Voice-activated cookers, remote controlled loos and a fridge that can tell you the weather.
3 July 2019| Last updated on 19 January 2020
All Credits: PA
If someone from 1999 spent the last 20 years in cryo-freeze, then woke up and immediately toured the smart home section of IKEA, they would probably think the robots had finally taken over.
Detailed datasheets on household ‘performance’; surveillance cameras and digital locks; artificial intelligence – with its own ‘human’ names – ruling our appliances with an iron fist.
It almost sounds a little dystopian. But while modern smart devices are just the latest step in the ever-evolving quest for ultimate convenience and efficiency – with constant new developments and an endless stream of jargon, they can still be thoroughly confusing.
Here’s the lowdown on connected domesticity, from AED9,232 smart fridges down to the humblest light bulb…
What is a smart home?
In its simplest terms, a smart home is a connected set of domestic gadgets and appliances, controlled via a central hub or smartphone.
Many of these gadgets will feedback information and performance data, some are automated and will perform their function without human intervention, and almost all are geared towards convenience.
Take, for instance, the smart thermostat, one of the harbingers of the smart revolution. Hive Active Heating (AED 1,540 on Amazon.ae) allows you to control your central heating via your smartphone. Either set schedules remotely ahead of time or simply turn on your heating en route and arrive at instant snugness and warmth.
A few years ago, devices like these were the headline act, and each new addition would be accompanied by an app. Now, a lot of smart homes are ruled by larger, interconnected systems, usually commanded via voice-activated AI.
Amazon Echo is perhaps the most prominent, spearheaded by your friendly neighbourhood Alexa, with Google Home (AED 345 on Amazon.ae) and Apple HomeKit in hot pursuit. Other platforms are available, and homeowners should do their research and decide which one best suits their needs.
These systems work with a wide range of other brands and gadgets, so if you do choose to build a home around an AI, be sure to check compatibility before you buy.
Go go gadget
Once your smart home is responding to your voice, you can start giving it interesting toys. Philips Hue have cornered the market on smart lighting – often one of the first appliances to be swallowed up by smart tech.
Their range of multi-coloured LED smart bulbs (AED 458.95 on Amazon.ae) can flicker between 16 million distinct shades. And with excellent compatibility, most home networks can activate the lights with a simple voice command. To really raise your guests’ eyebrows, accessorise with frills like motion sensors and dimmer switches.
Add flexibility with dull-sounding but actually-super-convenient smart plugs. The TP-Link HS100 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug (AED 199.20 on Amazon.ae) works with Alexa and Google Home, and allows you to remotely control power flow through your sockets with a button press or voice command.
Lights and plugs can operate property-wide, but there’s a smart device (or three) for each of your main rooms. Easily the most appliance-heavy area of most homes, it’s no surprise that the kitchen might now be the smartest too.
A quick Google search yields tens of smart, remotely-controllable coffee machines, pressure cookers, and even fully-fledged microwave ovens. The most demanding customers should try Samsung’s Family Hub Multi-Door Fridge Freezer (AED12,921.15, samsung.com) – a multimedia entertainment and life-organising system that occasionally moonlights as a refrigerator.
The interface contains – deep breath! – a calendar, a speaker system, a touchpad, a television, a grocery list, and a search engine, and can open a video link of your fridge interior from halfway around the world.
For well-trodden floors, swap your bog-standard vacuum cleaner for a Roomba (AED 809 on Amazon.ae) – an automated vacuum robot with sensors that help it detect and avoid walls and furniture. To see your wooden floors similarly, spick and span, try the Braava (AED 1,497 on Amazon.ae), a self-propelled mini-mop with the same capabilities as its carpet-cleaning cousin.
You can even go smart while you sleep. The bedroom is not traditionally ruled by gadgets, but the Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed (it’s currently available from the US website – sleepnumber.com) ensures that even your mattress is now Wi-Fi connected.
Smart and safe
With all this tech lying around in full view, the smart money bets on smart security. Perhaps the most developed and mainstream of all the smart fields, these defensive devices erect an impenetrable wall of technology around your home to repel would-be interlopers.
No security system would be complete without cameras. The Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera (AED 1,015 on Amazon.ae) and Nest Cam IQ Outdoor Security Cam can stream pictures live to your tablet or phone. For the cautious, concerned or frequently absent, consider the Hive Wireless Window or Door Sensor (£29/AED133.87, johnlewis.com), a motion sensor that can alert you every time your door or window opens or closes.
A ring Video Doorbell (AED 839 on Amazon.ae) sends a full-length visual to your phone every time it detects a visitor. With excellent night vision and two-way intercom to boot, you can deal with deliverymen and all manner of door-knockers whether you’re home or not.
Round off your bulwark with that simplest of securities – the lock. The Codelocks CL5510SS Electronic Digital Lock (AED1,615.67, screwfix.com) can be reprogrammed at will by smartphone with time-sensitive code changes. Forgetful souls need not worry – it does also come with two manual keys.