We are at the dawn of what the technologist called “ the internet of things ”. As I understand it, that’s when everything – including devices at home – is connected to the Internet and each other. Eventually, these devices will communicate seamlessly with each other and we will reach the era of automation. But for now, at the beginning of that future, we have to be content with the seeds of the smart home. Here are the devices that can help you build a smarter home.
The problem with most so-called “smart devices” today is that they only work with other devices from the same company. To connect them all, we need a central command center that some people call The Hub . The Hub serves as the primary control for all devices in the home. It consisted of two parts: the hardware and the software.
Home control – with all its hardware plugged in – is expected to be a big deal, which is perhaps why Apple jumps into the water with its HomeKit . It’s part of iOS, so naturally, Apple wants to position iPhones (with iPads and Apple Watches) as the main control for its smart home. Looking at Apple’s history as a trend setter, you can be sure that other smartphone companies and the operating systems that power them (if they are not already) follow suit.
Other companies that also provide users with smart home control applications are Cassia ($ 99, 99) – which will create a network of devices around your Bluetooth hub, the HomeGenie (free) – an open source downloadable application that will transform your Android desktop computer and Windows phone) as the primary hub and Logitech Harmony Companion ($ 149, 99) – a combination of hub and smartphone apps that use the Wi-Fi network to connect to devices.
Even though the smart home revolution started before the Nest ($ 249), but many believed that this programmable, energy-saving learning thermostat is what brings the genre to the masses.
But like all other businesses in the world, when something is successful, competition will arise. In the world of the modern thermostat, it is believed that ecobee3 ($ 249) is a worthy competitor for Nest. Some even said that it is better than its predecessor.
The basic idea behind smart lighting is artificial light that can be programmed to suit the environment. Not only the brightness to help you save energy, but also the color to give your interior decoration a different ambience. Phillips is one of the pioneers with its flagship product Phillips Hue White Bulb (starting at $ 23). In addition to the lamp, Phillips also provides a wide range of accessories that come with it.
Another option you could try Cree Connected LED Bulb (starting at $ 24).
Smart smoke detectors
After successfully transforming an unattractive home device into futuristic beauty, Nest transformed another device that most of us considered to be a smarter, more presentable device: a smoke detector called Nest Protect ($ 99). This smoke and carbon monoxide detector works like other similar devices and will alert you aloud when it detects a problem.
But it’s also connected to your smartphones and can send you alerts even if you’re away from home. This connectivity allows you to easily turn the device on or off, without having to climb into the closet to reach the ceiling. You may need the feature if you are cooking something with excess smoke and do not want to activate the detector.
Another interesting feature is its ability to provide “path light”, lighting that will help you move around the room in the dark. You can set the feature automatically when Nest Protect detects your movement in the dark.
Intelligent audio system
People have been trying to reinvent the smart audio system for quite some time. Some of the latest iterations are Sonos Play: 1 ($ 195) and Amazon Echo ($ 179, 99).
Sonos Play: 1 is all about high quality wireless music. You can place the wireless speaker anywhere in the house – as long as it can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network, and the device can play any music from any source as long as the source is also connected to the same network . The concept is similar to Apple’s AirPlay compatible speakers, but not limited to Apple devices.
On the other hand, Amazon Echo is not only limited to providing wireless sound, but also wireless audio input. You can use the voice command around the device, even when playing music. It uses Alexa technology for voice command and you can use it to control other connected devices.
I am not an expert on the subject of smart home, but I am betting that we are still decades away from having truly interconnected smart devices in our home. If you can’t wait to jump into the future, what can you do to bridge the technology gap? How can you make non-smart devices a little smarter?
The easiest way to do this is using smart plugs. They will act as intermediaries to activate or deactivate at least one common device. We plug the smart plugs into the electrical outlets and plug the devices into the smart plugs. As we can control the plugs, we can control the devices connected to the plugs.
One of the smart sockets available today is the Belkin WeMo Switch ($ 39.99). These devices connect to the Wi-Fi network, can be controlled by mobile applications and are compatible with IFTTT. Then you can do various types of control and automation with these plugs.
This discussion is not complete without talking about smart locks. There are many cool things you can do with this type of lock. One of them will automatically lock your home when you are away and will open the lock when you get home. You can also lock or unlock one of your doors remotely, if necessary, for example, when your parents visit your home when you are not at home.
There are several models of smart locks available today, such as the August Smart Lock ($ 214) and the Kevo from Kwikset ($ 160). Both adhere to the motto «your smartphone is your key».
Possible companion for smart locks is doorbell with cameras that can tell who is in front of the door, even when you are away. And for those who register their homes through AirBNB, you can give a virtual access key to those who rent your property.
Some smart thoughts
Certainly the list will not stop there. There are more and more smart devices available each day. Some other examples are the house cleaner robot, like the Roomba 980 ($ 899, 99), or the Nest Cam remote camera ($ 199), or even products that will help you sleep better like Sense ($ 129) ).
Right now, upgrading your home with smart devices is pretty cool, but it will cost a lot of money. Not everyone can pay for the system or feel the urgency to make their home smarter. But as time goes by and smart home is an accepted norm, the price will be more affordable, as everything is available to the masses.
Where do we go from here? In the future, there will be more automation at home, and your devices will be connected to things outside the home, like smart cars, smart transportation systems, smart shopping centers and (maybe) smart neighborhoods.
What is your opinion on the smart home concept? Please share your thoughts and opinions using the comment below.