A house that you can talk to is no longer science fiction. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from it. These days, there are so many products on the market it can be confusing as to which one is best. Fortunately for you, I’ve rounded up the best ones, so you don’t have to have a hard time choosing.
What to look for:
When shopping for a Smart Home device, there are several factors to consider if you want it to integrate with your current devices and to be as useful to you as possible
Back at WWDC 2014, Apple announced HomeKit, a service that would bring all compatible devices together. The main advantage of HomeKit is that once set up, you can control everything with Siri, and in one central app. You’ll also be able to control it with the new Apple HomePod, coming sometime this year. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, this is definitely one to look for. Just look for a “Works with Apple HomeKit” badge. Or, you can just look at the official list of HomeKit Supported Accessories.
Amazon Echo/Alexa support
Many people investing in smart home tech will buy or at least consider an Amazon Echo because they were the first on the market and therefore have a very high number of services that they support. You can check out the list of Alexa supported devices.
If you’re a Google fan (like Sam) you may have invested in a Google Home unit. It runs Google Assistant, like on your Android phone if you live in the US. It’s only sold in the US, UK, and Canada so if you live anywhere else, you’re out of luck. Here’s a list of fully supported Google Home devices.
If This, Then That or IFTTT, is sort of like HomeKit that works with just about all technology. Both Google Home and Amazon Echo have IFTTT channels, so it’s a good thing to look for as well as one of them. HomeKit does not have an IFTTT channel yet, so don’t look for it if you want HomeKit.
If you are going to invest in just one Smart Home technology, it’s gotta be lights. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce the first contender:
While many people think of Hue bulbs as Overpriced, pointless pieces of rubbish, they don’t appreciate the slew of features it has that its cheaper competitors don’t. Unlike any of them, it supports HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home AND IFTTT, plus a cool range of third-party apps. It’s app also has a number of very cool features, such as the ability to turn lights on and off randomly to make people think you’re home, and the ability to simulate a sunrise, which is a very good alternative to an alarm clock since Alarm clocks are bad for your health. They actually do cost quite a lot, the starter kit starts at $69.99, and contains two bulbs
They actually do cost quite a lot, the starter kit starts at $69.99, and contains two bulbs and a Hue bridge, which connects all your bulbs together. If you want to go for second hand, bear in mind you will need a second-gen bridge for HomeKit support.
If you just don’t have the money for Hue, a cheaper option is the Belkin Wemo light starter kit, which comes with all the stuff that the Phillips Hue Starter Kit has, but only costs $49.99. Bear in mind that it is not compatible with HomeKit, but it is compatible with Echo, Home and IFTTT.
After you’ve stocked up on lights, the next thing you need to do is get a smart thermostat. These are surprisingly easy to install: All you really need is a screwdriver. Since they can turn on and off using HomeKit and IFTTT when you leave the house, they can save you a ton of cash (Or credits, which is how you probably pay your heating bill). Here are the two best on the market:
The Nest thermostat is quite a piece of tech. It learns when you like to have the house at certain temperatures, and after a few days, it will change up and down automatically. It was designed by the dudes who did the original iPod Nano, and you can definitely see the resemblance. Unfortunately, it was created by Alphabet, which is the parent compony of Google, so it doesn’t have HomeKit support. Don’t pull out your credit cards just yet, as you might be wowed even more by the next entry. If you really are sold you can Pick one up here for $249.
The ecobee range of products is for two kinds of people: People with big houses, and people with Apple devices (because it supports HomeKit and is also recommended by Apple). Its main selling point is that it comes with a sensor that you can place anywhere in the house that is generally hotter/colder than the rest of the house. It then connects to the main unit, which will try and equalise the temperature to the rest of the house. You can also buy a pack of two extra sensors for $79. The new ecobee4 thermostat comes with the Amazon Alexa assistant, which is the same girl that powers your Echo. You can pick one up for $249.
If you have not invested in a range of Alexa-powered devices for your home and/or you want to keep the price down, you can pick up an ecobee3, which is just like the 4, but with no Alexa for just $199. If you don’t need a room sensor you can save even more with the ecobee3 lite, for just $169.
Now that you have your home humming away on autopilot, it’s time to invest in some security devices. And of course, when someone says “Security” the first thing you think of is locks. There are plenty of locks on the market, but for you, dear reader, we can only recommend the very best.
August Smart Lock
The August smart lock is the Phillips Hue of smart locks. It supports Alexa, Assistant, HomeKit and IFTTT. It works by connecting to the app on your phone/smartwatch and as soon as it connects, it unlocks for you. It fits on the back of your door so that anyone with a physical key can still get in. Plus, you can give a person virtual keys, so that they can also get in. You can pick one up here.
While just about everyone in Technology likes the August Smart Lock, I personally prefer the Kwikset Premis. As you can see, it has a physical key slot, and it also looks nicer. It has a system whereby you have to enter two randomly selected numbers BEFORE you enter your code to prevent brute-force attacks. You can set up to 30 access codes for people, and the app keeps a log on what people used it at what time based on them. You can pick one up at Amazon for $229.
So these Smart Locks are great and all, but what if you want to protect somewhere like your shed or even your bike? Do you have to use traditional locks? Certainly not! Some Genius somewhere created the Noke padlock, which basically works the same way as the August, but it’s a padlock. You can even buy an official adapter to make it into a bike lock! You can read more about it and pick one up for 59.99 here.
Smart Security Cameras
No smart home is complete without some security cameras. Bear in mind though, that one WiFi cam can devour over 23GB of data A DAY, so if you have a capped data plan (like many people do here in SA) then this is an absolute no-no.
And, as with every category in the Smart Home world, there is one product that everyone knows and loves, and all the others just follow. Here, it’s the Nest Cam. It comes in three models: The IQ can recognise faces, zoom in on activity, record in 4K (Four times more than 1080p HD), a huge speaker and microphone, and work in dark places with infrared and HDR. This is the real deal. You can Pick one up for $299.
Pictured above is the Nest Indoor, the practical one. You can mount it on metal with built-in magnets, on walls with the wall mount, and even on a magnetic tripod that you can wrap around metal bars. It only does HD, though. You can have it for $199 You can also get the Nest Outdoor, which is basically a rugged Indoor, also $199
You’ll want to subscribe to Nest Aware, where you can get up to 30 days of HD record, as opposed to snapshots for the past three hours. It costs $10 a month for the basic subscription and $30 a month for the extended subscription. Nest Cams don’t work with HomeKit.
D-Lind Omna 180 Cam
While there are certainly a lot more Smart Home Gadgets (Wall sockets, Garage Doors, Light Switches, curtains, doorbells) I think I got the basics.
What Smart Home Gadgets do you use? Would you like us to cover anymore? Let us know in the comments!