There’s no question The Internet of Things is already changing the way we live, work and play. 2014 was widely tipped to be the year of the Smart Home and now that the derision of the first generation of Smart appliances (tweet from your fridge… lol!) has given way to valid in-home uses for cloud-enabled devices, the market is awash with products that let us build the ultimate connected home. Want to unlock your home’s potential and set up the Internet of your things? This list is a good place to start your research.
1. Smarten up your lights
Turning your lights on and off with a timer is nothing new. Neither is dimming and adding color to change the ambiance in a room. A ridiculously easy set-up process and being able to control up to 50 bulbs via the app are pretty impressive features but where I think Hue really innovates is in the release of its API. Connect your phone to Hue so the lights flicker when you receive an important email or set up an alert that turns a room the color of your favorite team when they score. The possibility to create a lighting system that aligns itself to my lifestyle and hobbies is indeed exciting, however i’m not 100% convinced I want to spend $200 to install lights I’m forced to control with an app. The fact Phillips have recently released a simple on/off hardware switch (and thus defeating the purpose of a Smart lighting system?) to me shows the demand for such a product isn’t quite there – at least not yet. Still, if you’re someone who likes flashy gadgets (literally) in your home this would be a nice addition to your collection, if not something you’d necessarily find essential.
2. Cant’s stand the heat?… stay in the kitchen. Nest will do the rest.
In the same price bracket as the Hue lighting system, Nest is a much more worthwhile purchase (as Google’s acquisition of the company would suggest). The sheer attractiveness of the interface is enough to sell it on its own, but this is much more than a pretty thermostat. The learning dimension is where you really see the benefit and what, to me, makes Nest the perfect example of technology that continually adapts to serve you better over time (saving you money in the process).
3. Knock Knock… who’s there?… Not you
The Internet of things is able to take the most analogue of interactions and turn them (needlessly) digital. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen. That said, seeing who’s at the door when you’re not at home is still pretty cool. There are several players in the ‘smart doorbell’ game and to be perfectly honest, for the most part they look rather clunky and few of them are something I can see myself sticking on my door any time soon. Added to that is the fact that most are simply wifi-enabled video intercom systems with an app stuck on top. Adding a smartphone interface to technology that already exists is not quite going to have me opening my wallet. There is a diamond in the rough however – albeit, still a fairly rough one – in Doorbot, being as it is, the only smart doorbell system that integrates video intercom with a Smart Lock that allows you to not only interact with the person at the door but let them in too.
LG’s Smart Thinq(TM) range of appliances adds connectivity to some of our most used electronics. Currently you can get your hands on a refrigerator, an oven and a washer/dryer. They may be prohibitively expensive right now but I believe these smart appliances are a hint of better and more affordable things to come. The use cases make perfect sense – keeping track of what’s in your fridge when you’re at the grocery store, never having that ‘did I leave the oven on?’ feeling or being able to check on the progress of your load of washing from another room. This isn’t about tweeting from your fridge or watching Netflix on your dishwasher, this is about more efficiently using your appliances to save you time, money and effort. We’re starting to see 3rd party ‘add ons’ to make our ‘dumb’ hardware ‘smart’ (Smartthings, Littlebits) and I for one welcome this new wave of innovation if i’m not quite ready to stretch for a complete solution such as Smart Thinq(TM)
Price: $1,500 – $3,000
5. Your tunes untangled.
Sonos is pretty much everything you could ever want in a home music system. The apps are designed wonderfully, the hardware is robust and most importantly the sound quality is top notch. The beauty in being able to play music wirelessly in any room, whether from a streaming service or from your own collection, is that it brings order to the fragmented way we consume music these days, letting you focus on the music, not how you’re accessing it. Sonos brings the simplicity of a traditional hi-fi system bang up to date in an elegant and powerful way. If I were to only choose to buy one item off this list, Sonos would be it.
Price: $200 for one speaker set up