Smart home technology is slowly but surely bridging the gap between Hollywood sci-fi movies and our daily lives. It may be daunting for some to let technology take an increasing level of control in their own home, but eventually the comfort and convenience offered will be too good to refuse.
While we’re not quite at the level of a fully autonomous smart home yet, we are certainly seeing a focus on affordable smart home devices from all the big tech names.
Image: 2018’s Hottest Smart Hub offerings via The IOT Hub.
To get your smart home up and running you’ll want to start with a ‘smart-hub’. A smart hub is essentially the brain of a smart home; designed to control multiple smart devices at once, even if they are from varying manufacturers. If you’re looking to fit your house with smart lights, intelligent locks or smart cameras, a smart home hub will allow you to connect them all together. Smart hubs are able to seamlessly integrate and consolidate the individual controls of these pieces of tech into one app.
Mainstream advertising for smart hubs has ramped up in 2018 with Google, Samsung, Amazon and Apple all vying for market domination. If you’ve got a tight budget you’ll still be able to get yourself into the market with the Amazon Echo for around $130, while the feature-rich Apple Home Pod will see you forking out closer to $500.
Image: August Smart Lock Pro.
August’s Smart Lock Pro is a product that has me seriously considering a smart-home overhaul. Being able to open my front door, shopping bags in both hands, by simply having my phone in my pocket? Yes, please. I don’t even have keyless entry on my car, but on my house? For $260, take my money! No lost keys and I can even send my family members an encrypted code allowing them entry to drop off dinner if I’m still at work (no more 2-minute noodles). Cheaper alternatives can be found closer to the $200 mark.
If keyless entry doesn’t impress you the Amazon Key might. The new delivery service offered by the online giant integrates with most smart locks allowing online shopping deliveries to be dropped off inside of your home. If you opt for Amazon’s own ‘Cloud Cam’ you’ll be able to watch the delivery person enter your home and safely deliver your package. Allowing temporary entry to your home might sound strange to some but it offers a new flexibility to people living in apartments or time-poor individuals who can’t make it to the parcel depot during office hours.
Image: Phillips Hue Lighting.
Lighting & power.
The innovation of the on-off ‘clapper’ lights that surfaced in the 90’s deserves a round of confusing, strobe-lit applause. But it’s time for them to exit stage left and make room for the latest offering from electronics giant Phillips. Their range of Hue ‘smart bulbs’ features app-enabled control for both light intensity and colour.
Geofencing, which creates a virtual boundary using GPS, is also an enviable feature on the Phillips Hue bulb. GPS from your phone triggers lights to turn on upon entry into the zone and power off as you leave the zone.
Unfortunately, the luxury of cutting-edge lighting comes with a hefty price tag, especially if you’re looking to kit out your whole home. At $85 a pop, or should I say, bulb - this one might be reserved for the pool room.
Another crafty innovation is the Smart Plug from TP. This compact device will allow you to turn any standard household power outlet into a ‘smart’ outlet. A simple adaptor will give you remote power control of any device you choose to connect to said outlet. This is particularly handy for those little luxuries like turning off your bedroom lamps without moving from bed. A more practical use includes the powering off of those hard to reach power points for your hi-fi system or computer set-up. Beyond the convenience factor, you’ll also shave dollars off the power bill with connected devices no longer draining standby power.
Smoke detectors first revolutionised home safety over a century ago. While there have been countless upgrades to this established technology, we’ve never really seen any modern twist on the device… until now. Roost, a Californian tech start-up, decided to develop a smart device that can be retrofitted to existing smoke detectors.
Roost’s flagship battery was designed to give existing smoke detectors a smart edge. For $35 the Roost battery will provide you with real-time phone alerts should your smoke detector be set off. It also sends you a notification when a battery change is needed, which definitely beats a deafening beep at 2 am.
Roost also offer a smart garage sensor that lets you check whether you actually left the garage door up during your rush out of the home, or if it was all in your head. Also sitting at the $35 mark, this is a no-brainer for the forgetful or security-conscious individual.
Smart thermostats allow you to control your home cooling and heating system directly from your mobile devices or PC. Voice integration also allows temperature changes to be made through your vocal instructions, so when you want to heat things up a bit, you just need to say the word.
Beyond the convenience of remote temperature control, a smart thermostat allows you to pre-heat or cool your home prior to your arrival – not a bad idea for those freezing winter nights or summer heat waves, or if your beloved kitty or pooch isn’t used to rough living. Smart thermostats are very eco-conscious devices, they have their own scheduling systems depending on the time of day and can chart your energy use data straight to your phone.
Outdating the concept of smart homes and even smartphones are robot vacuum cleaners, and they are always improving. The integration of smart home concepts to the most recent generations of robot vacuums has seen some handy features come into play.
Through your iOS or Android device you are now able to start, schedule and even control many of the current ‘smart’ robot vacuums on the market.
If you’re really looking to out-do others, or you’re just extra lazy, ILIFE, are now offering a smart vacuum that has a built-in mopping function for when you’ve made a real mess. Its attractive bronze faceplate makes it look more like an iPad than a cleaning master-machine.
The bottom line.
You might ask yourself how smart does my home need to be? For some, key-less entry might do the trick, while others would love a rotatable camera that provides a live-feed of their pet (yes, this does exist, and I want one). If you’re willing to spend the money and dedicate time to set-up and optimisation, the smart home world is your oyster.
It will be interesting to watch the role that artificial intelligence plays in smart home innovations of the future. When the control of the smart home is left entirely to the ‘home’ itself we will see a true shake-up of our home living experience.
Another game-changer, in my opinion, will be the offering of brand-new homes sporting the latest smart home devices, or all-in-one packages that can be purchased for existing homes. Department store chain Myer has recently begun offering Amazon smart hubs in conjunction with one Phillips smart light bulb. While this is far from an all-in-one smart home set-up, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
A smart home future is certainly inevitable and once the blueprint is refined, widespread adoption will soon be noticeable. In the meantime, it’s enjoyable to sample a taste of what’s to come in the smart home space.