We’re all familiar with smartphones, as they have become essential in our day-to-day business both at work and in our personal lives. Also becoming increasingly popular in the homestead is the concept of a smart home. The term “smart home” is commonly used to define a residence that has lighting, heating and cooling, entertainment and other systems controlled by a computer-controlled system, which may also be accessible remotely by phone or Internet. Smart home devices are gadgets that can be voice controlled, timed, or set up in a way that makes our time at home even more comfortable. The devices function best when they can be synced to a virtual assistant with smart speakers, which connect to the additional external hardware.

Here are the cutting-edge, must-have devices for your smart home in 2018:

Amazon Echo 2017 (“Alexa”) – Smart Speakers

Amazon Echo is a smart speaker device. Smart speakers are voice-activated systems that recognize vocal commands rather than requiring buttons to be pressed, or switches to be operated, to active multiple devices within a home. The original purpose of smart speakers was for the wireless delivery of audio from the user’s media library through a variety of platforms or online music services. Enhanced models of smart speakers vary in features, design, and quality.  New models will include the option to sync home automation systems including the heating and cooling, lighting, and security systems, and even large appliances.

Smart speakers answer questions by a virtual assistant. Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant’s name is Alexa, and she can answer your basic questions, broadcast weather reports, set timers, and make phone calls. Although Amazon Echo is the best price, some reviews of the product do say that copycat speaker systems have a better sound system. Leading alternatives to Amazon Echo are the GoogleHome with the Google Assistant and the Apple HomePod using the familiar Siri software.

Neato Botva Connected  – Robot Vacuum

Almost every homeowner’s dream would be to have a house that cleans itself. Well, we are not far off the idea of a futuristic home which maintains its spotless appearance all by itself. In 2002, Roomba was the first domestic robot vacuum available on the market, produced by the manufacturers, iRobot, who had worked with military robots for over a decade.

Following Roomba, in the 2000s the company released different house cleaning products including Scooba, for washing floors, and Dirt Dog, specifically designed to sweep up shop dirt. Some models were designed to clean autonomously, whereas others required the use of a remote control.

Of course, there is always an argument on how well a robot can clean compared to natural elbow grease, but it’s a great time-saver for those of us with busy schedules where cleaning often gets put aside. The technology works by using infrared sensors to measure and detect the area, corners, and obstacles in your home, and touch-sensitive bumpers detect when the device comes in contact with objects. When they first hit the market, the manufacturers suggested their products are intended to supplement your regular vacuuming rather than replace it.

In 2018, the Neato Botvac Connected offers top quality robotic cleaning for your home. With Neato’s exclusive LaserSmart™ technology, the Combo Brush and Spiral Blade Brush, they are programmed to tend to all the nooks and crannies for a thorough clean of your home, and can cover up to 5,000 square feet per cleaning cycle. The technology is Wi-Fi enabled, and can be controlled by your smart phone, virtual assistant, or by controls on the robot itself. You can even get notifications about the cleaning status of your house.

SkyBell HD – Wi-Fi Video Doorbell

Video-door bells with a camera showing who is requesting entrance into a place of business or residence have been around for decades. However, they’re no longer just for luxury homes, or corporate buildings and offices with high-security, as everyday homeowners like the idea of being able to check who is at their door from a screen inside their home, or even remotely.

SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell will show you who rings the doorbell not only on a screen inside your house, but the device also has the ability to pair with your smartphone.

By pairing with your smartphone, you will be sent a notification to alert you when a potential intruder comes near your residence. For parents, you can check to see who is at the door if it rings when your kids are old enough to be left at home. This increase in security is invaluable for peace of mind as we’re aware that intruders often check to see if someone is home before breaking and entering. You’ll have never felt safer when travelling on vacation.

Additionally, when your smartphone notifies you of a guest at your door, you can speak with them directly, whether they are a bona-fide delivery person or potential intruder while you’re at the office.

SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell sets itself apart from competitor video doorbells as it has the best night vision capabilities, producing clear images in the dark. It also allows multiple users to receive notifications and remotely “answer” the door, as well as having a 2-way talk system and a motion sensor. You’re able to record footage and replay moments missed throughout the day. Video doorbells vary in capabilities and functions, and some models even double as porch lights. 

Serena by Lutron – Remote Controlled Shades

It can be a pretty tedious task going from window to window to open up your house for morning sunlight or winding down at night. Remote controlled shades are not a completely new concept, but they are a great addition to your smart home.

Effortless, durable, and available in various colours, textures and fabrics, Serena shades are easy to install without wires, and are remote-controlled to activate in complete unison. Users can schedule times for their blinds to go up or down, or to be activated when a person enters or exits the home. The geofencing feature allows these controls to be done from anywhere outside the house by connecting with the Lutron App using the Lutron Smart Bridge technology.  They also sync with your virtual assistant and smart speakers for voice activation.

Philips Hue – Smart Lighting

Imagine living in a home where the lighting was ever-changing to reflect your mood, the time of day, and had the ability to set alerts through the colourful use of illumination. The Philips Hue wireless lighting system is certainly not essential, but it does make a fancy addition to your smart home, allowing you to create the right ambiance for every moment. These trendy, energy-efficient LED lights can be controlled anywhere in the home using your smartphone or tablet.

The Philips Hue lights can be used to set ambiance lighting to help you relax, concentrate, feel energized or even fall asleep. Mimicking the sunrise is a peaceful way to wake up without the aid of an obtrusive alarm. Users can set them to sync with music and games, and with many additional hues available to add to your starter kit, the possibilities for creativity are endless.

Samsung Family Hub – Smart Refrigerator

Modernizing the idea of one of the main kitchen appliances, smart refrigerators do more than just store food. Samsung Family Hub has cameras installed, allowing you to check the status of your groceries from your smart phone.

Family members create profiles and sync their smartphones, using the fridge as a ‘hub’ for communication. Its exterior has a large, built-in tablet where you can create shopping lists, leave notes, set dates in your calendar, and even set notifications for expiration dates. This smart fridge also operates as an entertainment system to play music, or mirror a TV of what’s playing in another room.

Heatworks Tetra – Internet-Connected Counter Dishwasher

Due to come out later this year, Heatworks Tetra takes the concept of a modern dishwasher to a whole new level. The appliance sits conveniently on top of your kitchen workspace with enough space for a couple of place settings worth of cutlery, crockery and glassware. The machine uses just over two litres of water and gets the whole job washed and dried in ten minutes. Tetra can be controlled by an app, allowing you to trigger the cleaning, adjust the pressure, or add a cycle remotely.

Meet Aeolus Robot – Home Robotic Butler

Aeolus Robotics, a company in San Francisco, California brings ‘the first generation of household robot assistants into your life and home’. Although the device has yet to be released, the company plans to present the Aeolus Robot later in 2018. The robot is programmed to recognize thousands of household items, and you can attach brooms and mops to help clean your house. If it works the way it promises to, this could be a revolutionary, but very pricey, new addition to your house!