Over the past few weeks we’ve talked a lot about the best wireless smart home assistants. From the Amazon Echo and Google home to a whole heap of alternative devices, we’ve discussed every option for a HUB to control your smart home.
Smart home technology, including smartphone controlled heating, will become the norm in the nation’s homes according to a recent survey by HomeServe.
While the smart-home dream – where everything magically does your bidding without you having to lift a finger is still a long way into the future, even the most mundane devices will soon be able to do something to make your life easier.
By now you should probably have a good idea on what it is that you’ll be using to control your home (if not, then check them out) , now it’s just a case of knowing what your go to products are to set up your smart home.
First up on the list is the Philips hue starter kit .
Hue is one of the biggest names in the smart home business, and their starter kits make it easy to get the system up and going in your home.
Considering how long Philips Hue has been around, you’d have thought there would be a whole bunch of worthy lighting rivals trying to knock it off its perch by now, but no, other than a few Bluetooth bulbs and some half-cocked competitors, Hue remains essentially the top contender.
Philips Hue lights have always been a popular item with customers across the globe, making this the perfect kit for beginners. The Hue Starter Kit is arguably the best way into the smart home systems.
Getting started with Philips Hue is simple enough. Put your bulbs where you want them, plug in the provided bridge into your home network and then follow the steps in Philips’ app.
Many people think that setting up your smart home is only possible if you have a technical wiz on board to set things up, this starter kit proves how easy it really is. It’s important to remember each new app you use to control the lights has to be paired with them, and it needs to be plugged directly into your router, remembering this is the most difficult part of the process – proving how easy it all is.
This starter kit includes 3 Hue Light bulbs and the Hue Bridge, which is required to connect your bulbs to your home wireless network. Use the LED bulbs to light your rooms in either white or a colour ambience of your choice by simply make your decision by using the Philips Hue app for Apple or Android smartphones.
The lights bulbs can be grouped together enabling you to set a specific mood if all the bulbs are in one room. While the kit only contains 3 LEDs to get you going one network can control up to 50 of the smart bulbs meaning that if you enjoy the experience you can expand your smart home easily throughout the home.
The smart home lock is the ultimate smart gadget. Coming and going without the fuss of keys is the ultimate futuristic dream.
The August Smart Lock stands out as one of the top contenders in smart locks. It’s simple to install, lets you use your existing deadbolt and is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, meaning you’re able to lock your door using your voice.
It also comes with several add-ons, such as a wireless keypad, that increases both functionality and appeal. The August smart lock is unique in both its features and aesthetics, The way August packaged the lock is simple, minimalistic and clean, with a separate compartment for every piece included.
The lock itself looks very modern, and is available in silver, champagne, dark gray or red.
The August Smart Lock is noticeably different from any other smart lock in the marketplace today. The biggest distinction being that the hardware is installed on the inside of your door only; there is nothing at all to install on the outside.
The August is a circle, just a bit more than 3 inches in diameter and only 2 inches thick. The smooth face of the cylinder is plain, except for a small ring of lights that blink red or green indicating whether the door is locked or not.
The lock is easy to install, another positive difference from other smart locks. This smart lock enables you to continue to use your existing exterior deadbolt, replacing only the thumb turn on the inside.
Whether you’re using an Android or Apple phone, all you have to do is simply go to the application store and download the free August Smart Lock app. You will be asked to upload a picture and authenticate your account with both a text and an email code, for security reasons of course.
To open the lock is really where this product’s stands out from the crowd. The August smart lock is very versatile and can be opened quite a few different ways.
In the most traditional sense, or for those that may not have yet embraced the new digital age, you can use the standard key you would normally use to unlock the door (this being why only the interior of the lock is replaced).
Now a lot of people’s biggest worry in a smart lock is fear of not being able to gain access to their home, that’s why all the different options to gain entry are a huge bonus. The second option you have with the August smart lock is great for those that don’t always have internet. If you don’t have access to your phone’s network and the wifi is not connected you can simply access to the smart lock via Bluetooth, turning your smartphone into your key. All you need to do is enable your Bluetooth and let it find the device, as simple as that.
Everlock, on the other hand, is another feature available to all users as a third alternative way of controlling the smart lock. If you choose to enable Everlock, the deadbolt will lock automatically 30 seconds after the door has been opened and closed, meaning when you’re running out the house in a rush there’s no need to run about looking for your keys, the door will lock automatically and you can regain access with your smartphone.
August smart lock doesn’t limit the number of virtual smartphone keys you can give out, so you can avoid the hassle of having to delete old codes to make room for new ones. Everyone you need can have one, without the added expense of getting physical key cut.
You can assign guest access to the lock right through your smartphone, meaning you can assign a key to your neighbours while you’re away from home in cases of emergencies. With this, the days of wondering if you’ve left the stove on as you board your airplane are long behind us.
In addition to multiple guest keys you can also schedule time limits for certain “keys” meaning you can remove certain people’s access once you’ve returned home or if you no longer want certain people to have access to your home.
If you don’t want to assign somebody a key, but they need access to your home while you’re away you can unlock the August smart lock from afar and with the Everlock system it will lock again 30 seconds after they leave.
The Google-owned smart-home company, Nest, found it’s roots with the launch of their first thermostat, we’re however going to be talking about the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat, the most recent in Nest thermostat’s.
The new model uses an all-new design with a larger screen and slimmer profile, plus it adds a couple of new features to the mix. The thermostat has a touchscreen and a rotating face, which lets you change the target temperature with just one touch.
The rotation is a pleasant tactile experience and you may prefer to use this rather than the app as it feels so satisfying, and you don’t need your phone or smart device on hand to do so.
The Nest thermostat’s most interesting feature is the motion sensors fitted to “see” if you’re nearby. While some may see this as nothing more than an unnecessary invasion, it actually posses two pretty incredible uses. The first being as you move past the Nest into view the screen appears on, showing either the current temperature or time – depending of course on which you’d prefer. The second reason being that the motion sensors can work out how long it’s been since you were spotted at home, after a preset amount of time if Nest hasn’t “seen” you, it figures that nobody is home and turns down the heating – which is handy for times when you need to rush out of the house.
As with all the advanced features on Nest, you can turn this feature (Auto Away) off, if you don’t want it perhaps if you work from home it may not be as helpful as it’s designed to be. Needless to say, if you’ve got teens at home who more often than they’ll admit rush out the house and leave the heating on full blast, the Auto Away feature certainly is one of the more handy features you’ll be glad to have, if you prefer not to heat an empty home.
Nest is prepared for all situations – so if you do find yourself in a situation where the house is empty with the heating on you can turn the target temperature up or down remotely on the smartphone app, available for Apple and Android.
The smartphone flexibility is one of the best parts about smart thermostats, creating a space that always feels welcoming. It’s ideal if you’re heading home early and you know the heating isn’t scheduled to come on for hours. With a couple of touches to the app, you can turn it on from the bus so you walk into a toasty house.
One of the newest features of the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat is that it can now remotely control your hot water heating too. If you have a hot water tank, rather than a combi boiler system your Auto Away system kicks in for the water, after 48 hours, to ensure there is no energy wasted in heating the hot water tank while you’re off on your holidays.
A fantastic feature the Auto Away can save a lot of unnecessary expense when you’re away from the house. The Nest also poses a function it calls Furnace Heads-Up, for those of you with a forced-air furnace system. Essentially, this feature keeps track of the times that the forced-air furnace turns off to prevent overheating and if the device senses that there’s a potential issue, it will alert you in the Nest app, on the thermostat screen and in your monthly energy usage email, to ensure that there are no underlying problems that may become serious issues later down the line.
The Canary all in one home security device is a smart, contemporary looking device. It’s sleek cylindrical build looks stylishly modern, and is well fitted to all living rooms. The device comes in three colours, white, black and grey creating a sophisticated minimalist looking device, which is important for a device that needs to be kept out in the open.
Inside the device is Canary’s 1080p night vision camera, and a ton of quality features that set it aside from other devices. The first in a long list of of features that makes the Canary home security system worth it is the motion sensors that connect to the Smartphone app.
Once you’ve registered a phone with the device, any time you leave the house (or all phones registered leave) the camera will automatically enter ‘Armed’ mode. Meaning that if it detects motion within the house, it will start recording and send you a push notification. You can then view what’s happening in the home, sound an extremely loud siren, and even send an alert to the police if there’s something you’re not happy with happening.
Once you return home, Canary enters one of two pre-set modes. Disarmed which leaves motion-activated recording on, but you won’t receive any alerts so you can monitor if anyone is in a room they shouldn’t be – perfect for parties etc. While the Privacy mode disables recording altogether, these can of course be changed depending on what your preference is at any given time. Although based around home security the camera has other uses.
The app itself shows more than just your video feed; it also records all the local temperatures and levels of humidity – plotting the data into line graphs. Perfect if you’re growing or keeping plants indoors.
The recordings on the Smartphone app are displayed in a social media-style news feed, with the latest clips at the top so you can scroll through them in reverse chronological order. With the search feature you can quickly move to specific dates and times and to download clips.
The app also give you the additional option to bookmark certain parts of a particular clip so you can jump straight to a specific recorded event. The app also marks censored movement with a yellow bar on the clips timelines so you can jump straight to parts of the recording where movement has been detected.
The WeMo smart switches turns any of your standard devices into smart home devices. Simply just plug your items in and control them with the touch of a button.
The WeMo switch is encased in a semi large plastic shell, the design itself blends well with most home decor. The white design when plugged into a standard double socket fits neatly, with the second socket still accessible.
Apart from the physical on and off switch (which can also be found within the app) the only other button on the WeMo device itself is a small restore button stashed away on the top, which when held down for a few seconds initiates a manual reset. This enable you to clear any pre set routines that you may have, if you decide to change which item is to be plugged into the WeMo device.
As an example, if you have the coffee machine scheduled to turn on at 7 AM the hard reset button ensures that the device forgets this schedule if you swap out the coffee machine for the radio. Aside from that, every control you need is located within the WeMo’s easy to use app, or any hubs you connect to the app.
An interesting feature on this device is the motion detector. The motion sensor device itself is a small unobtrusive gizmo that looks a bit like a chess piece from a contemporary futuristic chess board.
Connected to the WeMo plug, the motion sensor illuminates pale blue whenever it detects movement, turning on whatever device it’s connected to. For example if you’ve set the device up inbetween your journey from the bedroom to the bathroom, it can make those late night trips a little less disorienting by lighting up as you go.
Using the app you can create timed sessions with the motion sensor – meaning if no motion is detected after 5 minutes it will turn itself off again to avoid leaving lights on overnight. Once again, besides the restore button on the top of the device there are no physical controls to play with, all commands are carried out within the Smartphone app.
All you’ll need to do is connect your phone and the app to the WeMo, the same way you connect your phone to a WiFi network. Once you do, the app will ask for the password to your home network; type it in, and you’ll be good to go. The WeMo app lets you create rules to regulate when the switch should be on and off, and what should happen when something triggers the motion detector.
For simpler functions, like setting an appliance to power on at a certain time every day, or programming a lamp to turn on when the motion detector catches you walking into the room, the WeMo basic rules will suffice, and the app it designed to make them easy to set up.
The standard slow cooker has been a revolutionary change in home cooking. While many may roll their eyes at the concept of a smart slow cooker because the idea of the slow cooker is already based on easy cooking when you’re not in the house, micromanaging the temperature and timer settings from anywhere can only be achieved with the smart one. This Redmond Multi Cooker will have an obvious appeal and does just that.
The Smartphone integration is one of the most interesting features of the slow cooker. It allows you to check the status of your meal and make needed changes to its settings while you’re away from the home via their app.
When you go to work or run errands, this cooker allows you to have more control of what happens at home. If you set a pot roast to cook on low for six hours, the Multi cooker will auto-default to warm mode after that time has passed but if for example you have a meeting that runs longer than expected or you end up stuck in a traffic jam, you can extend the timer for the warm mode via the app to make sure it doesn’t turn off and get cold before you do get home, meaning that your food can be ready to eat as soon as you walk through the door.
The multi-cooker is a perfect fit for any lifestyle regardless of whether you can only make toast and eggs or you consider yourself a chef – it’s simple and easy to use. Simply put all of your ingredients into the appliance, press a button, and let it do the cooking for you. Spend your free time where it matters most – with friends and family. 20 automatic programs will help you to cook soup, delicious main or side dish, fry a steak, bake a pie or make yoghurt by pressing a single button. The MULTICOOK program enables you to create your own cooking techniques, preset the necessary temperature mode and cooking time, controlling it all from the comfort of your smartphone. The Redmond Multi Cooker M800S-E is a sleek and stylish piece that looks great in every kitchen.
While Samsung are internationally known for their smartphone devices – their mission to create the most modern fridge on the market has been well and truly accomplished.
The family hub fridge features a four door french styling front – with an added 21.5 inch touch screen. Loaded with apps and inventory watching cameras on the inside this fridge screams modern contemporary style with it’s attractive stainless steel black finish. It’s a beautiful, futuristic appliance that pushes beyond what we expect from any of the latest fridge designs. Samsung have tried their hardest to ensure that this fridge has the much loved family feel that staple kitchen appliance needs.
From calendars and photos to shopping lists and reminders the standard fridge has always been the way that families communicate remotely. Within the wide variety of apps available there is all you’ll need to have the traditional communications through the family fridge.
There’s a shopping list app that can also connect to your smartphone so you’re never without the list, an app for displaying photos in a slide show feature. There’s a whiteboard app for drawing quick doodles or leaving messages for family members. The calendar app, StickiBoard imports all existing calendars into a shared family fridge calendar. All of this have been key features in the Samsung Family Hub, as a way of ensuring that it stays grounded and within the normal everyday use that we expect of a fridge. You may find yourself thinking that magnets and paper have done this job for years so what’s the need for a new fridge? Well that’s where Samsung have gone above and beyond in trying to ensure other features seem designed solely to let you do things that you could never do with your refrigerator before.
The most notable feature has to be the the fridge cameras, they snap a picture of the contents of the refrigerator each time you close the doors. From here you can press the “View Inside” button on the touchscreen to see the latest set of images, with the added option to drag countdown icons over specific items to help you track the expiration dates. The fridge also gives you the added option to download the Android or IOS smartphone app, so you can view the inside of the fridge and all of your timers while you’re out and about at the supermarket. The touchscreen is obviously the star of the show, at 21.5 inches it’s unlike anything you’ll see on a standard refrigerator. The large size is perfect for accommodating photo’s, the calendar and web browsing, but it’s not just the size that makes it so fantastic.
The smooth and constantly responsive touch controls that we have become accustomed to from use of our smartphones are perfectly reciprocated in the Samsung Family Hub. The device boasts 2 recipie holding and collecting apps, perfect for those modern day chefs, it has a TV streaming service for those that own a Samsung Smart TV. The most appropriate apps that the fridge offers is two grocery ordering apps featuring home delivery. We have a refrigerator that not only tracks what you have left inside it, but also allows you to reorder what you’re missing – it certainly in the future today. While the price it slightly higher than other items listed here today, with all the unique features that Samsung offers it certainly is deemed worth every penny.
Now most people will happily settle for a standard £20 smoke detector from anywhere as long as they have the protection, it’s pushed to the back of your mind.While it’s an understandable thought, reading up on the details of what a smart smoke detector actually features, you’ll see it’s actually much more intuitive than you may have first thought.
Starting first with the aesthetics of the device, if the appearance of your house is important then this could be a big focal point for you. Nest certainly have nailed the design side of things.
The Protect styles either a white or black finish, in a square design with rounded corners and a stainless steel mesh cover that not only looks contemporary in design but also gives smoke and CO a huge amount of access points.
While we understand that smoke detectors are rarely installed in places where they’re often admired, you still need to appreciate its stylish looks when you do see it.
Nest’s Protect features a ring of colourful LEDs surrounding the central on/off button, which alerts you in correlation to colour of the Project’s current status. For example the LED will be blue during setup or testing mode, green when everything is fine, yellow/orange to warn that there’s a potential smoke or CO emergency and red when there’s a real smoke or CO event.
The LED also has an added option of illuminating white as an optional night light that is illuminated when you walk underneath it.
Beyond looks, the Nest Protect is a nifty little device to have on hand. One of the biggest features to point out, I feel, is that if you’ve lost WiFi or it’s temporarily down, it doesn’t stop the detector from working despite being a smart design.
The Protect will issue a loud warning if it senses increasing smoke or CO levels (specifically, it will flash the yellow/orange colour LED and say, “Heads up. There’s smoke/CO.”). Subsequently, if there’s an emergency, the LED will flash red and say, “Emergency, smoke/CO detected”.
The Protect will also test itself for low batteries or any other concerns on a regular basis, the Nest also features the ability to communicate with any other Protects in the house (if one alarm detects smoke, all in the house sound the alert).
With Wi-Fi you can do a lot more with the Protect, including naming each individual device to determine which specific device senses the smoke or CO. You can opt out of the nightlight feature (pathlight) for specific Protect devices, if you feel it’s unnecessary.
When paired with the Nest Protect smartphone you can receive notifications via the app if smoke or CO has been detected while you’re not at the home. You will also receive notification to let you know when each device has been updated or is running low on battery power.
The app is available on both IOS and Android devices.
The smarter coffee machine is personally what I believe to be the biggest movement in technology for a long time, and I’m sure all my fellow coffee fanatics will agree.
It’s a bean to cup machine for a very healthy price bound with some incredibly technology.
The smarter coffee machine works as your standard filter coffee machine, grinding up the beans and putting them into a coffee filter. Adding near boiling water into the mix, gravity takes over to regulate the flow. Of course most people know how a coffee machine works so moving swiftly on to what we’re for – what makes the smarter coffee machine smart.
What has earned the Smarter Coffee Machine so much attention, is its Android and iOS compatibility and smartphone app.
The Smarter app lets you set a coffee schedule, for example firing-up first thing in the morning and again when you get home from work. You can set up four personalised rules throughout the week. Perfect if you’re set into your routines. However if you’re more of a free spirit or work crazy shift patterns you can also just remotely start the smarter coffee machine brewing through the app wherever you are as long as you have WiFi.
For the most part the Smarter Coffee Machine is pretty easy to use, you can customise the strength of your coffee and determine how fine you would like the beans to be ground up. Once you’ve settled on all the different features all you need to do is choose the number of cups you’re wanting the machine to make.
The smarter coffee machine can make up to 12 cups at 1 time, holding them in the glass carafe with the added feature of a heat plate underneath to keep your drinks warm while you’re not there. It should be noted however that one cup is not equivalent to one mug so if you’re drinking out of a mug more than one will be required depending on the size. Interchanging the number of cups made doesn’t only affect the amount of water used but also the amount of coffee grounds produced and the amount of beans used.
So practicality aside the Smarter Coffee Machine it a nice looking machine. It’s a square build made from mostly plastic, however the silvery pares are topped with actual metal which is a nice effect for coffee machines as they so rarely feature anything other than plastic. While the front face parts are plastic the machine features red and white clip on plates that allow you to change the colour in respect to existing kitchen decor.
The machine boasts some fairly spectacular features, many favouring the grinder up top. You pour beans in the reservoir, letting you use nice ’n’ fancy coffee blends designed for real coffee fanatics. Alternatively, you may prefer to just put grounds in the filter yourself and bypass the grinder altogether, especially if you’re after flavoured coffee – it’s easy to alternate between the two. It’s entirely up to you.
The iRobot 615 is the ultimate device in contemporary style. The whole look is well rounded with every join curved and every knob and button accented by soft circular or semicircular borders. A fantastically smooth look combined with a colourful finish, the overall style is slightly cartoonish with the typically modern twist that you would expect in a iRobot.
The level of technology now packed into this incredible base model is truly incredible.
At the centre of the iRobot’s features is an updated version of iAdapt, the iRobot’s system of software and sensors, which is now programmed to learn the layout of your rooms and makes multiple passes for a more thorough clean.
One of the best features you’ll find on the iRobot is “Dirt Detect” which uses an acoustic sensor to locate which areas have more dirt, so that it can focus more time on those areas. The same patented three stage cleaning system that is found on the flagship Roombas is also found in the iRobot Roomba 615, meaning it can equally clean carpets, tiles, laminate and hardwood flooring all to the same high standard. In addition to that, this model now uses far more advanced technology and cleaning powers/suction to more effectively handle hair, pet fur, lint, carpet fuzz and other fibres.
The model features “Aerovac” technology coupled with new sleeker brushes (designed to minimise hairs caught in them) which was created to optimise airflow to ensure that the bin is filled more evenly – meaning it can be emptied less.
My personal favourite feature of the iRobot is the device’s ability to automatically dock itself when it detects low batteries or when it has finished cleaning. The battery lasts around 80 minutes on a full charge which is usually more than enough time to go over multiple rooms. Depending on how long you’ve had the device – the iRobot learns quickly to memorise the layout of the room and where certain objects are kept.
The device is eager to dig into every nook and cranny it can find before making long, sweeping passes on the wide open areas of your floor. The iRobot Roomba 615 does a fine job of picking up debris roughly the size of popcorn and is effective at collecting fluff and dust.
The device itself, seems very illogical, watching the multiple pass system – especially when you’re used to manually hoovering, can seem fairly random. However when left to it, and allowed to pass over the floors in the routines that the device has programmed itself to follow the end results are excellent and can save you a huge amount of time.
We are keen to know about smart home devices that you have used or encountered or maybe just fascinated about. Drop us a line in the comments section below.