If you're not the tech-savvy sort, the prospect of a 'smart home' might sound terrifying. Visions of a post-apocalyptic world where AI rules might be burnt into your brain thanks to pop culture, but we're here to tell you there's nothing to fear. In fact, there are some smart home gadgets that even the biggest technophobes might learn to love.
We understand if you're skeptical, but smart technology isn't here to take over. On the contrary, it exists to make your life easier. Whether it's automating your home to help you save energy or keeping your space safe with smart security, there are many reasons to embrace everything the world of tech has to offer. That said, there's no denying it's a difficult world to navigate if you're not brushed up on the fast-moving tech industry, which is why we've asked experts to help us rustle up a list of the very best items it has to offer. Here are six smart home devices you ought to know about.
1. Smart speakers
Smart speakers are one of the most ubiquitous smart home gadgets out there. We've been fast adopters of their technology since their inception, and that's because they're really simple to use. Essentially a speaker that connects to your wifi, they incorporate a voice assistant that can answer your questions, take note of your shopping list, make calls, play your favorite songs, and much much more.
They might not sound like something you necessarily need in your life, but next time you have your hands tied up with the washing up or laundry, using the power of your voice can be a real game-changer. 'Smart speakers are also the core point for many different types of smart home systems,' says Vikas Kaushik, CEO of TechAhead.
If you're looking for the best smart speaker, Vikas says brands such as Amazon Echo and Google Nest are especially user-friendly. 'To make it simple for those who are not comfortable with technology to engage with their smart home through the use of natural language commands, these devices provide voice control for a variety of smart home equipment, ranging from lights to thermostats,' he says.
2. Robot vacuum cleaners
To anyone who bears the brunt of the household chores, a robot vacuum will almost certainly appeal. These clever gadgets map the floorplan of your home so they can navigate around and clean your floors on their own accord. While you are away, your floors will be cleaned automatically,' says Shanal Aggarwal, Chief Commercial Officer at TechAhead. 'Robot vacuums and smart attachments for your existing vacuum are also options that you can choose from.'
The biggest robot vacuum brand is Roomba, and if you're wondering which Roomba you should buy, Shanal recommends the i7+. 'It includes features like the ability to automatically empty itself, navigate difficult layouts, and respond to voice commands,' he adds.
3. Digital safe
Everyone needs a safe to protect their valuables, and smart safes are the best in terms of security. Unlike combination looks, electronic digital safes have enhanced security features to protect your belongings.
'This isn’t one of the high-tech gadgets that’ll blow your mind, but surely I consider it as the safest tech gadget that can keep all your belongings in one place and eliminates the fear of theft or burglary,' says Colin Tan, an AI enthusiast and Tech Editor at Increditools. 'House break-ins are rising rapidly in the US, and getting a digital safe makes your emergency cash, gold, and keys secured, in case you’re traveling outside or not at home for a few days.' Combined with more advanced home security systems, you'll have peace of mind that you're space is protected.
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4. Smart plugs
If you want to automate pretty much anything in your home, a smart plug is the answer. You can easily use them to schedule your outlets throughout your home on a timer to help preserve battery life and turn on devices remotely, and the best smart plugs let you activate them with voice controls, too.
'For those difficult-reach areas in your home smart plugs are the answer,' says Bobby Lawson, tech editor at Earthweb. 'They can also be controlled remotely and you can also create schedules for your appliances so they turn on or off automatically.'
When it comes to what to buy, he recommends the TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring, available at Amazon, as does Kelly Indah, another tech expert and security analyst at Increditools. 'Plugs like Amazon Smart Plug and TP-Link Kasa Smart enable wireless control of appliances and electronics,' she says. 'You can easily automate things like fans, lamps, and more which is very handy!'
5. Smart Thermostats
To help you reduce bills and save energy, a smart thermostat is a must. No more returning to a cold, dark home. These clever devices not only help you create an automated home with adaptable energy functions, but they also allow you to control your heating remotely via an app, too.
'Nest makes high-quality thermostats that optimize home temperature and energy use. The Nest app enables remote access and control from anywhere,' says Kelly. 'This takes the guesswork out of energy savings.'
If you're looking for the best smart thermostat, Doug Stevenson, technology consultant and founder of Blinq Blinq, has some suggestions. 'Ecobee and Honeywell help you save money on bills by adjusting the temperature when you're out,' he says. 'You come home to comfort without the high energy costs!'
6. Smart doorbells
Video doorbells are a staple in many homes these days, and for good reason. These devices allow you to see who's at your door and communicate with them through an app on your phone without abandoning whatever you're doing at the time. 'See who's at the door right on your phone with the likes of Ring or Eufy,' says Doug. 'You can even chat with the mailman if you're not home which is super useful.'
In our view, the best video doorbell out there is Ring, a brand that also offers intercom systems and security cameras which can link up with your other devices, too. 'SimpliSafe, Abode, and Ring all make it easy to check in on your home anytime,' Doug adds. 'You get alerts if anything's up - a big help for peace of mind!'
Ready to embrace some smart technology to help make your everyday life simpler and safer? Try one of these six gadgets. Once you welcome one, you won't be able to live without it!
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Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.
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