Technology giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all vying to coalesce the still-nebulous array of smart home technologies available today into an integrated experience. And to be frank, most of these supposed smart devices don’t really make life much easier, let alone play nice together. But some are more ready for primetime and worthy of recommending today than others, even if we’re still a few system upgrades from demanding, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
This company might be to home wi-fi technology as Nest was to residential thermostat technology years ago, eliminating the traditionally complex, technical jargon laden process of establishing wi-fi and turning it into a 10 minute process – a seamless set-up resulting in a reliable and fast signal throughout a home, no matter the square footage. Simplicity is at the heart of Eero, beginning right out of the box with a minimalist industrial design. Each Eero unit is capable of operating as a router, Ethernet-equipped access point, or range extender and is designed to work as a trio (or more). Plug one into your cable modem and position the other two units within range of at least one to cast a mesh network that reaches further and faster than a single wi-fi router. The system can be extended with additional units and is remarkable at reviving dead wi-fi zones like a wireless network equivalent of Melissandre. If easy is what you’re looking for, Eero is currently the best wi-fi hardware available.
As an owner of two cats, it’s easy to vouch for the genuine utility and benefits of an automatic and connected pet feeder. This unit is remarkably packed with features: wireless connectivity, app controlled feeding, retractable feeding bowl, remote video camera, and even a microphone to listen in your furry friend crunching on kibbles. The feeder isn’t just convenient; our experience with automatic feeders has shown that we tended to overfeed our pets before switching to an automated schedule. Our cats have remained slim and healthy because of something we’re not always so good about with our own diets: portion control.
Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect Smart Window AC
Window air condition units are almost exclusively an eye sore one learns to live with out of sheer necessity. But the Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect model was designed with a considerable amount of attention, and it’s undeniably the best looking window AC unit available today. Clean and simple, the unit has a touch panel control and a remote, but the real fun using this 8,000 BTU unit (the perfect size for a home office or bedroom) happens upon launching its compatible app which offers the convenience of control and scheduling the unit from afar, whether it be from the office, or just across the room while deeply embedded on the couch in potato mode.
Sony Multifunctional Light
The Japanese electronics company is thinking about smart home hub technology in a different way from their American ilk, disguising a slew of multifunctional features in the package of an overhead LED light. Equipped with built-in motion detection, temperature, humidity, and light sensors, the overhead light’s numerous sensors and connectivity technology allow it to orchestrate other network-connected appliances. For example, it can recognize when occupants are in the room, and the Sony device can turn on air conditioners, heaters, or even work as speakerphone system. Watch this video and you can see all the possibilities of a system that operates under the watch of Sony rather than Siri.
Lutron Serena Shades
This remote roller shade system has been available for awhile now, but it’s been evolving with the times, adding iOS app controls and now Apple HomeKit integration. Plugged into a home internet router, the Smart Bridge adds an impactful automation tool, one benefitting not only home privacy/security, but also interior temperature regulation throughout the summer. Users can customize specific settings and schedule them throughout the week, down to specific hours, or even coinciding with daily sunrise and sunset. Those designing a home theater system will especially appreciate automatic remote roller shades. And engineered with Apple HomeKit compatibility, this system is future-proofed to evolve as smart home connectivity improves, playing nice with complementary devices like Philips Hue light bulbs
Expect to hear a lot more about Google Home in the near future, a cute speaker that is the first serious Amazon Echo contender. Like the Eero wi-fi system above, Google imagines users placing several Google Home units throughout the house, each capable of working independently and in conjunction with other home automation devices. And of course, you can ask the small speaker anything you might otherwise Google on your phone or computer by voice alone. Like it or not, it seems very likely we’ll be talking to the internet through some form of device like this in the near future.
Elgato Eve Room Wireless Indoor Sensor
Another Apple HomeKit compatible sensor device, the 2016 iF World Design winner is engineered for anyone interested in monitoring indoor environmental conditions, especially of interest to those sensitive to allergens or pollution indoors. The spare all-white battery operated unit continually “breathes” in air, monitoring air quality, temperature, and humidity. The trio of sensors report back a detailed report to an iOS-compatible app for review, and users can even evoke Siri by voice command to control and command the Eve unit by iPhone or iPad.
We’re the owners of an earlier iteration of this same design. This latest edition stands apart with the addition of wi-fi enabled remote controls allowing automatic control functions such as the airflow speed, LED light, child lock and night mode via iOS or Android compatible app. The 2-stage HEPASilent+ Filter operates quietly at its lowest setting – ideal for bedside use – but can be turned up for more serious air cleaning duties when required. And thankfully Blueair has retained the simple and modern design which makes keeping the air purifier out in any room less of a decorative compromise than most other units in the category.