9 smart home products to make life easier

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | June 15, 2015

We've come a long way from when the TV remote represented the highest technological home convenience you could operate from a distance. Smart home technology lets you remotely control a lot more than a TV -- and from a lot further away than your sofa.

Today if you own smart home devices, you probably communicate with them wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet. The Internet of Things (IoT), by assigning each new device a digital identity, is expanding the capability of interactive communication with new devices and intelligent versions of existing ones. According to a 2014 report on digital technologies from the information technology research and advisory company, Gartner Inc., by 2022 a typical home will have more than 500 smart devices operating wirelessly.

IoT already makes it possible for you to interact with smart home devices and systems using a smartphone from anywhere. Giants of the computing world such as Google and Apple, as well as numerous smaller tech companies, have platforms from which manufacturers can design home products and developers can create compatible apps to make managing your home's systems seamless and enjoyable.

These are only nine of the explosively growing number of smart home products and technologies that are changing the ways in which you can manage your life, both at home and away, but we think they're the best of the best for making your life easier.

To get you organized:

  1. Brillo. Not the wire scouring pad, but Google's Brillo -- the basic operating system for Android (and Weave, its companion communication layer) -- form a modular system that manufacturers and app developers can use together or separately to develop smart tech products that you, the end-user, control from your Android device. Say hello to your new home base.
  2. Now On Tap. The evolution of Google Now, On Tap anticipates your needs and answers your questions based on your location, at home or away. Want facts about the landmark or tourist site you're at? Tap on your Android and ask even a partial question. It also moves you seamlessly between apps, and that's our major reason for including it on this list: as smart home apps evolve, we anticipate Now On Tap will help integrate them seamlessly together to make running your home easier than ever.

To synchronize your life:

  1. Apple HomeKit. For iOS users, Apple HomeKit currently provides remote interactivity using Siri to communicate to you from products in your home such as Ecobee's wi-fi thermostat; Elgato's Eve line of sensor products that monitor appliance energy use, indoor and outdoor climate conditions, door and window security and water consumption; iHome audio systems; Insteon smart home controller products; and Lutron lighting and dimmer controls, to name just a few.
  2. Nest. You may already be familiar with Nest, the makers of Learning Thermostat, the hottest -- or coolest, depending on how you like your indoor temperature -- thermostat on the market, and Nest Protect that tells you when and exactly where fire, smoke or carbon monoxide threatens your household. Works with Nest expands the capability of these products to work with Whirlpool washers and dryers to control home energy consumption; LIFX LED lighting that will pulse red when Nest Protect sounds an alarm; and Mercedes-Benz to signal your arrival time at home from your car so the home temperature will be just the way you like it as you pull into the driveway.
  3. Wally. Another product that Works with Nest, Wally uses sensors in your walls to monitor the temperature for each of the rooms in your home to further customize comfort and energy savings for your whole house. You can also set it according to "scenes," for example, when you wake up, go to bed or go out. Wally creates a network of sensors that use your existing wiring and can also monitor humidity, alerting you of possible water leaks.
  4. Phillips hue. You can customize Phillips hue, an LED lighting system, for your personal lighting color preferences at any time of the day or night. While you are away from home, you can turn lights on and off or set them from wherever you are to simulate your usual routine. Hue, like LIFX, can also alert you to danger. It can change to complement your moods or improve them. Sunn, another smart home lighting system, syncs your indoor lighting with the sun's rotation to keep your circadian rhythm on track regardless of the season.
  5. Goji Smart Lock. Keyless entry and remote door locks are relatively new, but Goji takes home entry a step further by sending your mobile phone a real-time photo of visitors who show up at your door. The system records all activity so you can review who's been to your home. You can allow access to visitors with supported smartphones for specific days and times, such as house guests or your dog sitter, or provide them with an electronic Bluetooth fob. When you arrive at your door with your phone, it will unlock automatically, and if your phone is lost or stolen, you can log into your account from another smartphone to cancel your lost phone's home access.
  6. Sleep Number® c2 bed. Fitness trackers have become quite common lately and some of them can monitor you while you sleep, but this line of adjustable Sleep Number® beds does it with sensors that are right in the bed. Get information about your movement, breathing and heart rate while asleep without attaching anything to your body. The information can help you choose adjustments to the bed's firmness for a better night's rest.
  7. WeMo Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker. Who ever thought they could improve upon the convenience of a slow cooker? Now you can make adjustments to your Crock-Pot from your smartphone to prevent your dinner from overcooking if you're delayed getting home. Of all the possible ways smart home technology can make life better, having a hot meal cooked to perfection and ready to dish out when you walk through your door may just be one of the best.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.