You like lifting a finger around the house? Us neither. Here are the smartest of smart home systems and appliances.
What’s that at the door? Why it’s the food/manicure/handyman/cab you’ve just summoned with your phone. Yep, when it comes to life, we’ve already got quite accustomed to letting our smartphones do the legwork – and life is sweet. But are we alone in wondering if our phones could answer the door for us too? Don’t judge.
As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection in your abode, the smart home is now so much of a reality that our only real dilemma is how little we’d like to do around the house. From the kitchen to the living room, here are just some of the ways your phone can save you time, money and effort by running your home for you. After all, we’ve always suspected our phones are cleverer than we are. 🙁
Phone remote control 101
If you own a slightly older Android phone, the chances of you already being able to control your TV, stereo or DVD player with it are pretty good – many previous generation Samsung, LG and Huawei phones all have infrared ‘blasters’ built in (here’s a useful list to see if yours does).
And if you’re more of a ‘latest model’ type, Huawei know the value of being able to change channels without rummaging down the back of the sofa; their top-of-the-range, brand new Mate 10 Pro comes with one, too. You don’t even need a Wi-Fi router to do it.
Let there be light
If you struggle to keep your electricity use under manners, there are a gazillion makes of Wi-Fi enabled bulbs and sockets to help you out – even Ikea does a range. However, you need to future-proof these puppies so choosing a system that works with voice activation (such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home – plus Apple’s Homepod, due to launch in 2018) would be a smoooooth moooove.
First up, we’ve got Wemo, a range by the reliable computing and mobile accessories company Belkin that covers lightbulbs and power sockets. You can use the app to control the plugs and dimmable LED lightbulbs and set schedules for your whole house via Wi-Fi – and even add their motion controller to the setup to max the efficiency.
Leaving lights and appliances on all day will be a thing of the past and will hopefully save you a penny or two on your ‘leccy bills – and perhaps your peace of mind. Always worrying you’ve left your straighteners or clothes iron on? You can now double-check on your night out, or simply programme the Wemo plug to switch off automatically after a certain length of time.
Pair your Wemo system with the amazing IFTTT app (which stands for If That Then That). It’s available for iPhone and Android, works alongside a gazillion other apps, and lets you build automatic actions to suit your day-to-day life. For example, your whole house can flicker into action as you reach your front door, or your extra heater will kick in when the weather report says the temps have dipped. It also works with Nest, the smart home heating system.
If you think that sounds amazing, check out Hue. Although it only covers lighting, these bulbs go one better than Wemo’s. You can choose from 3 kinds – ‘White White’, ‘White Ambience’ and ‘Colour Ambience’ – and the last 2 have some pretty nifty tricks up their sleeves.
‘Colour Ambience’ LED bulbs can change colour on command – with 16 million hues to choose from. Pair your system up with the mighty IFTTT and you can make your living room light flash your favourite team’s colours when they score. #Goals.
Get the ‘White Ambience’ bulbs and you can make use of a slightly more, er, sensible feature. We’ve already talked about the benefits of changing the ‘colour temperature’ on our phones to mimic the different kinds of light we see throughout the day, because ‘cooler’ light tells our brains to wake up and ‘warmer’ light lets us know it’s sleepytime.
These bulbs can automatically and imperceptibly shift from one end of this spectrum to the other, making you alert during the day and helping you wind down for bed in the evening. It’s basically Night Shift for your whole house.
Hot and steamy
So now we’ve rigged up all the lighting, let’s head over to the kitchen and the inevitable first port of call for 99.9% of all British people: the hot drinks makers.
While there are a few on the market, the Appkettle (£129.99) is a solidly built, stainless steel appliance that can not only remotely boil to the temperature of your choice (perfect for new parents, coffee buffs and hot-water-bottle afficionados) but also lets you know how much water it’s holding.
Research found that £68 million worth of energy is wasted in the UK every year by overfilling kettles – so if you’re one of these feckless types this feature could eventually pay for itself over time.
Are you a go-getting caffeine junkie with no time to spare (or just dream of the day when someone else gets up and make you the java)? Then the £179.99 Smarter Coffee (2nd gen) is an indulgence worth, er, indulging in. Fill it up with water and beans then leave it be – until you’re craving a mug or 2 of the brown stuff, that is.
It’ll deliver between 4 and 12 cups whenever you need it – to your preference of both strength and coarseness of grind. You can wake every morning to find a steaming jug of coffee waiting in the kitchen, or hook it up with IFTTT so it knows you’re on your way home from your morning run and can start percolating accordingly. Hook it up to Alexa or Google Home, and all you’ll have to do to get a cup of freshly made coffee is simply ask for one.
Keepin’ it clean
This is where we come to the one area of the house that most of us have been praying for a little extra help: cleaning.
Like all robot vacuum cleaners, both the Powerbot and the iRobot will pootle around your floors, sucking up dust and fluff wherever they find it, before heading back to their docking stations for a little charge. But what makes these 2 even more helpful is their ability to take orders from your phone (or Alexa or Google Home, for that matter).
Just sit back, relax and tell your little robot housekeeper to give the living room a little more attention. Extra points if you can get your cat to hop on for the ride – can we hear you say virallll?
But yes, you say; this is all well and good for carpet people but you like to keep things smooth. Well, meet the Braava Jet. The same pootling (only it sweeps instead of hoovering), the same voice control – but it also mops your floors, wet or damp.
This little wonder loves to hug the awkward spots in your kitchen and bathroom as it wet-cleans all those ghastly sticky patches – and it’ll dial down the moisture to wipe your laminate or wood floors. A genuine game-changer for those of us who put off this sort of stuff because it’s literally just too much to bear.
If all of these systems and appliances completely float your smart home boat, then the ultimate domestic innovations are so embedded in your house that they need professional installation. All of them will make your life easier, and at least one will save you money on energy bills.
While Nest can furnish you with smoke alarms, doorbells and security, it’s their thermostat that really stands out for smart home fans. Those of us who struggle with programming and maintaining an everyday central heating timer (hands up, who just lets the system run an hour off-kilter rather than change the time when the clocks change?) will love how it works.
Simply go about for business for a week or so, and Nest will create a personalised schedule. It does this by detecting if you’re at home and logging when you turn the heat up, or down – then making intelligent decisions which have been found to save an average of 10-12% on energy bills. And add Alexa or Google Home to the mix and you can ask for any temperature adjustments when you need them.
Are you a self-loathing habitual loser of keys? Is leaving a spare one under a flowerpot for your out-of-town mate proving too nerve-wracking to contemplate? Worried how many spare keys to your home are floating about? Here’s an interesting smart home solution.
The Conexis front door lock can be opened with physical key tags but the smartest feature is how it lets you unlock your front door with a phone.
Send (and immediately un-send – the power is all yours) virtual access keys to family, friends, dog walkers or workmen; view details of who’s come in and out, and if you have the matching security system, literally see them.
For all tech titans, the lure of controlling daylight with your phone – that’s right, telling the ACTUAL SUN what to do – is irresistable, n’est-pas? The system lets you open and close electric and solar-powered blinds and windows on command, to a schedule or automatically – perfect for a sweltering heatwave.
Bet you thought we’d forgotten about the doorbell idea, didn’t you? Well THINK AGAIN FRIEND. The Ring Video Doorbell lets you see who’s at the door without ever getting off the sofa – you don’t even have to be at home. And the built-in intercom lets you talk to them (if you feel like it, obvs), which makes the Ring perfect for missed deliveries.