With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, smart home technology is looking to be more accessible and affordable than ever. According to results from Coldwell banker and CNET’s Smart Home Survey in 2015, more than 1 in 4 U.S. adults (28%) have smart home products in their home, while almost half (47%) of the nation’s millennials (ages 18 to 34) utilize smart home products in their home. GlobeNewsWire reports that the global home automation market was valued at around USD 5.0 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach USD 21.0 billion in 2020. That means the home automation market is expected to experience growth for a while.
If you’re not familiar with home automation, just think Tony Stark’s home in Iron Man. That house is the epitome of contemporary home automation. From window blinds that open by themselves in the morning to controlling the Iron Man suit, there seems to be nothing that the house can’t do. At the center of it all, if you recall, is JARVIS, the OS that Stark communicates with and, presumably, is the computing system that controls and automates functions of the home (and the Iron Man suit).
If you or your friend have an affinity for home automation, check out this list of top smart home items to give this holiday season.
What started as a single, voice-enabled computer assistant has spawned into a whole family of products. The Amazon Echo is a digital assistant that you control with your voice. In addition to the Echo, there is now the Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and now the Echo Spot. I don’t think I have ever used the word “echo” so many times in one sentence.
You can think of the Echo Dot as a “lite” version of the Echo, a smaller size with smaller speakers. The Echo Plus has the addition of home automation capabilities and a slightly larger speaker than the standard Echo. The Echo Show is an Echo with a screen, and the Echo Spot is a mini circular version of the Show. Here’s a side-by-side comparison chart of all the Echo devices.
This cylindrical chunk of plastic is more than a voice assistant that helps whip up grocery lists. The Echo has proved extremely useful with the elderly and those with mobility challenges by doing things more efficiently. Alexa is known to provide company and has even helped put one user’s mind at ease over the passing of his (or her) cat. Honestly, if that doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.
Buy the Amazon Echo here.
Sonos One Smart Speakers
There are a plethora of Bluetooth and wireless speakers out there, but coming into the foray are smart speakers. Smart speakers do more than just play music, many now have Amazon’s Alexa built in, so you can use your voice to ask it to change songs, listen to the radio, order pizza, or dim the lights. If you are in the market for a great quality speaker, the Sonos One is the one you’re looking for. In the past, Sonos products were not integrated with Alexa technology. Finally the day has come when Sonos and Alexa collide.
The Sonos One has the best sound quality that I’ve ever heard from a smart speaker. From Adele’s Rolling in the Deep to Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice, the sound is clear and fills up the room evenly. One of the main perks of the Sonos One is its ability to tune the acoustic properties of the room you’re in. Its compatibility with Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, and other popular music streaming services allows for Alexa to play virtually any song.
The design has not changed much from the Sonos Play:1. The Sonos One is available in black and white, just like the Play:1. The top panel is now a flat surface with the addition of a “mic” button that allows you to enable or disable the microphones. The buttons are also touch sensitive buttons compared to the Play:1, which has physical buttons. The overall design is aesthetically pleasing to any eye and fits practically anywhere in the house.
Get the Sonos One Smart Speakers here.
Enerwave ZWN-BDS-PLUS Z-Wave Plus Door and Window Sensor
The door sensor is an essential home security device. Coupled with Z-Wave home automation technology, the possibilities are endless.
For Z-Wave enthusiasts, this Enerwave door sensor is sure to up your security game. The Enerwave ZWN-BDS-PLUS is a two-piece door sensor that can be installed to any front door, bedroom door, closet door, garage, window, cupboard, drawer, basically anything that opens and closes. This Z-Wave door sensor can activate other Z-Wave devices, or it can send an alert to your smartphone when the sensor is triggered.
Enerwave ZWN-BPC-PLUS Z-Wave Plus Ceiling Sensor
In any modern smart home, a Z-Wave ceiling sensor is just as necessary as any other Z-Wave device. Z-Wave motion sensors are extremely useful in helping save time by being able to turn on a group of Z-Wave devices simultaneously with just a sense of motion. A security sensor typically senses motion and will send an alert when unwanted motion is detected. Enerwave’s ZWN-BPC-PLUS is a ceiling sensor utilizing Z-Wave Plus. It can trigger Z-Wave lights, fans, alarms, and more when motion is sensed. The ZWN-BPC-PLUS can also send text or email notifications straight to your phone, wherever you are. This is perfect for the person in your life who is always maximizing convenience, security, and efficiency in the home.
Enerwave Z-Wave Plus Smart Plugs
Plug-in Z-Wave outlets make Z-Wave accessible in any part of your home. The concept is simple enough; just plug in the smart outlet, add it to your smart home hub, and now you have a functioning Z-Wave outlet. Plug a lamp in, turn it on and off remotely, maybe scare your kids into thinking ghosts are real. Again, the possibilities are endless.
The innovative Smart Meter function featured on both devices puts these plug-in outlets a step ahead of the rest. With Smart Meter, you can monitor real-time energy usage and even control lights or appliances based on the amount of energy used. For example, you can program the ZWN-333M-PLUS to power off the entertainment system after a certain amount of energy has been used. Take that, tempting Xbox! Use it to schedule holiday lights to prevent keeping them on all day and maybe prevent an extra zero or two at the end of your electric bill.
Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker with Wi-Fi
If I cooked as much as I ordered delivery, I would probably invest in these gadgets. However, if you’ve been watching cooking shows, shows about restaurants, or have been to a hip and happenin’ restaurant recently, you may have heard the term “sous-vide” tossed around (often). According to Anova, sous-vide is a method of cooking that “utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results.” The literal translation of sous-vide is “under vacuum.” The sous-vide technology allows you to cook steaks to the perfect redness that you want, from edge to edge, and it can achieve the perfectly poached egg for killer eggs benedict.
We’re not all professional chefs but we can prevent overcooking and feel like a Michelin star chef with the Anova Sous Vide. Anova touts itself as the first affordable and user-friendly sous-vide device for consumers and end users, like you and me. To cook sous-vide, it is actually a lot easier than you might think. Food is placed in a sealable bag or container and cooked in a water bath using a precision cooker like the Anova device. Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to start, stop, monitor, or adjust cooking wherever you are. This is definitely a must for the cooking enthusiast in your life.
Nest Learning Thermostat
Do you have office thermostat nemeses who won’t stop passive-aggressively fighting each other with the thermostat? One minute it’s starting to swelter, and the next minute you swear you’re fishing in the polar ice caps? Get a lock on room temperatures with a smart thermostat that lets you control the temperature from afar.
The Nest thermostat is capable of taking care of cooling and heating solutions. The Nest thermostat has a touch screen interface that, by itself, will take your space to the future. It works with Amazon Alexa for voice control. This intelligent thermostat will turn itself down when no one is home to save energy, and it can program itself to the temperatures you like in a week. Not only does it self-program, it also monitors humidity, temperature, light and movement, and compiles all of this data to create an automatic schedule based on your behavioral patterns. Now if it could only compile and analyze my roommates’ emotional patterns…
Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Doorbell
Do you have a friend who always orders stuff online and is always worried said stuff will get stolen? Enter the Ring Doorbell, the doorbell with a motion-activated camera. With a wide-angle lens and built-in microphone and speaker, Ring lets you see, hear, and speak to who is at your door from your phone or computer. The Ring app also has a social feature that allows you to share videos and communicate with nearby Ring users, so the entire community can stay informed. According to Ring.com, “29% of US neighborhoods have reported at least one package theft in the past year.” With the rise in online orders and package snatchers, make sure your loved ones’ packages are in good hands.
Get the Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Doorbell here.
TCL Roku Smart LED TV
If you asked me to write a dissertation on the benefits of using a smart TV a few years ago, I would have given you squat. I’d have thought, what’s the point? There weren’t enough streaming services and not enough capabilities around to warrant buying a smart TV 10 years ago. Of course, technology does what technology does best – advance at an alarming rate and now you have articles about which streaming service you should subscribe to popping up. Even a statistically significant amount of Airbnb homes I’ve stayed at have a TV box or a smart TV. From the OGs like Netflix and Hulu to cable providers jumping on the bandwagon and now rumors that Disney is looking to branch into streaming, subscription streaming is a trend that’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.
TCL offers an affordable option with built-in Roku TV. With access to over 4,000 streaming channels featuring more than 450,000 movies and TV episodes via Roku, there will never be nothing to watch. Now you just need to pick which lucky service (or two) will win your subscription.
Get the TCL Roku Smart LED TV here.
It won’t be long until mega mansions and regular homes alike are completely automated like in Iron Man. Home automation has wide-reaching benefits. The elderly will be more equipped to live independently, and the disabled will be able to save time with the automation of tasks around the home. Coldwell Banker and CNET report that 57% of Americans who have smart home items say that these products save them time, and at an average of almost 30 minutes per day!
Home automation is a huge industry that is seeing growth every year. Mark Zuckerberg predicted that within “5-10 years we’ll have AI systems that are more accurate than people for each of our senses – natural language, face recognition, speech recognition and so on.” These systems are fundamental to any computer or AI, especially in advancing home automation technology. I’m excited to see how home automation devices will advance to better learn how we live, and thus, automatically adjust to our environment. With an increase in efficiency, we can achieve more, either at home or in our professions. As we uncover more technological breakthroughs, hopefully we can gain more insight on learning and figuring out what real intelligence is.
Are you buying gifts for anyone who dabbles in or is obsessed with home automation? What home automation gifts do you plan on giving this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!