The advent of the “internet of things” has made it possible to bring your home to life with automation and monitoring. With the press of a button, or a voice command, you can control a wide range of “smart” devices. Here’s a roundup of the best smart home devices on the market right now.
Smart speakers allow you to ask questions and get answers from the internet, stream music and video from your computer, smartphone or directly from internet services. They can also control other smart devices in your home. There are 2 main contenders in the smart speaker market. Amazon Echo and Google Home. With Google Home not available in the UK until June, we will be featuring other smart devices that work with the Echo where possible.
The Echo is truly on of the best smart home devices you can buy today. You can ask Alexa, the Echo’s personal assistant to play music from Amazon music, Spotify and Tunein Radio. For example, you can say: “Alexa, play indie music from the 90’s”.
You can also ask Alexa questions and ask it to do things. These include setting alarms, checking the weather, making calendar entries, checking the news and reading audio books.
It can control compatible devices, such as lighting, power sockets and thermostats. So for example, you can say: “turn on the kitchen lights” or “turn off the TV”. It also uses the clever IFTTT (If This, Then That) technology, which means you could say as your going to bed “shut it all down” and have Alexa turn off the TV, lights and heating with one command. Pretty cool stuff! Check out the Echo’s compatible services and devices.
Getting answers from Google Home is easy. Just say “OK Google” and then you can ask question, make calculations, find out facts and check what’s going on in the news. Google Home will then speak back to you with the answers.
Google Home is “Chromecast enabled”. This means that you can use any of the Chromecast enabled music apps on your smartphone, such as Spotify and Tunein Radio to stream directly to the speaker. What’s more if you have a chromcast device plugged into your TV, you can ask Google Home to play from video apps such as Netflix direct to your TV.
Other features include setting alarms and reminders, making calendar entries and checking the weather.
Google Home can also control compatible devices such as smart lights, power sockets and thermostats and I programmable using the IFTTT system. Check out the Google Home’s compatible services and devices.
Google Home will be available in the UK by the end of June.
Your home lighting can now be controlled from anywhere using a smartphone or by voice using Amazon’s or Google’s smart speaker. The main player in this market is Philips with their Hue system.
It’s easy to get started with smart lighting from Philips. The bulbs are controlled via the “Hue Bridge” which connects wirelessly to your internet router. Once the bridge is installed, you can control up to 50 lights with a smartphone or a smart speaker. Schedules can also be set and if you choose the “richer colour” bulbs you can choose from 16 million colours. There is also a motion sensor accessory so the lights go on and off as you enter and leave the room.
There are many smart security systems on the market, but again, we feel if you’re going to have a smart home, then it may as well be voice controlled.
The Scout security system is a modular affair, which means you can install devices to suit your home environment. As with most smart systems, it all starts with the Scout hub, which connects wirelessly to your internet router. From here, you can add door panels, which allow you to arm and disarm the system as you enter and leave the house. Then there is an access sensor which can basically monitor anything that opens and closes such as windows or a safe. Finally there is a motion sensor which can detect movement, day and night within 25ft. Ideal for covering rooms with valuable items. Once the devices are installed, there is an ongoing cost. You can choose “Always On” for $9.99 which ensures even if your internet or power goes down, Scout stays up and running using battery power and a 4G mobile connection. For extra security, you can choose “Always On+” which adds a 24/7 professional monitoring service, which will dispatch the police in the event of an alarm. The system I controlled via a smartphone and if you have Amazon Echo, you can arm and disarm the system using voice, ask about events on each sensor, turn on the siren and more.
Smart door bells allow you to see and talk to visitors from anywhere using your smartphone. The market is flooded with smart door bells and there is only one which works with Amazon Echo, however, reviews suggest that it is not the most reliable system. Therefore, let’s have a look at the best selling system by Ring.
Ring Wi-Fi enabled Video Door Bell
This door bell connect to your wireless router and features an HD camera and two-way audio so you can see and talk to visitors clearly. It also has night vision. But what if the visitor doesn’t press the bell? The bell has motion detection and will alert you on your smartphone when someone is at the door. Clever stuff. The camera viewing area can also be zoned allowing you to discount motion in certain areas. Finally, as a paid add on service, you can record and store video and audio from your visitors.
There are a few smart smoke detectors on the market, which will notify you via your smartphone when there is a problem, but it appears the Nest Protect is the smartest.
The Nest Protect system is a Wi-Fi enabled combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Multiple devices can be placed around the home and will tell you what’s wrong and where it is via your smartphone. Alerts include low-battery, smoke and carbon monoxide.
The market is awash with baby monitors. The smart monitors allow to the see and hear your baby (or pet, teen ager etc.) using your smartphone. They have night vision and a motion sensors which send alerts to your phone.
Plater Smart Baby Monitor
We think for it’s small price, this device has brilliant features. It has two-way audio, Night vision 720p video at 15fps and has a memory card slot which can store up to 7 days of video with a 32GB Micro SD card.
Once again, there are many smart power sockets on the market which allow turning on and off of appliances using a smartphone, but we will look at the offering from TP-Link which works with Amazon Echo.
TP-Link Smart Plug
TP-Link’s smart plugs can but used to control the power on all of your smart home devices. You can install as many plugs as you want which are controlled using a smartphone with the KASA app. Appliances can be controlled from anywhere, you can set individual time schedules for appliances or set a timer and also has an “away” function which randomly turns on and off devices to make it appear you are at home. Finally, you can pair the plugs with Amazon Echo for voice control.
There are many smart thermostats to choose from providing control and scheduling using a smartphone. We will focus on the Netatmo Smart Thermostat as it is the most feature rich.
Netatmo Smart Thermostat
The thermostat can be controlled by smartphone from anywhere or by Amazon Echo. Based on a schedule you can input of when you get up and leave for work etc. automatically adapts to keep your home at the correct temperature. It also tracks your consumption which can be viewed on a smartphone app, potentially saving you money on your bills. There is also an auto-care function, which will alert you if the batteries are low, or if there is a problem with the heating system.
I hope you have enjoyed this roundup of the best smart home devices for 2017 and the possibilities that smart devices can deliver. If you would like to dip your toe into the smart device market, but are worried about setting up and configuring, Geeks Remote Support can help you setup and configure your devices. Check out our services.