From light bulbs to thermostats to security, this guide provides you the ultimate insight into smart home devices and new, upcoming technologies for your house.
- What is a smart home?
- Smart devices V ‘normal’ devices
- Home automation
- 6 benefits of smart home devices
- Smart home devices for your home
- Smart devices for outdoors
- Energy efficient tech
- Houses of the future
What is a smart home?
You may have heard of the IoT (internet of things) – in the most basic sense, the IoT is a web of all sorts of devices which are interconnected through wireless internet connections. Even things you may not have considered are connected to the IoT, such as street lights!
A smart home is in part a branch of the IoT, with the word “smart” meaning there is some form of connectivity or artificial intelligence involved.
Basically, a smart home is where one, many or all devices in your home are interconnected through wireless connections.
How are smart devices different to “normal” devices?
Take a light bulb as an example. A standard bulb will be wired into your houses’ mains electricity and will only be controlled by a switch (or two) on the wall.
A smart light bulb will also be wired into the mains, however will also have a wireless connection to a main hub, where it can be controlled remotely.
In short, smart devices can be controlled wirelessly and usually have more advanced functionality than ‘standard’ devices.
Home automation – What is it and how does it work?
Home automation is the ability to access and control all of the smart devices which are installed in your house. With the use of an app or voice controlled device, you basically have a central control unit which is connected to every smart device.
From the lights to door locks, windows and blinds to security cameras, you’ll have the ability to automate and control everything in your home.
6 benefits of smart home devices
Before we explore a range of useful smart home devices & technology, we’ll quickly highlight the main benefits of smart home devices.
1. Energy Efficiency
One of the most prominent advantages of smart home devices is the improvement in energy consumption.
With devices such as a smart thermostats and electricity meters, you can track your consumption in real time and adjust your usage accordingly. The majority of smart thermostats will also allow you to program when your heating turns on and off, with some even suggesting ways for you to improve your efficiency.
The extra functionality with other devices such as smart lights and blinds also further reduce your energy consumption.
2. Monthly bills reduced
Due to the improvement in energy consumption in your home, your electricity and energy bills will reduce. This doesn’t really need explaining… a reduced amount of energy used will undoubtedly reduce your monthly bills.
3. Ease of management
You may be wondering if it’s really worth the extra costs just to turn your heating or lights on and off when you’re not at home. The thing is, it’s not just the heating and lights that can be controlled when you’re away.
Think of a time you’ve been in a rush to get home and cook before taking the kids out to an event, or going back out for an important meeting etc. With a smart home, you’ll be able to preheat the oven to save that extra bit of time.
Or, you may have rushed out of the house one morning, not remembering if you locked the front door. But no need to worry, you’ll just need to open up an app on your phone to check if the door is locked!
4. Safety & Security
The number of options available to you with smart home security are vast. From motion detectors to surveillance cameras to mobile alerts.
To some, the added safety that smart home security devices bring is invaluable. Whether you’re tucked up in bed all snug or touring a different country the other side of the world, your home will feel much more secure.
We’ll explore some of the best smart home security devices later on in this article.
5. Remote monitoring
We’ve mentioned it in a few of the above points, but remote monitoring of your house is a great benefit of smart technology.
Not only do the devices allow you to precisely monitor and control aspects such as the indoor temperature, whether lights have been left on, if you’ve left a window open or a door unlocked, but it also brings you an improved peace of mind.
6. Improved functionality
Smart home technology isn’t just for the lazy; with built-in AI systems, it can assist everyone in day-to-day life, making some mundane tasks enjoyable. Within reason, whatever you can think of – there’s probably a smart device that will improve your way of life.
Smart home devices to modernize your home
Below we’ll go through some of the most beneficial smart devices for the interior of your home.
None of the links below are affiliated. We do not have any association with the products listed. They are merely to show you the available options.
Smart devices – hubs & controllers
At the core of a smart home is a hub, or controller. These devices link all devices to one central unit and can usually be run from a mobile app.
Without a hub/controller, you’d likely have many many separate controllers for each smart device, which really defeats the object of smart devices improving day-to-day life – you’d forever be looking for various devices controllers.
Hubs will also likely be compatible with devices such as the Amazon Alexa range, meaning you can simply ask your house to do something. Sounds like we’re getting to iRobot times!
Having smart lighting in every room in your house will allow you to control both the brightness and the colour, either from your phone or by talking to your main hub controller.
With smart lights, you could also set a program up that turns lights on and off at various times to make it look like you’re in the house when you’re away – although this may be going a bit too far.
Smart home heating and cooling
By connecting your home with a smart thermostat, you can control the temperature of each room setup on the system individually, from anywhere, from any device. Smart thermostats are an excellent way to keep track of your energy consumption from heating and/or air conditioning to reduce your energy usage.
It can be fairly pricey to get your whole house setup and running with a thermostat, but may be worth it if you feel that there’s room to reduce your heating/cooling costs.
You’ve probably heard of the Alexa or Google Nest – if not, these are at their core speakers with voice activated commands and built in AI that allow you to control other smart devices, play music, ask for recipes or ask what the weather forecast is for the next few days.
Smart speakers also act as a personal assistant – you can set reminders, alarms, write a to-do list and much more.
You can also configure multi-room smart speakers – each speaker will link to one another, allowing you to do all the points listed above in any room of the house, meaning you’ll always have accessibility at your fingertips.
For the kitchen
Smart devices aren’t just for playing music, saving electricity or searching online – The majority of devices in your home could theoretically be replaced with a smart version – even in the kitchen.
From kitchen scales to ovens to a refrigerator that can plan your meals, the list goes on.
Here’s our top picks of devices that you can incorporate into your home to make the kitchen a smart room.
Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator
This refrigerator serves more than just keeping your food fresh. You can set expiration notifications for the food inside and even plan a meal from the available foods inside. Further to this, you can play music from the voice activated commands and also create shopping lists and reminders.
Anova Precision Cooker
This Alexa compatible precision cooker is a sous vide and is both bluetooth and wifi connectable. It contains over 1000 recipes and will cook your food to perfection. See more info on the Anova precision cooker.
Breville Counter-top Ovens
Get your food baked, fried or toasted to perfection with the range of smart ovens by Breville.
Hamilton Beach Coffee Maker
Another Alexa compatible smart device for the kitchen is the Hamilton Beach 12 cup coffee maker. If you’re in a rush in the morning, you can simply ask Alexa to brew you a coffee!
For the bathroom
You may be wondering how you can make a bathroom smart – yes there are devices that can even connect the bathroom into the IoT. Here’s a couple of our favorite innovative smart devices for the bathroom.
Programmable shower heads
These allow you to personalize your experience with an in-built touchscreen. You’ll have the ability to control lighting, water temperature, spray strength and they also have the ability to listen to music or the radio.
Not only are smart showers great for personalizing your shower time, but they also allow for time-in-shower tracking, water use tracking and electricity usage – providing you the ability to cut back if you realize you may be spending a bit too much time in there.
If you feel like the programmable shower is a bit much or too pricey, a simpler device is the Waterpebble. This small device measures your water consumption in the shower and will help you to use less water and save energy.
For the living room
With the living room being one of the most-used places in the home, it comes as no surprise that there are a vast array of devices that can turn your living room into a smart room.
The living room is probably where you’ll want the most connectivity. Here are a few devices which you can use to personalize your living room to be a modern, Tony Stark-like room.
Lighting and speaker combos
With smart lights and speakers, you can really personalize your living room to unwind after a long day or create a lively atmosphere. The customization doesn’t just stop at setting a certain hue of light and asking your smart speaker to play your favorite playlist – smart lights can integrate with the surrounding and respond to music, films and even video games.
For those who love convenience, a smart sofa can be a great integration for your living room. An example of a smart sofa with a variety of functions is the smart 2 seater console tech sofa, which has a power recliner and headrest, storage, charging ports, built-in speakers, console unit, plug sockets, cooling cup holders and a wireless charging port!
For the bedroom
Even though humans spend a third of their life asleep, there are still a large number of innovative smart gadgets that can be used for the bedroom, and no, we don’t mean in that way.
With smart devices that improve your wakeup mood, devices that track sleep and others that purify the air, there’ll surely be one that you will benefit from. Here’s our top picks.
Withings Sleep Tracker Mat
This device analyses your sleep cycle, heart rate and whether you are snoring. As it integrates with a dedicated app, it also automatically dims the lights when you’re going to bed and will turn the thermostat up when you’re predicted to get up.
Ever been up at night and tried listening to some calming waves or a light story to help you drift off, but your earphones fall out or are uncomfortable on the pillow? With SleepPhones, you’ll get a soft headband which has a wireless connection and built-in speakers, enabling you to listen to music, stories or anything else to assist you to drift off.
With devices such as the AXIS Gear, getting out of bed in the morning can be made much easier – with a set time to open your blinds, or when activated by voice control, you’ll be able to ease into the mornings with natural light. This device doesn’t require you to buy a new set of blinds.
Smart indoor cleaning devices
Sick of vacuuming every other day? Well don’t worry, with smart devices such as robotic vacuums, that’s one chore you’ll never (hopefully) have to do again.
Below are a few devices that can assist you with the cleanliness of your home.
These are small robotic devices which will sweep up all the debris on your hard floors. They can be left to their own devices to continually clean, or programmed to clean at certain times of day.
Working in a similar fashion to the robotic mops, these devices can be programmed to do set cleaning schedules to keep your carpets fresh and clean. Both the robotic vacuums and mops also have proximity sensors, so you won’t need to worry about them bumping into (and potentially damaging) any furniture.
Portable sanitizing wands
Although these devices aren’t classed as smart (they don’t connect to a main hub or go around cleaning on autopilot), however they utilize UV-C to kill microbes, mold, germs and viruses from surfaces – a great device for the clean freaks.
Tired of cleaning up your cats litter box? With this self cleaning device, your litter box cleaning will reduce. There’ll also be less odor!
Smart safety & security devices
As discussed above, safety and security is one of the main advantages of integrating smart devices into your home.
There are a wide array of smart security devices which you can install to make your home feel safe and secure. Below are what we believe to be some of the best devices currently available.
Whether you’re in the house or at the office, if someone rings your doorbell, you’ll get a notification on your mobile and can remotely connect to the built-in camera within your doorbell to see who’s at the door.
Wireless Door Locks
These serve two primary functions. For one, if you’ve left the house in a rush, you may be concerned that you forgot to lock the front door – simply open up your app and check/lock the door remotely. Secondly, they provide key-less entry, kind of like a key fob – as long as you don’t loose your phone, you won’t need to worry about carrying keys around.
Cameras and motion trackers
Wireless security cameras are a must-have for a smart home. You’ll have the ability to check on your property at anytime from anywhere across the globe. Recordings can also be stored on a local or cloud based device.
A standard smoke alarm is a lifesaving device when you’re at home and the unthinkable happens. However, they don’t stop the house burning down when you’re away. With a smart smoke alarm, you’ll receive a phone notification to alert you that the alarm has been triggered.
Smart technology for outdoors
For the plants
There are a variety of smart devices which can improve your gardens health, such as the Parrot Flower Power Plant Sensor, which measures your plants water, fertilizer, heat and light and compares the results to a database of over 6000 plants.
If you live in a climate where sprinklers are necessary but you still get rainy days from time to time, a smart sprinkler will turn itself on or off, depending on the current weather. Smart sprinklers will also allow you to program custom sprinkle schedules
Smart lawn mowers
Keeping your lawn tidy needn’t ever be on your mind again. With smart lawn mowers, you map out the perimeter of your garden, along with sections you don’t want mowed. A small robotic mower will then continuously mow the lawn and will even calculate when it’s running low on power and return back to the dock to self charge.
Smart pool cleaners
Working in a similar manner to smart lawn mowers, a smart pool cleaning device will ensure that every single tile of your pool is fresh and clean. Most pool cleaning devices also contain filters to siphon out the leaves and other debris that gradually builds up in the water.
At the high priced end of the smart pool cleaners, you’ll also get wifi connectivity, meaning that you can control the device from your mobile, tablet or desktop and set various cleaning programs and cycles.
For the perfect shot
Ever seen a bird sitting pretty in your garden and taken out your phone or camera to take a picture, but it flies away or the photo is too blurry?
With a bird photo booth, you’ll never miss an up-close shot again – These devices are an integration of a bird feeding table with an in-built camera. When a bird comes to feed, the device will be triggered to snap a quick shot.
Smart home technology for energy efficiency.
Reducing your carbon footprint at home doesn’t need to stop at simply installing a smart thermostat and blinds.
There are a wide variety of new technologies which can be included into your property to improve energy efficiency and make your house an eco-home. We’ll explore the most beneficial technologies below.
It is well known that solar panels can improve your energy efficiency at home. Not only do they provide completely free electricity (minus the upfront cost) but you can also harness the power of the sun to heat up your water.
You may be thinking that you don’t have space on your land for a gigantic wind turbine, however we’re not talking about those massive ones found in the countryside and offshore farms.
There are a variety of companies which offer you the ability to harness the wind to offset your dependency on the grid, however it can be fairly expensive.
If you’re knowledgeable in engineering, you can go the DIY route, which will definitively save you a large amount.
The Tesla powerwall is a high performance battery which integrates with solar panels, or other green energy sources. The built-in technology charges up the battery during the night and while you’re out the house, providing you completely clean electricity when it’s needed.
For small gains
Smart power strips are simple, fairly inexpensive devices. They appear to function in the same way as standard power strips, however they have smart sensors which detect when devices are fully charged or on standby and will completely cut the power to the device.
Houses of the future
While technology is rapidly advancing, there is definitely a huge room for improvement to get to the point of completely eco-friendly homes that are not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative – i.e. produce more green energy than they consume.
To get to the point of carbon negative housing, every property will need to be kitted out with every possible green energy generation device, including solar roofs, solar roads/driveways, excellent insulation, smart windows etc.
However, the houses of the future will not be constructed from traditional brick and mortar. Even the structural materials need to be completely changed out for the new – concrete is highly polluting to the atmosphere and brick and mortar builds do not provide sufficient insulation when looking at the wider picture.
Undoubtedly, the houses of the future will be interconnected through heaps of tech and won’t look at all similar to the present day. Maybe one day in the not-so distant future we’ll be living underground or in circular pods or maybe even on mars!
Utopia or dystopia?
With all the advances in technology and connectivity, many people are fearing a dystopia – quite the opposite of the purpose of smart technology. But there’s no doubt that having everything from the bulbs to the washing machine in your house connected to the internet that some people will try to take advantage of the situation.
You may have heard the phrase “neural net” thrown around. Many worry that this is a bad thing, however it’s actually already here.
In fact, you’re already part of the neural net – ever walk out the house without your phone and feel like your missing something? That small handheld device is already an extension of your true self and you’re already hooked into the AI world.
Let us know how you feel about the advances in smart home technology and whether you think we’re entering the start of utopia or dystopia by sharing this article and tagging us in a comment!