Living in a smart home is now more achievable than ever before, with the benefits of multiple linked devices and appliances bringing an unprecedented level of control and efficiency to any household. Smart homes are those that enhance everyday technology - think, the TVs, lighting, sound systems, domestic appliances, etc.- with feature-rich, intuitive applications and automations that enable you to effortlessly control your home via smartphones, smart switches, voice commands and even gestures.
The best smartphones have become the de facto gateway for all sorts of smart home devices, via apps that enable you to adjust, for example, a smart thermostat before you even arrive at your warm, toasty home. You can easily program and select lighting scenes if your home contains the best smart lights, letting you create the perfect ambience for relaxing or entertaining.
A smart home is increasingly one that is secured and protected by smart technology, such as smart locks and smart security cameras, many of which now include smart apps and features that enable you to monitor your home from wherever you happen to be .They can often be automated to alert law enforcement or security services if they detect trespassers or other illegal activity.
At their most fundamental level, however, smart devices simply make everyday life that little bit smoother and easier, letting you get on with the business of living and enjoying your home with the control and convenience of the best home automation systems at your fingertips.
If you’re interested in creating a smart home for yourself, we’ve covered some essential gadgets across those key areas of home life that can be enhanced with a smart device, from security to entertainment to household chores. The devices we’ve chosen might not be the most premium examples of the types of gadgets available, but they are perfect for showing how a little smart thinking can go a long way.
1. Amazon Echo Smart Speaker
For many, their first encounter with smart home technology is a smart speaker. The best smart speakers enable you to use your voice to interact with a ‘voice assistant’ to control not only the speaker itself but an array of other smart devices you might have around the home. The speaker can be connected to a variety of streaming services such as iTunes, Amazon Music and Spotify to play music on demand. You can also catch up on the news, assemble a shopping list or set reminders with a simple voice command.
Competition in the smart speaker market is fierce, but the Amazon Echo is on its way to becoming something of an icon thanks to its attractive spherical design, excellent audio quality and the responsive voice assistant. While the Alexa app isn’t quite as refined as say, Google Home or Sonos, the Amazon Echo remains an easy to use smart speaker with excellent connectivity options to a staggering variety of smart-enabled devices.
Read more: Amazon Echo (4th Gen) review
2. August Smart Lock Pro
Smart security devices such as the best outdoor security cameras and wireless security cameras help to alleviate the anxiety common to many homeowners, who worry over whether a door has been left unlocked or if unwanted visitors have gained access to their property. The best smart locks, such as the August Smart Lock pro, often connect to existing deadbolts and can tell you if the door is securely closed and locked.
The August Smart Lock pro is one of the simplest smart locks to use, and can be used to lock or unlock your door from your phone while still being able to use your keys. It even locks automatically behind you when you enter or exit. The lock is battery operated with an expected life of three months, but batteries can be reordered automatically when the battery runs low. The lock can track activity with a 24-hour live feed via August’s app DoorSense. Best of all, the August Smart Lock Pro can be operated via smart assistants like Alexa, Google Home and Wink.
Read more: August Smart Lock Pro Review
3. Nest Learning Thermostat
Incorporating one of the best smart thermostats into your home heating system is a great way to enjoy the efficiency and convenience of smart technology in a way you can really feel. Smart thermostats put paid to the time-worn, obsessive tweaking of older thermostats and implements automation and smart learning to understand your habits and needs in order to optimize your home’s temperature at the most important times of the day. This can not only make your home more comfortable but can save you money.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is a great example of the utility and freedom afforded by smart thermostats. It’s not exactly the cheapest, with the price hovering at around $200. However, the Nest Learning Thermostat is simple to use, stylish and versatile. It replaces a traditional thermostat and uses existing wiring, making installation a breeze. Over time it learns your habits and lifestyle to conserve energy and lower your bills. It can be controlled via the app, but the Nest Learning Thermostat can also connect to voice assistants so that you don’t have to reach for your phone every time you want to adjust the temperature.
4. Philips Hue Color Ambiance Smart Bulbs
The best smart lights have transformed the way we illuminate our homes, enabling us to bathe our living spaces in a variety of colors and moods. No other device has spearheaded the smart lighting revolution quite like Philips Hue Color Ambiance smart bulbs. They connect via Wi-Fi to a Philips Hue Bridge which in turn operates your bulbs via an easy to use Philips Hue smartphone app. From this, you can control the color and brightness of every Philip hue bulb in the house and automate bulbs to illuminate at your chosen times of day.
Hue can be controlled with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home too. With an ever-expanding range of useful accessories such as Philips hue switches, lightstrips and standalone lamps, Philips Hue offers a one-stop shop for all smart lighting needs. There are, however, more affordable options available from other brands, which use the same ZigBee platform and offer similar connectivity and customization.
5. GE Profile Smart GDT530PSPSS dishwasher
It was inevitable that smart technology would find its way into the kitchen, since that’s where a lot of the home’s most egregious chores can be found. Many new kitchen appliances such as those found among the best dishwashers and best washer dryer combos have begun to incorporate smart technology to enable users to automate and monitor daily chores, and the GE Profile Smart GDT530PSPSS dishwasher is a great example of that.
By itself, the GE Profile Smart GDT530PSPSS dishwasher is a quality dishwasher that cleans exceptionally well with plenty of room for cleaning larger items. It is with the Wi-Fi enabled smart technology that the dishwasher becomes something more entirely. Connected to the SmartHQ app, you can monitor your machine’s cycle status from wherever you are in your home, or simply ask a smart speaker voice assistant to update you. It will even automatically detect your detergent levels and reorder without you having to lift a finger.
6. iRobot Roomba i7+
Robot vacuum cleaners have been a futurist dream since the Victorian era, but now that the best robot vacuums have become a reality, many users find them indispensable. These clever devices can help clear your floors of grit, debris, allergens and pet hair all week long, often while you’re out of the house. Many can even be controlled via smartphone apps and voice commands.
The Roomba has become the name most synonymous with robot vacuum cleaners, and iRobot’s Roomba i7+ is the latest model that incorporates some of the most advanced automation and smart technology yet. It’s so smart, in fact, that the iRobot Roomba i7+ can even dispose of its waste in its dock without any interaction from you. It can be controlled via an app or voice commands, and offers superior suction and battery life compared to similar devices, though at a significantly higher cost.
Read more: iRobot Roomba i7+ review