We have all heard of the Internet, but you might not be as familiar with the Internet of Things (IoT), a development that allows household objects to send and receive data, making them “think” with the help of sensors, information, and behavioral patterns. This might sound a bit Jetsons to you, but chances are that you’ve already seen an IoT product or maybe even have one in your home.
CNET, the leader in technology product reviews, updated their best of 2016 list this week, hand picking their top products to make your home smarter, faster, and more efficient. I combed through the list and picked out some of my favorites to share with you.
If you’re brand new to IoT devices, the WeMo® Switch from Belkin is a good place to start. It’s a smart plug that goes right into your current socket, turning any appliance that’s connected to a smart device. You can plug in your home stereo system to control the volume from different rooms, turn off the iron you accidently left on when you ran out of the house, or put a timer on the TV so it falls asleep when you do. www.belkin.com
Looking for something with a little bit more variety? Samsung’s SmartThings goes a few steps beyond just a socket to let you control lights, locks, security cameras, and more. It contains a sensor to tell you whether doors and windows are opened and closed, a motion sensor to monitor movement, and an outlet to control specific appliances. It’s relatively well priced at $250 and you can add hundreds of products to the hub for enhanced security and customization. www.smartthings.com
I am a big fan of energy saving so the Nest Learning Thermostat is right up my alley. It is a temperature control system that programs itself and learns your schedule to cool and heat your home automatically. It saves energy by turning itself down when you leave the house and can be operated using your phone which means you can heat the house up a bit after a cold morning on the soccer field. Plus, it tells you how much energy you’re using every day so you can make adjustments accordingly. www.nest.com
If you need to give people access to your home for work or repairs, if you have guests, or if you’re putting your house on the market, the August Smart Lock is worth a look. This smart locking system creates virtual keys so you can grant access for minutes, days, or weeks without having to copy keys or worry about unlawful entry. For the homeowner, the system senses when you’re coming and going, locking and unlocking the doors automatically so you never have to fumble for your keys with an armful of groceries again. www.august.com
I can’t talk about IoT products without mentioning Amazon Echo. Effectively Echo is a smart speaker with a virtual assistant named Alexa who can deliver some light jazz, the weather, the news, your meetings for the day, or a 20-minute kitchen timer just by asking. Google Home has also just come out with a smart speaker which does much of the same, and both connect with tons of different applications to make talking to your house a reality that you never thought was possible. www.amazon.com/echo
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to email@example.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.