Have you ever been grocery shopping only to find yourself wondering if you still have butter in your fridge? This conundrum might be a thing of the past in the smart home of the future. Smart refrigerators allow you to cheque out the contents of your fridge by viewing it from your phone no matter where you are. Smart refrigerators and other smart devices are showing us the possibilities of a smart home. And analysts predict the smart home devices industry will reach $107.4 billion by 2023 globally as people accelerate their adoption of smart home devices in the coming years. To give you an idea of the smart home of the future, we pulled together a list of our favourite gadgets that are available today.
What is a smart home and why do you want one?
Maybe you're wondering what's wrong with your home lacking intelligence. While there's nothing wrong, there are several benefits to having a smart home which means the tech in your home is connected to your Wi-Fi network and able to communicate with one another. First, there's the convenience of being able to control everything in your home from an app on your tablet or smartphone or via a voice-controlled digital assistant. Smart devices can also provide users with the information they wouldn't normally have in real-time from security camera footage to energy usage. In addition, smart homes offer the ability to automate tasks such as adjusting the temperature based on when the house is empty or warm up the oven before you get home. Finally, although there's not a commercially viable home robot—yet—there are autonomous gadgets such as lawn mowers and vacuums that are taking over some routine household chores.
Select devices that work with your smart ecosystem
There are many tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Google vying to be THE smart home ecosystem. Since part of the power of smart home technology is the ability for devices to communicate and integrate, it's important to consider when shopping for devices the "works with" information posted on the box. Luckily, many of these devices play well with several ecosystems, so you’re not trying to make a decision between operating systems to the degree you do when you decide PC or Mac or Android versus iOS, but it’s important to pay attention to nonetheless.
Although there are several brands emerging in the smart home space, smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo gave many people their first experience with the power of smart home technology. Alexa, Echo’s voice-controlled assistant, responds to commands to not only play music, but based on the other devices you have connected such as thermostats and lighting, you can control other areas of your home without even leaving your couch. Alexa also uses apps built specifically for the system called Skills that expand its functionality. The Google Home Mini, similar in size and shape to the smaller Echo version called Echo Dot, has Google Assistant built into it that allows you add to your to-do list or Google calendar through the device.
Another early entry point for smart-home technology is in thermostats such as the Nest Learning Thermostat or Ecobee4. When the sensors realise you are not at home, they will automatically adjust the temperature to “away” settings which helps conserve energy. These smart thermostats make it easy to control your comfort in every room of the house as well as maximise energy efficiency.
One of the simplest ways to get started with home automation is to begin with a smart plug such as the Elgato Eve Energy or Belkin Wemo. Just plug one of these into any electrical outlet. Any appliance or device plugged into the smart plug can be controlled by your mobile device. These smart plugs allow you to keep using your existing gadgets but add smart control over them.
Lightbulbs and lighting control
If you’re getting home late at night, wouldn’t it be nice to have lights turn on automatically for you? You can when you use smart bulbs. Not only can they save you money, but you can alter the ambiance of individual rooms through an app. Motion detection and different colours of light are also available depending on what brand you purchase.
Safety and security
Smoke and carbon dioxide detectors are now available in smart varieties that contact your phone if they sense a problem. A smart home camera can see who is knocking at the door—even if you are away from home—and pet cameras can help you keep an eye on your pets when you are aren’t there. Who needs a house key anymore? You won’t if you instal a smart lock.
Smart home helpers
There are several bot vacuums on the market from the Neato Botvac Connected to the Dyson 360 Eye that can help you tackle this never-ending household chore. There are also smart watering devices for house plants and even a robo lawnmower to keep your lawn in tip-top shape. These won’t take away all of your weekend chores, but hopefully, they will save some time and money now.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.