Smart home devices all connect to the internet in some way. But certain ones can be speed hogs and may require extra internet speed to keep up. Speed is also referred to as bandwidth in this case.
Generally speed won’t be a major issues for most smart home setups. However, you will need a certain speed for streaming video from security cameras. That is especially true for cameras with 4K sensors which will eat up a lot of bandwidth.
What speed of internet do I need?
Generally I have been fine with about 150Mb/sec at my home. I have connected light bulbs, Google Home and a home theatre with 4K streaming. I also have three Nest Cams, two of which are the Nest Cam IQs with 4K sensors. These cameras have usually been taking up the most bandwidth on a daily basis. But if you have over 100Mb/sec you should be totally fine to send the variety of commands necessary for smart home devices.
In fact, most smart home devices actually don’t use all that much bandwidth or require blazing fast speeds.
Streaming smart security cameras are bandwidth hogs
If you have smart security cameras, this is where you will want to pay attention. Nowadays most good security cameras are at least 1080p in resolution. This means the picture is nice and crisp, but they use more bandwidth. On my Google Wifi I can keep an eye on what devices are using the most bandwidth at a given time and it is my Nest Cam IQ Outdoor which is usually top of the list consistently using around 0.02Mb/sec of download and around 1Mb/sec of upload. This is because it is sending the video to the cloud for storage on the Nest servers at all times. This number can also spike depending on what is on screen (detail, movement and color) as I have seen it closer to 3 or 4 Mb/sec upload.
Upload is definitely the number you will want to consider when looking at how your internet will deal. Download is really only used when viewing the footage from the cloud. I’d say if you have average around 10Mb/sec upload you should be just fine for even the most taxing smart home cameras. Unless you have like 6 or 7 of them, you should be alright.
How much bandwidth does Google Home and Amazon Echo use?
It is a bit of a myth that Google Home and Amazon Echo use a tonne of internet bandwidth. Sure, you may see them transferring a lot of packets of information internally in your network, but this usually is not actual internet use. Unless you are streaming music all day everyday, your Google Home or Amazon Echo should be using less internet bandwidth than something like a 1080p security camera. In most cases a lot less. Even if you are somehow streaming high resolution audio codecs 24/7 the smart speaker would still be within reasonable bounds.
In terms of some actual numbers, a looked at my history for my Google Home Mini for the past 3o days and it used : 691MB download and 204MB upload. This is mostly music streaming. The speed necessary to actually stream this music was negligible. My regular full size Google Home was actually about the same for the past 30 days.
However, because smart home assistants can technically send and receive large amounts of data throughout the day, its not a bad idea to consider an unlimited data plan. Speed won’t matter at all, but in terms of actual bandwidth per month, you don’t want to hit your limit just because of a few Google Home Minis and smart cameras.
Your wifi network matters
Having a good reliable connection to the internet for all of your devices is crucial to a well run smart home. This means that you can’t have corners of your house that aren’t covered with your wifi network. This is why I installed a mesh wifi system in my home. It easily keeps a solid connection with my outdoor security cameras, downstairs 4K streaming boxes and various lights around the house. Wifi connection also strongly affects the actual speed of data transfer for these devices. So if a device is only getting a minimum signal, it may actually affect the quality of, say, a security camera feed.
I would highly recommend a mesh wifi system for those of you with outoor security cameras which happen to be the biggest bandwidth hogs but are also most often the furthest away from your central wifi point.
By the numbers: Bandwidth ratings for different smart home devices
I decided to do a little research and look into the bandwidth requirements for different smart home gadgets. The results are pretty consistent with my comments above.
Maximum upload bandwidth per device
Nest Cam IQ @ 720p: 0.8Mb/sec
Nest Cam IQ @ 1080p: 1.3 – 4 Mb/sec
Nest Hello doorbell cam: 0.12 – 1.25Mb/sec
Arlo Q Plus camera @ 1080p: 1.5Mb/sec
Amazon Echo (idle): about 10Kb/sec
Amazon Echo streaming music: about 320Kb/sec
Google Home (idle): about 10Kb/sec
Google Home streaming music: about 320Kb/sec
Nest says that a Nest Cam IQ can average around 100 – 400GB per month. This is a good deal of data so I’d consider having an unlimited internet data plan at home if you run these type of security cameras. But clearly smart home voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo don’t use much bandwidth at all when they are idle, and will generally only use minimal bandwidth with high resolution audio streaming from something like Spotify or Google Play Music. The take away? If you have a security camera, keep an eye on your quality settings for upload.
How to lower the amount of data used by my smart home
If you find yourself going over your bandwidth every month then consider taking a look at the settings on your smart home security cameras. These will be the major culprit when it comes to eating up internet upload bandwidth for when it is transferring data to the cloud. 1080p will generally be the highest setting so ratcheting this down to 720p will definitely result in a lower bandwidth usage overall. Just know that this will also result in a less crisp image on your camera so it is definitely a trade-off.
Smart streaming devices for your theatre will also use a good deal of bandwidth but on the download side when you are watching Netflix or Youtube. Consider adjusting the settings for resolution, especially if they are default to 4K resolution which can quickly use up bandwidth.
If you are a serious smart home user I highly recommend having an unlimited bandwidth plan on your internet.
Smart home speed tips
If you are ever concerned about your internet speed, go online to speedtest.net and do a speed test to make sure you are getting what you paid for. Also, if you have a router like Google Wifi, you can actually track bandwidth usage in real-time and over as long as a month for each device on your network. This is a very awesome feature to keep an eye on your ever-growing list of smart home devices that may be going rogue and eating up internet bandwidth.
Conclusion: What internet speed do I need for my smart home?
Generally internet speed will only need to be around 100MB/sec or even a bit less in order to enjoy all of the best a smart home offers. However, bandwidth usage comes into play over time with smart security cameras which transmit data constantly. 1080p and 4K cameras will eat up bandwidth very quickly so I recommend keeping an eye on the quality settings on these security cameras if bandwidth usage is a concern.