In 2016, 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide, a 64% increase from 2015, according to IHS Markit, while Gartner Research predicts that the typical home could contain more than 500 smart home devices by the year 2022.
These devices aim to improve our lives — enabling us to work smarter, not harder, and to let go of some of the mundane chores we’re all tasked with — while allowing us to focus on more important things. Moreover, for older adults or those living with physical challenges, smart home devices can make a huge difference in their quality of life.
Perhaps you just want the lights to come on as you approach your home. Maybe you want the air conditioning to come on so it’s not wasting electricity unnecessarily and yet it’s still cool when you come in the front door. Or maybe you simply want to be alerted immediately when there’s a safety issue going on when you’re not at home.
Here are 15 categories of devices that have the potential to make your home a little smarter and your life a little easier.
Safety and Security
1. Fire Detection Devices. Did you know that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association?
While your standard old-school smoke detector is still a great tool in preventing injury and death, it will only alert you to problems if you’re at home. Today’s internet- connected smoke and fire detection devices can alert you anywhere — via your smartphone — facilitating a faster call to emergency services when you’re away, and potentially saving the lives of loved ones and preventing property damage.
Examples: Nest Protect; First Alert; Roost Smart Battery (to give any smoke detector the ability to remotely alert you about possible fire situations).
2. Water Detection Devices. Anyone who’s suffered through a burst pipe, water heater, or dishwasher disaster in their home knows how important early detection can be. A smart water sensor can alert you, via your smartphone, as soon as water is detected, prompting you to drop whatever you’re doing, get back home, and call the plumber to meet you there, potentially saving you time, money, and frustration.
Examples: D-Link Wi-Fi Water Sensor; FIBARO Flood Sensor; Aeon Labs Aeotec Water Sensor.
3. Doorbell Cameras. Imagine being able to answer the door from anywhere. Not only is this extremely convenient for those with limited mobility, but also it’s much safer when you have an unidentified stranger at your door. Smart doorbells can notify you in the case of a suspicious visitor, or when packages are left for you, which can prevent burglary and property loss, while also recording the identity of those involved.
Examples: Ring Wi-Fi Video Doorbell; SkyBell HD; Vivint Doorbell Camera.
4. Home Security Systems. The so-called Internet of Things has made it easy and relatively affordable to monitor your home from just about anywhere with a smart security system. Depending on your needs, you can go with a system that you monitor yourself, or pay a subscription fee to have your home surveilled 24/7 by professionals who will contact your local fire and police departments when alarms are triggered.
Examples: SimpliSafe; ADT Pulse; Vivint Smart Home.
5. Door Locks. Smart locks allow you to lock and unlock your door remotely — whether you’re at home or away — and even provide codes to friends, family, caregivers, house cleaners, dog walkers, and anyone else you frequently allow into your home.
Think of those times when your hands are full of shopping bags, your dog’s leash, or anything else that makes it difficult to dig around for your keys. Or when you’ve crawled into your warm bed at night only to wonder whether you remembered to lock the door; with a smart lock, you can simply check the status on your phone from wherever you are.
Examples: August Smart Lock; Goji Smart Lock; Schlage Sense.
Appliances and Lighting
6. Refrigerators. While smart refrigerators are far from a necessity, they can be quite convenient. Many will keep an inventory of your food, reducing the chance of your buying duplicate items, thereby saving you money. Some can also keep track of expiration dates and tell you when something has gone bad, just in case your sniffer isn’t quite sure.
Your grocery lists can be updated in real time and synced to your smartphone, letting you know exactly what you need while you’re still at the grocery store.
Examples: LG LTCS24223S; Whirlpool WRB322DMBB; Samsung RH25H5611SR.
7. Smart TVs. Smart TVs — which may also be referred to as connected TVs or hybrid TVs — enable you to stream TV and movies, browse the Web, access games and apps, do social media, and more. They give you access not only to top-tier services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, but also to the various digital TV catch-up services available. What sets them apart from each other though, is their operating platforms, which will determine your user experience.
Examples: Sony’s Android TV; Samsung’s Smart Hub; LG’s WebOS.
8. Lighting. There are a few different ways to make your lights smart. You can replace the switches, use smart plugs to switch the power on and off, or you can simply make the bulbs smart with no electrician, DIY, or coding skills required.
When connected to an appropriate app or home automation hub, smart bulbs have features that include changing the color of your lights from day to night (or to set the mood for a party), as well as the ability to automate when your lights turn off and on.
Examples: Philips Hue; LIFX; OSRAM.
9. Thermostats. Smart thermostats are not only convenient, but also can save you money by making your home more energy efficient. They can turn the heat or A/C off when no one’s home and turn it back on when you pull in the driveway or at any designated time. Some can even distinguish between users, turning it to a specific setting when certain members of the family enter a room.
Examples: Nest Smart Thermostat; ecobee4; Honeywell Lyric T5.
10. Automated Sprinklers. An internet connection can take your standard automated sprinkler system to the next level. For most people with an in-ground sprinkler system, a smart controller will save water and money compared to a basic timer. Some can respond to real-time weather conditions, offer customizable watering schedules, and give you control of your sprinkler system from anywhere in the world via an app on your smartphone.
Examples: Rachio; RainMachine Touch; Skydrop Smart Watering.
11. Robot Vacuums. Want a tidy home without spending time doing the work? Robot vacuums can help you dispose of dirt, dust, pet hair, and other debris on your bare or carpeted floors without lifting a finger or straining your back. You simply set them loose and forget about it. Many will find their way back to their charging station and recharge themselves, while others can be set to clean at a specific time each day.
Examples: iRobot Roomba 960; Eufy RoboVac 11; Neato Botvac Connected.
12. Window Blinds. There’s nothing like natural light to brighten up your home. Unfortunately, depending on how many windows you have, manually opening the shades each morning and drawing them back down each night may be a pain. That’s where smart shade solutions come in. Motorized shades can be commanded to go up or down to suit your fancy, without having to pull any strings.
Examples: Lutron Shades; Pella Smart Home; Somfy Systems.
13. Pet Feeders. Have you ever run out the door and then realized you forgot to feed your beloved pet? Now, Fido or your faithful felines won’t have to suffer until you get back home. Smart pet feeders can dish out the exact portion of food designated for your furry friend at the exact time you determine. With access to your home Wi-Fi connection, some smart feeders also provide built-in webcam and speaker functionality.
Examples: Petnet SmartFeeder; Hoison SmartFeeder; Feed and Go Smart Feeder.
14. Hubs. The more smart home devices you have, the more likely you’ll need a centralized method to control them all. Smart home hubs can connect all your devices to the cloud and give you one app that acts as a universal remote.
Additionally, hubs can provide the ability to automate your devices. For example, when you unlock your door, the lights in your entryway will automatically turn on, and the thermostat in your home will be set to the temperature you like. Home sweet home, indeed.
Examples: Samsung SmartThings; Wink; Logitech Harmony.
15. Voice Assistants. When it comes to controlling your smart home devices, everything must be done through the use of an app or multiple apps on your smartphone. Unless you incorporate a voice assistant. These helpers allow you to go completely hands free, using only voice commands to make things happen in your home.
You can simply tell the voice assistant to turn on the lights, set your thermostat to a certain temperature, or change your smart TV to a specific channel, without moving from that comfy spot on your sofa.
Examples: Amazon’s Alexa; Google Home; Apple Home Kit.
Consider which of these many options could improve your home life. While the Starship Enterprise-like smart home dream — where everything just miraculously responds to your every command without your having to lift a finger — is still a far-off fantasy, we’re getting a little closer every day.
Many of these smart devices are extremely user-friendly, requiring no professional help for installation. Those who are fairly tech savvy can easily get them up and running, while those who aren’t can ask for a bit of help. Once your smart home features are installed, you may wonder how you ever functioned without them.
While smart home devices certainly can help to keep older adults safer, and perhaps allow them to remain independent longer, ultimately, these devices provide benefits to people of all ages and stages of life.
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