Imagine a world where everything in our lives is connected to the internet and each other, not only smartphones and computers, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, door bells, cameras, windows, window blinds, windows, thermostats, water system, utensils-anything you could think of. A world where all of these devices can be in constant communication and controlled by users remotely via voice command or the simple push of a button. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It’s not science fiction; it’s the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s a key component of home automation and smart homes.
We are on the brink of a smart-home boon, with a growing number of consumers, 71%, expecting to see at least one smart-home device in every home by 2025, according to a recent study by Intel Corporation.
Whether you’re looking for an innovative way to home lighting or security solution, or trying to transform your house into a fully computerized, here is a walk-through some of the best smart home devices currently on the market .
The Echo is a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, Amazon’s handy voice assistant. Alexa works with a number of smart home devices directly, as well as with If This Then That (IFTTT) to control plenty of others.
You can also use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house by the sound of your voice. It is cloud connected, voice activated, and makes things easy and more accessible. The most recent release of the Amazon Echo can connect to Spotify and Pandora in addition to Amazon Prime’s music library.
HEATING AND COOLING
Google Nest Learning Thermostat or Ecobee
A smart thermostat saves you energy and keeps your house comfortable. That’s a big deal. .It’s easy to program and manage on the device itself and via a mobile app or browser. If you’re a demanding creature of comfort, it can also be connected to your Google app in iOS or Google Now in Android to turn on before you get home, by tracking your location.
The $249 Ecobee, also in its third generation, is similar to the Nest, with a clean though techier design. What sets it apart is that the Ecobee supports separate room sensors (one comes with the thermostat; an extra pair costs $79) that let it adjust the heat in those rooms when they are occupied.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has built-in Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature from phone, tablet, or PC. This latest generation also has a larger display and a few more sensors than its predecessors. If you find it a bit too pricey, Nest also offers the Thermostat E, which has most of the same smart features for $80 less.
Wink and Philips Hue Bulbs
The Philips Hue line delivers with bulbs that let you control not only the intensity of the light, but also the color. It can get pricey, to be sure, but the Hue ecosystem has been around long enough that it works with just about every other system out there.
Not interested in colorful lights but still want that cool granular control over an all-white bulb? Philips has the Hue White coming in at an almost bargain price, at least for smart bulbs.
Wink allows exterior lights to according to the intensity of sunlight. Inside my home, adjust various levels of “turndown service” that allow to strategically dim lights for the evening and then bedtime. But, the icing on the cake is the ability to turn your entire home into a nightclub with Hue colored lights and Thorlight for iOS.
Anova Culinary Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
If you’re interested in sous vide cooking—where food sealed in plastic is immersed in a hot bath to cook to perfection—you need an immersion circulator to get started. The Anova Culinary Precision Cooker uses Wi-Fi connectivity so you control it from anywhere, even when you’re not home. A big dial lets you set the desired temperature to within a tenth of a degree, display shows the set and current water temperature, and an app keeps you notified of the cooking process every step of the way. It makes cooking sous vide as simple as can be.
Since you control the temp remotely, using apps for iOS or Android. You just wait for the app to tell you when the food is ready. Inside there is 725 square inches of cooking space on four chrome racks that are easy to clean. Fill the smoker box with wood chips and it will work for nearly seven hours without a refill.
Perfect Bake Pro
New to cooking? Here’s Perfect Bake Pro for you. The Perfect Bake Pro takes out the guess work and risk when baking. It’s a baking scale connected to an app to help newbies get everything just right when it comes to kitchen chemistry. Just follow the app as the scale measures everything you add. As long as you can tell salt from sugar, you’re probably going to be just fine.
iSmartAlarm iCamera Keep Pro and Tend Secure Lynx Indoor
The camera is full of useful features including a powerful 1080p image sensor, motion and sound detection, mechanical pan and tilt, time-lapse and event-triggered video recording, and a motion-tracking feature that allows the camera to follow a person around the room. Throw in free cloud storage, an SD card slot for local storage, and support for IFTTT integration, and you’ve got a killer indoor security cam.
The Tend Secure Lynx Indoor is proof that good things do indeed come in small packages. This pint-sized home surveillance camera not only delivers colorful 1080p video and sharp night vision, it’s chock-full of features including motion triggered-notifications and recordings, two-way audio, free cloud storage, and facial recognition technology. All this, plus a $60 price tag, make it our top pick for affordable home surveillance cameras.
HOME SECURITY SYSTEMS
August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
The Smart Lock Pro + Connect is the latest offering from August Home, and as with the original August Smart Lock and HomeKit Enabled models, its better and bigger. This third-generation smart lock offers all the bells and whistles you get with the HomeKit model, and adds a few new features, including August’s DoorSense technology, Z-Wave compatibility, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It’s easy to install and can be controlled remotely or with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri voice commands, and it retains the sleek aesthetics of its siblings. It’s pricey, but it’s the best smart lock we’ve tested.
SimpliSafe Home Security System
If you prefer a DIY approach to smartening up your home security, check out the SimpliSafe Home Security System. SimpliSafe finds the sweet spot between a basic self-monitored DIY security system and a professionally installed and monitored solution. The system is easy to set up and use, and keeps your home safe from intruders and environmental threats like fires and floods. It’s a seamless solution that succeeds quite well at what it sets out to do—secure your home simply and flexibly, letting you monitor everything remotely with (or without) an affordable monthly plan.