Digital technology has come such a long way in a relatively short period of time. These days, technology is connected in a way that was simply unthinkable just a few years ago.
Artificial intelligence is far from being the nightmare technology Hollywood would have us believe. Smart technology has made our lives considerably easier and safer.
But which devices should you have in your home, and are they really as clever as their manufacturers claim? Here’s our guide to the must-have smart systems.
Smart speakers allow users to search the internet, turn connected devices on or off, and play music, among other tasks. Currently, this sector is a three-way tie between Amazon, Google and Apple, with the latter firm hot on the heels of the first two.
Amazon’s Alexa has become world famous, but it’s the smart speaker technology that customers really enjoy. The Echo range has evolved fast in recent years and includes the fourth generation ball-style technology.
It also features a built-in Zigbee receiver and Amazon Sidewalk Hub, enabling seamless and reliable connections to lightbulbs and locks.
Google’s Nest range, with integrated Google Assistant, isn’t as powerful as Amazon’s system.
However, the machine learning chip embedded in the Nest Mini smart speaker means it learns from the commands you give it. If you’re a fan of Google tech, you’ll love it.
Apple’s HomePod Mini may not look as good on the outside as some of its previous, iconic products, but it’s solid smart speaker technology.
As you would expect, it connects with all Apple products, and devotees of the US firm are waiting with bated breath for a new, bigger version “coming soon”.
When is a plug not a plug? When it’s a smart plug! There are a wide range available, and all enable WiFi connections and allow you to manage your devices from a smartphone app.
Chinese firm TP-Link has a mini smart plug with a single socket and a WiFi Power Strip that can provide three plugs.
They both work well with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Encouragingly, if you’re a newcomer to the world of connected home devices, they are very user friendly.
Smart light bulbs
You’ll never worry about leaving the bathroom light on again, thanks to the widespread availability of smart light bulbs from top brands such as Philips and Wyze.
They can be controlled via an app, but there’s more to it than a simple on/off function. Smart lights can be scheduled to come on or turn off at specific times, enhancing your home’s security.
You can also adjust the brightness, reducing your energy use. They’re also great value for money, lasting up to 25 years.
Many homeowners are looking for ways to lower their energy consumption, both to reduce their energy bills but also their environmental impact. Smart thermostats are a good solution.
As you might expect, Amazon and Google are big players in the market. Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart thermostat is among the cheapest on the market, but isn’t compatible with rival technologies.
For some reviewers, the Google Nest Thermostat comes out top of the heap, thanks to its good design, ease of use and ability to manage home heating with minimum fuss. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa.
There’s much to recommend Honeywell’s device. Like its better-known rivals, it includes location-based temperature control, and is adjustable, programmable and flexible.
Smart technology has grown beyond being able to turn on your lights or set your heating.
It’s also expanded into home security, both internal and external, and reputable manufacturers including Yale, Ring and Adobe are among the top names whose products are available to buy online.
The most popular systems are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, are simple to install but also offer a sophisticated level of protection.
The best thing about smart systems is they are connected, and each piece of technology works seamlessly with so many others.
Amazon-owned US company Ring has cornered the market and understandably. Their smart doorbells include cameras whose footage is stored in the cloud for up to 180 days.
They also integrate with smart home security technology to offer robust, holistic protection. Similar systems are available from Google Nest and Arlo.
Smart security now includes locks, which offer an extra layer of protection against burglars or hackers. Companies including Yale and August are the leaders in this technological field.
Their range of products allow a door to open or close after wirelessly receiving instructions from an authorised device, such as a smartphone, key tag or keypad.
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