One day we’ll look back and remember the days when we needed keys to enter our home or had to manually turn thermostats up and down.
This will likely end, thanks to smartphones. Because of our phones and tablets, there are a number of Wi-Fi-enabled innovations that can help you control the inner workings of your home with the tap of an app. Even more hands-off are the latest crop of devices that are voice-controlled, allowing you to perform tasks like preheat an oven or turn your lights on and off just by saying a simple sentence. Think of them as home goods 2.0.
If you’re ready to give your home a smart upgrade, we’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up eight genius devices that will increase your pad’s IQ. And while we wouldn’t go so far as to label these items as essentials, they are additions that will make your life that much easier. Once you try them out, you’ll probably wonder how you ever lived without them.
Note: The prices below reflect the listed retailer’s price on the date this article was published.
Meet your newest at-home assistant. Google Home is an voice-controlled device that can answer questions for you, give real-time weather and traffic updates, play music from services like YouTube and Google Play Music, and even add items to your grocery list. And coming soon: hands-free calling. The device’s functionality, along with its speaker, make it among the top performing voice-controlled assistants on the market. And for just under $130, it’s also one of the cheapest.
Nest products top the Amazon No.1 best-selling smart home list, with items such as its Outdoor Security Camera ($158.53; amazon.com) and its Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm ($119; amazon.com). That said, the brand’s highest-rated device is actually its 3rd Generation Thermostat, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa. The device learns as it goes, picking up on your preferred temperatures and lifestyle. In about a week of using it, the thermostat becomes self-programming, based on your typical behaviors. More noteworthy is the fact that the Nest Thermostat can turn itself off when nobody is home to help cut your costs. And because of that, it was the first thermostat to be awarded an Energy Star, an accreditation that the US Environmental Protection Agency gives to business that help save people money and protect the climate at the same time. Making your home smarter and greener sounds like win-win to us.
Sometimes you’ll want to be greeted with your porch light on or have your living room start to cool down once the outside temperature begins to peak. It’s these small preferences in life that make us feel more at home. An easy way to control and schedule your lights, fans and other small appliances from your smartphone or tablet is through the WeMo Light Switch. With it, you can do all the aforementioned features, as well as connect it with your Nest Thermostat to put your house in “away” mode. This will turn your lights on and off randomly to create the illusion you’re home. Over 3,000 5-star reviews agree, $50 isn’t a bad price to pay for peace of mind.
Yes, even refrigerators have jumped on board the smart technology bandwagon. Take Samsung’s Family Hub French Door fridge, for example. Samsung’s appliance can mirror your Smart TV, stream music and even share content from your mobile device. Plus, a Wi-Fi enabled touch-screen built into the door allows you to check out what’s in the fridge without opening it. Pretty genius, right?
If there’s one smart home product you really should invest in, it’s a security camera. This will enable you to keep an eye on your home even if you’re on the other side of the world. The Arlo Pro Indoor/Outdoor Wire Free Security Camera uses advanced motion sensors to trigger recordings and send you email or app notifications if movement is detected. Free Cloud storage allows you to save any recent activity. Other notable features include a weatherproof design, infrared night vision and a wide-angle view of up to 130 degrees. But what sets Arlo apart from other Wi-Fi cameras is that it’s one of the few that features rechargeable batteries (that can last for months), so it’s completely wireless. This makes installing the device simple and straightforward.
Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for over a decade. But the newest iterations, including Neato’s Botvac, have integrated smart technology to make the cleaning process even more hands-off. The Botvac app gives you access to schedule or start the cleaning process, even if you’re not home. The device features a LaserSmart mapping and navigation system to scan the room and detect objects before it begins cleaning. And when it’s time to re-charge, the vacuum automatically docks to its charging station. Basically, all you have to do is sit back, relax and let Neato do the cleaning for you.
Virtually every newer model TV screen that delivers on audio and picture quality also has built-in smart technology. This is great if you’re in the market for a new screen. If you’re not ready to part ways with your current setup, just add a Roku Streaming Stick to give your TV smart capabilities. Once you plug in the add-on to your TV’s HDMI port and connect it to your Wi-Fi network, you can instantly access over 1,000 streaming channels, including Netflix and Spotify. The stick allows you to send videos from your phone or computer for even more streaming options. At just shy of $50, it’s cheaper than dishing out hundreds of dollars on a new TV.
Even water bottles aren’t immune to a smart technology upgrade. The H20Pal Smart Bottle Hydration Tracker takes your typical reusable bottle and connects it to your devices to track your daily hydration levels. It also can sync with your Fitbit, to send you notifications throughout the day if you’re lagging behind on your daily water goals. This is especially important as research has shown that not drinking enough water could result in headaches, nausea and even cognitive impairment. A simple solution to staying healthy is to stay hydrated at all times. H20Pal will hold you to that.