The year is 2015. It might not feel like it, but if you ever need a reminder that we’re currently living firmly in the future just check your smartphone. Things might not be as glamorous or fantastical as the futuristic sci fi flicks of yesteryear had us believe, but the powerful microcomputer that has access to the sum total of all human knowledge, in addition to instantaneous global communication, says differently.
These are definitely Star Trek times. Unfortunately, no one told your house. By in large, our homes have been set up the same way for years. With the exception of an improved television and a gadget or two, it’s mostly business as usual. That could definitely stand to change, and you could do it right now if you play your cards right. This is in the era of the smarthome, and yours could be the next tech haven. You’ll be well on your way if you check out these products.
You can’t talk about home tech without talking about Nest. The now Google owned company earned the attention of the search giant for a reason. Nest is revolutionizing homes everywhere with nothing more than a simple and highly effective thermostat and a smartphone app. Programmable thermostats are nothing new, but the Nest takes it to the next level by being absurdly simple to use and exceedingly intelligent.
You can turn it up or down like a regular thermostat, but it learns from you and adapts to your behavior; adjusting the heat or AC for when you’re home and away. You can control it remotely with your phone from any room in the house or from another location. It’s designed for efficiency and will help you save money. “Just one degree can cut your energy use up to 5%” says the website, and they give you the tools to do it. If you’re truly interested hopping on board the train to the 21st century home, Nest is the first stop.
2) LED Smart Bulbs
You probably already know that LED lights are the way to go. They last longer and use less energy which can shave your power bill down. But let’s take it a step further. Enter the smart bulb. Smart bulbs like the Philips Hue are taking homes by storm. You screw it into a lamp like a regular bulb, but the magic happens once you pull out your trusty smartphone. The bulbs connect to your home’s wifi network allowing you to control them through from a free app. You can turn them on or off or interact with them from anywhere.
You can dim them, make them pulse, set them to timers, or change their colors. You can even program them to follow certain functions. Want to set your bedroom lights to slowly dim over the course of 37 minutes to simulate a sunset and will your brain to sleep? Do it. Ditto with a simulated sunrise to help stir you out of bed in the morning. For goodness sakes, buy Hue if for no other reason than to stop having to flip your switches on and off like a barbarian. A single bulb runs you 50 bucks, but they also last for 15,000 hours so you won’t be changing them for a very long time.
3) Wifi Plugs and Powerstrips
You know what’s great? Being able to do stuff without actually having to get up and do it. Wifi connected light bulbs are only the beginning. You could have that luxury with virtually any appliance in your house; anything that uses power anyway. Wifi connected plugs can make that happen. Plugs like the GE Z Wave are an option and they run between 30 and 50 bucks. You could also get the Pivot Power Genius which is a wifi connected power strip.
It’s convenient and doesn’t require you to mess with the outlets in your wall. You can program and label individual plugs in the strip and turn them on and off from your smartphone (noticing a theme here?). That way, if you don’t want to invest in a smart bulb, you can still kill that livingroom light you forgot to turn off when you’re already in bed.
4) Google Chromecast
We’ve covered smart bulbs, smart plugs, and smart thermostats. How about smart TVs? You’ve heard of them, and they’re not that mind blowing. They’re basically just the televisions you already know and love that also have wifi connections and apps that allow you to directly enjoy services like Netflix, Hulu, or Pandora. Problem is, if you already have your TV situation figured out, there’s certainly no reason to run out and drop the better half of a grand just to get one.
That’s where Chromecast comes in. It’s a stick you plug into any TV’s HDMI port that gives you instant access to the apps you want and more. Setting up and controlling Chromecast is easy once you link it up to, you guessed it, your smartphone. It syncs up with your wifi networking allowing you to directly and seamlessly stream your libraries from your favorite services including many major cable providers. The best part is, the whole kit clocks in at all of $35.
5) Smart Body Analyzer
Here’s one for the fitness folks out there. The Withings Smart Body Analyzer (smart scale!) is the scale for the space age. Sure it takes your weight, but also your heartbeat, MBI, and fat-lean ratio somehow. It also checks the air quality in the room for some reason in case that’s something you’re worried about. It tracks your progress, and the progress of up to 8 users, instantly recognizing whoever steps on scale. All you need to get started, create your own fitness plan, and make the most out of its handy feature is – say it with me now – your smartphone.
6) Smart Garden
Hey, here’s a question: how do you feel about growing your own herbs? More importantly, how would you feel about it if it required near zero effort on your part? The Smart Garden wants you to be able to produce your own crop of basil or chili pepper or thyme, and it also wants to do all the hard work for you. Just add the seeds, a month’s supply of water, and forget it. It waters the plants when they need it and utilizes an LED grow lamp and a built in timer for the right amount of light. It boasts NASA inspired technology and what it refers to as, no joke, “smart soil” to provide maximum germination and growth. When the dirt itself becomes tech infused we can probably all agree we’re living in the 21st century.
7) Smart Faucet
A smart faucet might have nothing to do with wifi, gadgets, or NASA technology, but they’re still pretty nifty. Rather than having to fuss with nobs, it’s a faucet that turns on when you touch it. That’s pretty great for a few reasons. The first is that it’s much more sanitary because dirty hands aren’t getting on the knobs which solves your germ conundrum. The second is that it saves you water and money by turning on and shutting off for the precise duration that you’re using it.
Unfortunately faucets like what Brizo offers are pretty absurdly expensive. Alternatively, you could go low tech with the trademarked Smart Faucet which is essentially a floating lever that you activate by brushing your hand against it. It’s easy to install over the faucet you have, and only costs $17.
8) Smart Crock
Crock pots already allowed us to get lazy with our meals by throwing everything in and leaving it while we went about our day. The Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker takes it a step further. You can set the temps, cooking times, and monitor the status of everything on your phone from any location. And if something comes up and you can’t make it home on time, you can shut it off to prevent any mishaps. It gives you a handy “ready by” estimation so your mouth can start watering hours before you leave the office.
If you wanna watch a movie or do some gaming, the first thing you have to do is make sure you have a quality TV. If you’re serious about it and you’re thinking top of the line, you’re going to have to drop thousands of dollars for something with a lot of inches, or for one of those new fangled 4k jobs. But home TVs have been a thing since the 50s. You can do better than that.
Consider an entertainment projector. For as little as $600 you can get up to a 90 inch HD image which is something you absolutely can not do for as little money with a television. Home projector technology has increased light years recently and it’s absolutely worth looking into. Turn your entertainment center into a true home theater.
10) Smart Lock
So you’ve upgraded your home with all this new fancy equipment, yet you’re still using the same security measures to keep it safe that people were using centuries ago. It’s time to upgrade that quaint lock and key. The August Smart Lock is a fascinating glimpse at what might be the future of home security.
It easily installs over your existing deadbolt inside of your house. It looks like a normal lock from the outside except the “key” is an encrypted code within an app on your phone. It can be set up to lock behind you automatically when you leave and unlock when you approach. You can assign keys on a permanent basis to others or temporially or via a set scheduled window for, say, the gardener. It keeps a log of who enters and exits, and you can also lock or unlock the door no matter where in the world you happen to be. The future is here. And it’s very, very shiny.