With full-fledged controllers in almost every pocket in America thanks to smart phones, it’s no surprise that home-automation and remote control is quickly becoming the norm. Here are the best and most versatile accessories and devices to turn your home from a place to hang your hat to a place that welcomes you after your arrival from a hard day’s work.
iDevices has quickly risen to the ranks of a leader in the home automation game, and their starter kit is easily the best way to get your house turned into a smart home. Bundled with light bulb switches and plugs for your electrical outlets, the kit will give you almost immediate control over the most essential elements of your home’s ecosystem and has a wide variety of compatibility, from Siri to Alexa. The fact that the bundle comes with outstanding tech support to walk you through the hardest parts of installation and setup makes the iDevices Home Starter Kit the right place to plunk down your first investment.
Ecobee isn’t messing around with their smart thermostat tech. The easily installed smart thermostat is slick as hell, making your old temperature-control unit look like a bulky ENIAC computer in comparison. Equipped with wifi to monitor outside temps, full-on scheduling with just a few taps and real-time monitoring adjustability, the Ecobee’s beautiful screen makes it a cinch to accurately keep your home exactly the climate you like best, all while making you more efficient and saving a few bucks off the utility bills every month.
With full-blown profiles now available in Apple’s HomeKit and neat alternatives like IFTTT for the competition, Serena blinds give you a level of control of the windows of your house that was, until now, unprecedented. Actively setting up “scenes” for certain times of day can raise or lower blinds to help you sleep or wake exactly when you want. Further integration with geo-fence technology means you can keep your home private until the moment you walk in the door, should you so choose. And isn’t that choice really the point of all this tech anyway?
August has been making deadbolts to keep your doors secure for some time now but with their lock/doorbell combo, you can have the fun, voyeuristic pleasure of spying on anyway who decides to come to your front door. August, as a company, has pioneered some of the first elements of virtual invitations, allowing you to give visiting friends the option to unlock your doors with an easy invitation code sent right to their phones. If you’re not lucky enough to live in a place with a doorman, August will easily provide that luxury with a simple and straightforward installation.
5 - LIFX Bulbs
LIFX’s latest generation of smart bulbs can change your house from a soothing place of solace to an all out rave with just the push of a button (or a command to Siri or Alexa). LIFX’s bulbs offer up an extraordinary range of colors, easily controlled from your phone. If you want something more exotic, candle flickers and strobe lights and a voice-activated visualizer that mimics the sounds heard by your phone’s microphone are also options here. Put it close enough to your sound system and watch the lightshow in your house pump along to your favorite songs.
Temperature controls and automated, integrated lighting make Hunter the leader in this field so far. We dig the idea of a fan that understands us and would love one that turns on at the slightest sign of sleepiness—cool breezes knock us right out. For now, we’ll take LED bulbs and automated scheduling with the promise of geo-tracking to turn on a fan every time we walk into a room. Summer is going to be mighty fine in our house this year, thanks to Hunter.
It may not be sexy—safety items rarely are—but the ONELINK smoke and carbon monoxide detector offers the peace of mind that we haven’t seen from regular detectors. While it functions almost identically to the detectors you already have, the ONELINK goes a step farther by giving you alerts on your phone should a problem arise as well as real-time monitoring of your homes smoke, carbon monoxide, temperature and humidity levels, easily integrated into thermostat functions as well, should you decide to take the full-home plunge with automation. In terms of safety, it’s important to have smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors and we haven’t encountered better ones than these.
We’ve seen some serious DIY-ness to integrate coffee machines into a home-automation ecosystem but home-automation isn’t about getting cute with making something work, it’s about getting something that works straight out of the box. Smarter’s Coffee Maker will grind, percolate and brew on your command or, more likely, on a schedule so that you’ll have delicious coffee to get you through the morning waiting for you the moment you wake up. That’s a very good thing because, let’s be honest, the fewer people who talk to us before our first cup of coffee, the better.
Our home already feels limited by the few outlets we have so the need for a power strip is always rearing its ugly head. All the more reason to have a smart power strip, like the one that’s coming soon from Incipio, to economize our use of the precious wall plugs. Incipio is definitely setting the precedent of the future with these, giving us control of some of our most important devices all in one shot. For anyone who isn’t willing or able to take the full plunge with Incipio’s replacement power outlets, this is a nice half-step in the meantime.
10 - Withings Home Camera
Home automation is one thing but home security is another, and nothing competes with the peace of mind that comes from being able to monitor your home on a whim. Withings seems to understand that, and their automated camera is just what you need to keep tabs on your home while you’re away from it. Actively monitor what’s going on whenever you feel like it, or set alerts for when something unusual happens so that you can keep an eye on everything inside your sanctuary from any device you might be carrying.