10 Ways to Make Your Home Smarter in 2019
Anyone remember Rosie, the robotic housekeeper who petered around The Jetsons in the 1960s? “I swear on my mother's rechargeable batteries,” she once joked, when asked by Judy Jetson to keep a secret.
While we’re still a few years away from a domesticated humanoid robot that can wash our dishes and make our beds, today’s smart home products are designed to make your living space safer, more energy efficient, and easier to maintain. Here is a look at 10 smart ways to bump up your home’s IQ.
Using an app or your voice, programmable thermostats let you conveniently adjust heating and cooling settings, but some — like ecobee4 ($249) — can automatically optimize settings per room. By sensing occupancy, this smart Wi-Fi thermostat works with room sensors to help manage hot or cold spots in your home, detecting if someone is there, and delivering the optimal temperature to individual rooms. You get one sensor in the box, along with the thermostat, but it supports up to 32 sensors. A two-pack of sensors costs $79. There’s also built-in Amazon Alexa support via its internal speaker and microphone, so you can ask to read you the news, help plan your commute, set a timer, adjust the temperature and much more.
Not only do LED light bulbs consume a lot less power than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, and last considerably longer, smart LED bulbs like the Philips hue family let you manage your lights through an app — be it to change its colour on demand (from 16 million colours), dim or brighten a room, set up timers and other scheduling options, or remotely access your lights from wherever life takes you. The Philips Hue White & Colour A19 Starter Kit ($249) includes a wireless bridge that allows you to control up to 50 hue devices and includes four LED bulbs to get you started. These bulbs also work with many popular smart home platforms.
Ring Video Doorbell
Quite simply, this trendy $129 gadget lets you see who’s at your front door — whether you’re home or not. Working in conjunction with a companion app on smartphone or tablet, this Wi-Fi doorbell shows who’s on your doorstep (in clear 720p HD), and you can have a two-way audio conversation with your visitor. Motion sensors detect movement up to 30 feet, and send you automatic alerts, so you can be notified even before they press the button. All recorded footage is stored to the cloud, in case you ever need it.
August Smart Lock
Speaking of your front door, the August Smart Lock ($199) lets your smartphone be a surrogate key to let you into your home. Simply walk up to your front door and your smart deadbolt will automatically unlock, as long as your smartphone is with you (and yes, there are safeguards in place, if you don’t). You can also email someone a “virtual key” to give them temporary or permanent access to your home; you can also set a schedule for these virtual keys, such as only working on specific days of the week or hours of the day (ideal, for example, for live-out help).
Google Home Max
Fusing a great-sounding speaker with a smart and versatile personal assistant, Google Home Max ($499) is one of the best gadgets you can buy today — especially for music lovers. Simply join this high-fidelity speaker to your Wi-Fi network, pair your favourite services (like Spotify or Google Music), and then ask to play a specific song, album, artist, playlist or genre. Available in charcoal or grey — covered in acoustically transparent fabric — it will optimize its sound based on the kind of room you place it in. Under the hood, you’ll find dual 4.5-inch woofers for deep, balanced bass and custom tweeters for crystal‑clear highs. It’s a smart speaker, too, so ask for info, control your smart phone or make free phone calls to anyone in Canada or the U.S. (no landline needed).
Petcube Bites Camera
Keep an eye on your pet while at work, and even dispense treats on demand. That’s the premise behind Petcube Bites Interactive Wi-Fi HD Pet Camera ($199). Simply connect this high-def camera to your Wi-Fi network, install the free app on your smartphone or tablet, and then kiss your dog or cat goodbye as you leave the house. Now, wherever life takes you, launch the app, talk to your pet, snap a pic or shoot video (even in the dark, thanks to night vision support), and dispense a treat from the launcher by swiping your screen. So now you can see what your furry friend is up to all day.
LG B7 4K OLED TV
If you agree big is beautiful (and thin is in!) then wait until you plop down in front of LG’s 65-inch B7 4K Smart TV ($3,295). Instead of a LED-backlit LCD television, LG’s premium TVs boasts OLED (pronounced “oh-led”) screens for a superior image including sharper colour, support for HDR (high dynamic range) and Dolby Vision, and unprecedented contrast ratios (with super dark blacks). Not only is the LG B7 incredibly thin — because each pixel is its own light source, therefore no backlighting is required — this television is a lot more energy-efficient than other TV panel types. Along with a phenomenal picture, it’s a smarter Smart TV, too, with LG’s own webOS 3.5 platform driving the performance.
Husqvarna Automower 315X
Why mow your lawn when you can have a robot do the dirty work for you? Sit in your Muskoka chair with a cold one in hand and watch as the Husqvarna Automower 315X ($2,499) cuts your grass with its three quiet blades. The robot can cover up to 1,600 square metres before it needs recharging — at which time, it’s smart enough to return on its own to the charging station, power up and then continue mowing. Powered by GPS-assisted navigation and by following a guidewire that you place along the perimeter of your property, the weather-proof mower can even handle lawns with a complicated shape, steep slopes or obstacles. There’s app and voice support, via Amazon Alexa.
Chamberlain MyQ Garage
Turn your existing garage into a smart garage with Chamberlain’s MyQ Garage ($129). Easy to install (and in less than 30 minutes), this system lets you know if you’ve left the garage door open — and close it, if desired — from anywhere in the world. The free smartphone app also lets you open it remotely to allow someone access to borrow a tool or drop off a package, or you can set up custom alerts, such as a notification if you left garage door open for a specific period of time. The MyQ works with your existing Wi-Fi network, and easily connects to most existing garage door openers.
Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator
This fridge may be cold, but the tech is superhot. Samsung’s Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators (from $4,599) are available in 3-door and 4-door French door models, and they house several innovative features including an intuitive app that lets you see inside your fridge (via a camera) when you’re, say, at the supermarket, and you can’t remember if you need milk, eggs or cheese! The 21.5-inch LED touchscreen can serve as a digital corkboard, recipe book, photo album, music player and more. And Samsung’s voice technology lets you utter verbal commands to ask about weather, time, add products to shopping lists, manage to-do-lists and more.