What are the most popular smart home gadgets?
Many people start with smart lights because they are a relatively inexpensive way to begin your smart home journey. Smart security systems are also a popular early take-up as house-proud people like to monitor their homes from afar.
Voice-activated smart speakers represent a great way to show off the beginnings of a home automation adventure. There are lots of options to get you started though, it just depends what your priorities are.
What kind of broadband speed do I need to help run my smart home?
The faster the broadband you have connected to your home, the more devices you can connect without negatively impacting speed or performance. It’s not much use having the most up-to-date internet-connected home gadgetry if your broadband speed can barely handle your devices.
Smart bulbs provide a cheap glimpse into a smart home future; and a fun way of impressing any guests as you gently adjust the lights in your lounge to suit the movie you’ve chosen.
Smart lights can change colour and brightness, automatically adjust if you’re not in the room and regulate their output depending on the amount of daylight in your household, simultaneously saving energy and money.
The hub of your smart home: use your smart speaker to control other smart devices around the house, request recipe suggestions, solve important trivia conundrums, set timers and reminders, build lists, play games or have fun with the kids.
The more you interact with your smart speaker, the better it operates: its voice-recognition technology will adapt to your commands and your way of talking so it can provide more efficient responses.
The home entertainment landscape is changing for the better: we now create our own TV schedule from all the great content just a click away. From your ethernet or WiFi connected smart TV you can access a large array of online content – including Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Now TV, YouTube etc – and binge your new go-to series without even having to find the remote.
Smart security allows you to survey your living space from afar with pride, greet delivery people and tell them where they can stash packages, say hi to unexpected guests and ward off any unwanted callers, all from your smartphone.
Your system normally includes a combination of wireless security cameras, sirens, door locks, motion detectors and sensors that notify you when a door or window has been opened. Some indoor cameras can also function as baby monitors and pet-lovers can use outdoor setups to monitor the behaviour of their furry pals.
Keyless, WiFi-connected smart locks can be locked or unlocked using a touchscreen pin code or an app on your smartphone. And should you forget to lock up and you’re halfway to the airport/office/gym with little time to spare, just turn on the smart home app and secure your home from your phone.
Warm your household from under your duvet or cool it as you return from the beach, smart thermostats regulate your home’s temperature according to your initial needs and steadily learn what temperatures you like best and when. They also let you know when they need a filter changing and hold a wealth of fuel consumption information that can save you money on your energy bill.
Some smart feeders show video footage of your pet and have a microphone so you can speak to them from afar. Others recommend portion sizes depending on the pet, give you control over portions for pets on a diet or, if you have multiple pets, your feeder will recognise chips in certain collars and only release food to them. Everyone needs their fair share when you’re away, after all.
As well as telling your phone when you’ve left the fridge open, the best smart fridges have calendars, help with shopping lists, remind you to replenish groceries when you’re getting low and even recommend recipes based on the perfectly regulated food within
Create a brewing schedule so you never miss a beat, change your coffee strength and feel like a suburban movie star as your favourite drink awaits before you even get to the kitchen. Smart coffee makers are not an essential addition to a smart home, but they certainly are a welcome treat for coffee lovers.
Are smart devices really worth it?
Smart home installations are about personal choice and self-improvement. Early tech adopters might get a lift by being the first people on the estate to have automatic locks on their doors and the Ring home security service on their doorbell.
List lovers might want a voice-activated smart speaker to help them organise their lives in new and exciting ways. Cat connoisseurs might view a smart feeder as an essential addition to their garden so they can interact with their pets from afar and make sure they are okay.
What we do know is that in the future more and more houses will begin to have smart devices as standard as will workplaces and public places, so being prepared for smart gadgets to gently infiltrate your world is probably a good way to be.
What smart devices work together?
There’s a number of devices on the market that run different operating systems made by different companies that don’t always communicate, making it hard to hook up to a coherent system that can be controlled from one hub or application. After all, there’s nothing too clever about having to use multiple apps on multiple devices to control your home.
Which means the first thing you need to do when looking at buying smart home devices is to check their compatibility. A good way to start is to choose which smart speaker or advance controller you think is best for you and concentrate any subsequent buying decisions around compatibility with that device. Naturally, Google Home works seamlessly with Google Nest Hub Max and Google Chromecast, but it will work equally smoothly with Philips Hue White Starter Kit, Wemo WiFi Smart Plugs and Arlo Q security cams.
There are way too many combinations and permutations of smart devices to list what the best combinations are here, the best advice we can offer is this: choose an operating system – the most popular and wide-ranging are Google Assistant and Alexa – and then base your subsequent purchases around that initial choice.
What is the best internet speed for smart homes?
There are many different broadband setups, promoting many different speeds available on the market that will affect how you use and enjoy the internet in your home, including any smart devices you may own. The golden rule is this: the faster and more reliable your broadband connection the better it is for using multiple devices in multiple rooms all at the same time all day long.
Great home automation devices
Don’t worry if you’re a smart home novice, it won’t take long to learn the lingo and discover your options. Setting everything up is much easier than it probably seems, too. Depending on your area of smart home interest, here’s some best-in-class smart home gadgets to point you in the right direction.
Smart speaker for Alexa – Shaped like a veritable crystal ball, the 4th Gen Amazon Echo is a Bluetooth speaker handled by Amazon’s excellent voice assistant, Alexa. She’ll learn more about your voice and the way you speak the more you communicate with her and subsequently carry out all her tasks more efficiently the more time you spend together.
Smart speaker for Google Assistant – Google Nest Hub Max features a smart display that also doubles as a home security camera – handy for any room in the house. You can find out the latest news, the weather, see who’s in your home and it features a pretty decent sounding speaker to boot.
Smart home thermostat – the Nest is great for energy-conscious smart home enthusiasts and is the most popular smart home thermostat solution for a reason: you can monitor daily energy usage and program temperatures using an incredibly user-friendly interface in the mobile app.
Smart home lights – the Philips Hue smart light set-up allows you to adjust the lighting in your home to make it look like you’re there when you’re not, gently dim lights as you approach bedtime and brighten them as you wake up, sync mood lighting to your movie collection and generally regulate your lighting home set-up to within an inch of its ambient life.