Think back to what the home of the future used to look like – the far-flung notions dreamt up by science fiction back when the notion of a computer in the home seemed impossible. Back then, even the most creative of dreamers would not have been able to conjure up anything that holds a candle to today’s reality.
Look at the ultra-futuristic home of the future portrayed in the Jetsons, for example. Then compare it to the smart home of today. Video calling? Old news. Robot maids? Sorry, Rosie, the Roomba may lack your sassy sense of humor, but it clearly does a better job of sweeping up dust bunnies.
While we may not have flying cars, it is clear to see that the smart home of today is light years beyond anything we were expecting. As we enter 2018, take a look at some of the top tech being sported by the smartest homes of the year.
Hey Alexa or OK Google?
When it was first conceived, the idea of a smart home always revolved around a central CPU brain, hard-wired into everything in the house, from the HVAC system to the lights.
Then Wi-Fi came around and made everything a heck of a lot simpler. These days, you can pick up a brain for your smart home right off the shelf, with a slew of different options. The two biggest are the Amazon Echo ($100, Amazon) and the Google Home ($129, Google). To call them “smart speakers” is to seriously diminish the magic these devices bring to your home.
With a simple voice command, you can do anything from set an alarm system, make a phone call, order groceries or play a song. The differences between the two are slim – it ultimately comes down to preference. Google Home is a little more intuitive, with the vast search power of Google behind it creating a more seamless experience. Amazon Echo takes a little bit more time and effort to “train” properly, but its direct connection to Amazon lets you shop with ease (plus eliminates some of the privacy concerns that tend to dog Google products).
Whichever one you choose, you can use it to automate a host of products, inside and out.
A Smarter Kitchen
One advantage the Amazon Echo offers is integration with Amazon’s Dash Wand ($20, Amazon). It is not just an Alexa in the kitchen (which is handy enough, making conversions and giving you recipes in an instant), it is also a great way to fill your grocery order with ease. Simply scan barcodes on everything you are out of, then let Alexa order them for you. No more trips to the grocery store (so long, impulse gossip magazine purchases).
The fridge is getting smarter, as well. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator ($3,499, Samsung) takes all the post its, reminders and calendars that clutter up your fridge and pulls them all onto an integrated touchscreen across the front. This screen also plays music and can mirror your Samsung TV! Out of the house and cannot remember if you need to stop for milk? Pull up the app and you can take a peek inside your fridge from anywhere in the world using your smart phone.
When it comes time to prepare that tasty meal, even that has gotten smarter. The Crock-Pot Slower Cooker with WeMo ($130, Crock Pot) integrates with WeMo allowing you to raise or lower temperature, adjust settings and check cooking time from anywhere in the world using your smart phone. Thanks to this beauty, no matter where you are you know dinner’s under control.
The futurists of yesteryear got one thing right – in the smart home of tomorrow, personal robots would make our lives much easier. They may not take the form of Rosie the Robot or C-3PO, but what they lack in personality they more than make up for in brilliant utility.
iRobot practically invented the robot vacuum category, and they are still the leader of the pack. Their latest, the iRobot Roomba 960 ($699, Amazon) not only integrates with the iRobot app, letting you control it with your phone, it also integrates with Amazon Echo and Google Home so you can control it using voice commands. That is on top of the mind-blowing tech that lets this tiny wonder map your house while it cleans.
Take that same concept, move it outside and what do you get? A robot lawnmower that takes the hassle out of yard maintenance. The Husqvarna Automower 315 ($3,500, Husqvarna) just takes a little bit of setup, but once it is up and running, it will automatically keep your yard professional-grade neat, with GPS mapping of up to 1.25 acres. The Automower Connect app even lets you keep track of it and operate it remotely using your phone.
Something for Every Room
Home automation has come a long way. You will find Wi-Fi enabled devices in every room in the house these days, letting you control pretty much everything with a simple voice command.
Want to let someone into your garage, or double check that the door is down, while you are away? Check out the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Hub ($100, Chamberlain). Compatible with any brand of garage door, this add-on lets you control every aspect of your garage from your phone.
Or how about adjusting your home’s a/c while you are away? The Nest Learning Thermostat ($250, Nest) not only lets you adjust the temperature in the home from your phone this unique learning thermostat actually saves you money by automatically adjusting the temperature when you are not home.
The big drawback to building a smart home is upgrading all your appliances – but what if you could simply make the plug smarter? The tp-link Wi-Fi Smart Plug ($30, tp-link) makes any device a little bit smarter, letting you turn anything on or off with the tap of an app or a simple “Hey Alexa” or “OK, Google.”
We have seen the future, and it turns out it is closer than we think. With these ingenious devices, the future is already here.