Only a few years back, smart home devices were mostly gimmicks – remote controlled curtains, ice cube dispenser on a fridge, etc. Smart home devices have come a long way since then. In 2018, the devices available address the real needs of a household and provide state-of-the-art and fun solutions. For every smart speaker system designed to enhance your music listening or movie watching experience, there’s a smart security system specifically tackling essential security concerns in a house.
In simple terms, smart home devices are connected devices that are part of an Internet of Things (IoT) network. Since the devices are enabled with connectivity, they can communicate/connect with other devices in the house. So, the smart speaker can be connected to window blinds or a kitchen appliance, allowing you to give voice commands to control/operate them. The connectivity also allows you to operate the devices from your smartphone via apps.
Smart devices naturally cost a little more than their regular counterparts, but with the advance in chip technology prices of smart devices are no longer prohibitive. You will not have to burn a hole in your pocket to buy most of these devices. Start by investing in one or two smart home devices, which will provide the most valuable addition from your perspective. The quality of the devices and the features on offer will convince you to populate your home with more such smart devices.
Be it entertainment, security, lighting, cleaning, electrical system, heating, cooling or sensors, there’s a smart home device for every need. It can feel a bit overwhelming while searching for the right devices for your house. So, here are some of the best smart home devices of 2018. Hopefully, it will help you make a more informed choice.
As far as smart speakers are concerned, at this point in time, the Amazon Echo is the best. Amazon launched the generation two in early 2018 and it’s added a few new features and looks sleeker than the Alexa. It now comes with an aux-out jack making it possible to connect the Amazon Echo to external speakers via Bluetooth or cable. A number of interchangeable shells are provided as well. What makes this smart speaker a great deal is the fact that its performance is an improvement on Alexa, but it cost far lesser than its predecessor.
Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit
This is the perfect entry point to smart lighting systems. The starter kit doesn’t offer the colour-changing feature and provides two bulbs instead of three, but other than that it’s a brilliant product. It also costs less than half of the colour-changing kit. In fact, I think this one with its plain and soft white smart bulbs is the better option. You can automate the bulbs to switch on or switch off, dim it down or increase the brightness just like the more expensive version. And along with other products in the Philips Hue lineup, this too is compatible with other smart home services/devices. If you’re genuinely interested in exploring smart lighting, then this is practically a must-buy.
If you want to buy only a smart speaker and one other smart home device, then the Ecobee4 smart thermostat is the one for you, because it’s essentially a combo of smart thermostat and smart speaker. It is by far the best smart thermostat available at present.
Its touchscreen display is incredibly responsive, it has both a top-of-the-line remote temperature sensor and an efficient proximity sensor and you can operate it from your phone with the mobile app or from your laptop with the web app. Doesn’t it sound great? And I haven’t even mentioned the best part about it. The Ecobee4 is literally an Amazon speaker.
It needs to be mentioned here that the Ecobee4 is on the pricier end of the smart thermostat spectrum. The Ecobee3 and the Ecobee3 Lite are more affordable, but in terms of performance, these don’t match the Ecobee4. If you already have a smart speaker at home, then probably purchasing one of the other Ecobee smart thermostats make more sense. However, if this is your first foray into smart home devices, then pick up the Ecobee4.
Neato Botvac Connected Robot Vacuum
Vacuum cleaners have changed home cleaning forever. Robot vacuum cleaners will take home cleaning to the next level. And among the robot vacuums in the market, the Neato Botvac is a beast. If we evaluate it based purely on how well it cleans and not take into consideration the various smart features it boasts of, the Botvac still comes up on top.
The app that you can use to control the vacuum, including schedule a cleaning, start the cleaning process and even steer the machine, is probably the best among app-enabled robot vacuums. The only competitors that come close to this smart robot vacuum are the iRobot’s Roomba 980 and Dyson’s 360 Eye.
However, both fail to match the performance of the Neato Botvac and both are considerably more expensive than this product. Botvac’s laser-assisted navigation system is top notch. It’s nimble, efficient in its movement and at the end of the cleaning returns to its dock for a charge.
Security is a major concern in any household. A smart video doorbell system takes the door eye hole to a completely different level. Nest’s Hello video doorbell is the best in the market. It’s a great buy for anyone, but especially so if you already own other Google/Nest smart home devices. But don’t worry if suppose you own an Amazon Alexa instead. It will work just as well. It has an optional facial recognition feature which is cool and takes this product into the sci-fi category. So, how this works is that Hello scans the face of the person at the door and informs you about their identity based on the images of members of your family, relatives or friends that you’ve fed into the app that controls the smart video doorbell. Note that you will have to separately subscribe to Next Aware, which is the facial recognition service with a database of images. You will have to pay a small monthly fee.
Finally, do keep in mind that a smart home is equal to smart home devices that can communicate and coordinate with each other. Hence, make sure that the products you buy are compatible with each other and also with your tablet/smartphone for the best experience.