Not so many years ago, it seemed utterly fantastical that we could make a ‘telephone call’ via a smartphone and actually see the person we were speaking to. Now, we take it for granted.
The same is happening at home – they are becoming smart too. We can now connect with devices and gadgets within our homes, from any place that has an internet connection.
So, curtains, lights, air conditioning, security cameras, even the oven are now becoming almost commonplace, thanks principally to the Internet of Things (IoT). You may have heard a lot about IoT, but if you haven’t – or you don’t really understand what it is – here’s a brief overview, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Essentially, IoT describes the network of ‘gadgets’ that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.
So, from a layman’s perspective, it provides the platform to enable these devices to ‘talk’ to each other, whether that is through an internet connection or a dedicated app such as Apple’s Home App, which doesn’t even need a WiFi bridge. But let us not get too technical here, I want to focus on the gadgets and how they are almost dictating our lifestyle choices. And if not, they are certainly providing us with more alternatives.
The beauty of smart home devices is that they do not need to be integrated into a new build design. They can easily be retrofitted with WiFi, making complicated and expensive wiring a thing of the past. So, virtually any home can become smart. But what can we realistically expect in the coming years? What are the hot gadgets that will make our lives healthier, more convenient, secure, efficient and sustainable?
I have chosen three gadgets that will – between them – cover all of these points. Let me start with video doorbells and in particular, Ring – one of the more popular brands. With instant mobile alerts, using crystal-clear 1080HD video and two-way talk, you can see, hear and speak to visitors at your front door straight from your smartphone, tablet or PC, wherever you may be.
Video doorbells also have adjustable motion sensors, infrared night vision, live on-demand video and audio, and smart security, if you want to just check that your home is secure. There are also other gadgets that can draw curtains and put lights on at night while you are away, further deterring unwanted visitors. On a side note, indoor cameras have been on the market for many years. These are ideal for watching pets, children, maids or even handymen carrying out work when you are away from home.
Another gadget that I would like to talk about is the third generation Nest Learning Thermostat, one of the market-leaders. It has a built-in auto-schedule, which ‘learns’ from your previous selections and programmes itself. Alternatively, you can manually change the temperature from anywhere using your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It also uses sensors, algorithms and even your phone’s location to save energy when there’s no one at home.
Now for the sustainability angle. It’s an interesting point that your thermostat at home controls up to 50% of your total energy bill – more than electrical appliances and electronic devices. Independent studies have shown that smart thermostats can save you – on average – up to 15% on your A/C bills.
There are many other features for an automated home that I could have mentioned, such as robotic vacuum cleaners, smart cooking appliances, and even smart beds with biometric sensors that can help you sleep better. However, I will finish with a subject that’s been close to everyone’s heart over the past 12 months – health and fitness.
Hiring your own personal trainer can be quite an expensive business, even if you have been taking classes via Zoom during the Covid-19 restrictions. But here is another smart option. Whether you are an absolute beginner or a streamlined professional, there are a range of smart training machines complete with display screens that use 3D sensors and AI to advise you of the correct form and weight you should be lifting for each exercise. Peloton is one such company that has taken the fitness world by storm. It will count your reps and offer real-time feedback about your progress to make sure that you are getting the most out of the exercise, without injuring yourself. It can also hook your screen up with on-demand workout sessions carried out by fully qualified instructors.
Without question, automated homes are going to get even smarter. This means, more lifestyle choices than ever before – more time for leisure pursuits, hobbies and entertainment, as well as safety and peace of mind on our travels. Invariably, we’ll also have more time to spend with friends and family instead of doing mundane housework. But the best part? Smart homes are good for the environment – slam dunk!