a bit beyond my skillset at the time. Although I did pick up a SDR to attempt it, with little success.

Long story short, I ended up purchasing this system WS-1001 WiFi Observer. It has a decent sensor array and is very reliable, but I was stuck with using the Wunderground API for data access. It worked great for tracking weather patterns, but the automation system would have to wait.

Fast-forward almost 3 years, I started working at NAR in the R&D Lab. We have a mission to improve quality of life for homeowners and educate our membership on the coming technology shifts in real estate. Smart Homes and home automation were on the rise, and members wanted and needed to know more about the benefits and pitfalls of a connected home. My previous work on local automation really shined when it came to the security concerns of a connected home. With little to no internet required, the attack vector was extremely small, someone would need physical access to the network to do any real damage. The search began again, with vigor, for local weather data. Luckily other people with far more skills in reverse engineering RF had been busy building software and hardware to address my concerns.

Ambient Weather had sold a device to do exactly what I needed, the Airbridge Receiver, it was out-of-stock and pretty expensive, but it actually works with the exact sensor array I have and the more expensive Davis Instruments systems. I was eventually able to track down the producer of the receiver, SmartBedded, they market the receiver as the MeteoStick. I went ahead and purchased a few sticks as well as the individual sensor arrays that I’d had great success with over the last 3 years. A few weeks later all the components had arrived, I put together the sensor array and plugged in the meteostick, and holy crap, I had real-time weather data streaming into my laptop with no internet required!

Grafana Weather Dashboard

Grafana Weather Dashboard

We’ve since gone on to build out a whole system for monitoring the health of buildings, including our own IEQ sensors as well integration with smart meters for monitoring energy consumption. We call the system Rosetta Home. I’ll be giving a talk about the system at a technical conference at the end of March. We’re also working with several non-profit organizations that are doing work with residential energy retrofits.

Facebook Live Office Hours: Adventures in WiFi, and WCR visits!

This week during our Facebook Live Office Hours, Joe talked about a new blog series at where he chronicles some of the challenges of resetting smart home devices. Then, we spoke to two members from the Women’s Council of REALTORS® about their experiences with smart homes! Don’t forget to visit our page at, and like it to get notified when we go live every Friday!

Facebook Live Office Hours: Adventures in WiFi, and WCR visits! from CRTLabs on Vimeo.