By Alex Ciorogar
The Internet of Things is slowly becoming a reality. In the near future, experts say all our devices—everything from clocks, speakers, lights, door locks and cameras—will be fully integrated. In fact, home automation isn’t as futuristic as it sounds. Being able to control your home’s security system or thermostat is no longer a luxury item as intelligent devices becme more and more affordable. Here are some of the most appealing smart home devices available.
The second-generation Amazon Echo is a voice-activated smart speaker, powered by Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. Alexa operates just as Siri would on your iPhone. You can use Alexa (or speak to her) to control most of the gadgets in your house by the sound of your voice: Control smart home gadgets like automated lights, connect to other smart home hubs, read you audiobooks or news, check the weather, play music or even purchase things online. The new model also features a series of colorful shells to choose from. The device can be connected to any audio setup using either Bluetooth or a 3.5mm cable. At $100—nearly half the cost of the original—the new Echo is smaller, representing a balance between affordability and sound quality. In November 2017, Amazon launched a firmware update that tweaked the new Echo’s equalizer settings to give it deeper-sounding bass.
Philips Hue White LED
At $70, Philips Hue White LED starter kit includes two bulbs and a connecting hub. They are bright bulbs with easy-to-use features. While you can’t change these bulbs’ colors, you can easily adjust their brightness. Each light bulb puts more than 800 lumens at full brightness, making them a fair replacement for a standard 60W incandescent. They’re efficient, too, putting that light out from a power draw of just 9.5 watts. The Philips bulb also dims, going all the way down to 0.9 percent brightness at its minimum setting (about 7 lumens). What’s more, the bulb affords an omnidirectional light output that shines downward so you can also use it as a reading lamp. You can control the light bulb with the Philips Hue app from your Android or iOS device, or you could also use Philips’ Hue wireless dimming remote which can control up to 10 bulbs at a time. Alexa, the voice-activated virtual assistant in Amazon’s Echo smart speaker, can also help you dim the bulb. It’s quite easy to set up pre-set scenes, such as dimming the lights for gaming or your favorite movie night.
Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat has a responsive display, a remote sensor and tons of smart integrations, including a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker. The touchscreen display is easy to use and fast to respond. The new model features a remote temperature and proximity sensors, determining if you are home or away. It can track the hot or cold spots in your room. Since this thermostat requires a C-wire to operate, you can use the PEK to add in the extra wire’s functionality without rewiring your entire HVAC system. Connecting your Ecobee4 to Wi-Fi is as easy as downloading the related app for Android and iPhone and following the step-by-step instructions. Ecobee4 can also become a central hub in the home, a place where you can ask Echo’s Alexa to execute different tasks. Costing $249, it is also compatible with Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit and the IFTTT automation standard.
August Smart Lock Pro
August Smart Lock Pro features improved design, easy installment and a simple-software interface. The device is compatible with Siri via Apple’s HomeKit software, as well as with Nest’s Works. Unfortunately, the lock isn’t well-suited for every deadbolt. The Smart Lock goes for approximately $229 and is available in either a silver or a dark gray finish, with both copper and red finishes planned for future release. At 3.39 inches tall by 3.39 inches wide, with a depth of 2.22 inches, it’s larger than your average doorknob. However, a new easy-grip pattern and rounded edges improve the ergonomics of manually locking and unlocking the Smart Lock. Magnets were also added to better secure the faceplate, which hides the four included AA batteries. August also sells a $79 Connect accessory that gives your Smart Lock Wi-Fi affordability for true remote access from anywhere. This third-generation smart lock features August’s DoorSense technology and Z-Wave compatibility.