Smart home gadgets cover almost all aspects of home life now. From smart fridges that let you know when to reorder certain items as you use them, to smart TVs and even smart weather stations for your back garden.
With more and more companies getting in on the market it can be confusing looking at all the options, trying to decide which one is right for you. Many are still emerging technology and aren’t always compatible with each other. If you’re already committed to Apple, for example, there are some that won’t be any good for you.
Aside from smart watches and drones, now regularly used for entertainment and work, what else is available to help your life run more smoothly and securely?
Smart security gadgets allow us to control the space around us, who has access to us and our property. With smart cameras placed inside and outside out properties and vehicles, we now have the ability to monitor almost every interaction we have if we so choose. I’ve broken down the security gadgets into 4 different categories with some examples of what is available.
- Doorbells – The first time I came across the Ring doorbell, it was in America and I used it to talk to someone on the other side of the country. I was blown away. It was a quick and easy connection. Since then we have invested in once for our property, which is fun and all, particularly when we can view our child’s interactions with it (hilarious!).
- Door locks – Keys (especially losing them and getting locked out) may soon become a thing of the past. For a long time now, big businesses have been using keypads or ID cards to allow their employees to access business properties and, it’s taken a while, home security is finally catching up. There is a growing range of smart products available that help keep your property secure while being easily accessible (with some models, you can even unlock remotely to allow trusted individuals access).
- Cameras – Again, internal and external cameras can be an amazing boon to those who have to continue working while also caring for ailing relatives. You have the peace of mind knowing that your property is safe and secure while you are away from it. It could also be useful if you live in an unsavoury neighbourhood and need to keep a track of who is coming and going. The best systems now tie in external and internal sensors, cameras and video doorbells, but you can get independent systems if you really want.
- Car Security – Apart from security cameras and sensors outside your home you can also get smart security accessories for your car, from subtle dashcams, protecting you in case of accidents, to trackers places in the car that allow you to trace it using your smartphone.
Smart heating devices can be a nice addition to your home. I was once staying with at a family home in Los Angeles while they were staying in Washington DC. Coming home one day from a hard day at Disneyland, we asked them to turn on the AC using their smartphone connection to their Ecobee system (not currently widely available in the UK), and it was nice and cool by the time we got home. Thank you smart home!
Imagine being able to remotely turn on your heating at the push of a smartphone button (or better yet, your Bluetooth being able to detect how far away from home you are and automatically switching on the heating or AC). Delightful! See what we have to say about Hive Heating here.
Smart entertainment is not a new thing, TVs have been evolving in that direction for years and they are now more accessible than ever. Many of us now have smart speakers in our homes for streaming music, radio, and even for answering trivia questions or finding out what the weather is predicted to be. We’ve written before about streaming services and with so many brands getting in on the action we’ve highlighted a few of the more popular brands below.
- Televisions – Now integrate traditional aspects of television (basic viewing of channels, etc.) along with web-based aspects such as live streaming, access to apps and the internet. Most come pre-loaded with their own content, along with some customisation such as that you can do with smartphones.
- Speakers – It’s amazing how interactive smart speakers have become, and how many are actually being sold and used in homes around the world. They are being used, not only for playing and streaming music and making phone calls but for smart information searches and even for contacting other users within the same home. Imagine talking to your kid or partner in another part of the house using a smart speaker. Very strange, but it’s becoming more common.
It is important in this day and age it’s important to be aware of the cost that all these smart gadgets come with, not just in pounds and pence but also to our environment. Investing in smart lighting can be a great way to help towards helping the environment as it promotes the use of energy saving lighting and can make automatic brightness adjustments based on the natural light levels inside the house. And if you accidentally leave a light on you can resolve that remotely.
Intro into smart assistants
- Voice assistants – The great thing about voice assistants is that they are instantly available. Just a quick ‘Hey Siri’ (or other as appropriate) and you have instant access to whatever information you need, be it looking up trivia, playing certain songs, contacting people or adding events to your calendar… and on and on. Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon) and Cortana (Windows) are probably the most well known but even car brands are getting in on the act now, creating a rise in how we think about internet searches and the rise in voice- versus typed- searches.
- Cleaners – These have really grown up over the last decade and many models now come with wifi connection and in-app control. It’s worth putting in the research though depending on your needs because you don’t want to be spending lots of money on a smart gadget and not have it fit for purpose. Roomba is probably one of the best well know model but there’s plenty to choose from.
- Gardening – Like robot vacuums, robot lawn mowers are now a thing. I was at the Ideal Home Show recently and saw a couple on display and thought it was actually pretty cool. Again, with a lot of companies getting into the market, it’s a good idea to take the time to make sure you have the right mower for your needs.
- Kitchen – Smart gadgets are making a big splash in the kitchen department. From fridges, that can tell you when to re-order grocery items as you use them, to coffee makers that can either be preset or told what to do by apps, taking the old Goblin Teasmades model to a new level. One of the favourite items I came across while researching this article was the wifi enables crock pot (or slow cooker). Brilliant!
Here is a list of smart gadgets that don’t really fall into any of the categories above, but the fact that they exist is pretty cool and shouldn’t be left out.
- Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector
- Nokia Body Cardio bathroom scales
- Lutron Serena Remote Controlled Shades
- Netatmo Weather Station
- Smart plugs (Who knew this was a thing!?)
- Eve aqua gardening tap – turning your outdoor tap into an intelligent watering system.
Is there a downside?
Not everyone is convinced though that smart gadgets and smart homes are such a great idea. It can leave some feeling incredibly isolated and out of touch, especially those that are elderly and not very competent with modern technology. A group of residents in New York have taken their landlord to court over fears that the new smart lock that was installed and have successfully petitioned for physical keys (that do work with the smart system.
There are also worries with security, whether these smart systems will be monitoring our activity or whether they are susceptible to hacking. There are also concerns that smart technology can be used by abusers to monitor vulnerable people under their control. All worrying concerns that will need to be taken into consideration when implementing new technology.
Any final thoughts?
Well, I feel like I’ve covered quite a lot already. Smart house gadgets are great ways to make our houses and the world around us more accessible, especially for those who are less able. The range of smart gadgets available out there is frankly astounding. The question could be asked whether they are strictly necessary for our lives to function, but then where’s the fun in that.
As long as they don’t suddenly take over the house like HAL 9000 it’s alright by me! Do you have any favourite smart gadgets? We’d love to hear about them!