Home Tech Week - Getting your home connected
Chris Price, editor of shinyshiny has put together a selection of smart products to help you make the most out of your home.
These days it isn’t just mobile phones which are smart. Increasingly our homes are getting smarter too!
Whereas once you required specialist ‘CAT5’ or ‘CAT6’ cabling all over your property to connect up your home - something which could only really be done with new builds or during a refurbishment – these days thanks to WiFi technology it’s possible to connect your home up wirelessly for a fraction of the cost.
As a result you can now control just about every aspect of your home using a smart phone or web tablet, such as the iPad, including your property’s heating, lighting and security as well as its entertainment systems. It’s even possible to water your garden remotely if you are away for a long period of time over the summer!
One of the most popular smart home systems on the market is Hive (www.hivehome.com) from British Gas. Although it’s been on the market for a couple of years now, it has been gradually improved and you can now use it to control both your home’s hot water as well as its heating. Compatible with most boilers you don’t need to be a British Gas customer either. For £249 including professional installation, the Hive Active Heating system lets you control your home’s hot water and heating from your smart phone, PC/Mac or alternatively the the digital thermostat provided. So you could be at the airport on the way back from Marbella and decide you want the house to be toasty for when you get in or switch the hot water on for an hour so you can soak in the bath after a hard day at work.
More recently, Hive has also introduced several smart security products including Active Plugs (£39) that can be used to switch on lamps remotely via the smart phone app as well as as door/window and motion sensors (£29 each) which will send an alert to your phone if they are triggered.
Nor is Hive the only company using the latest smart technology to help make our homes more secure. US company August (http://www.august.com/) recently introduced a new version of its Smart Door locks, costing £230. This incorporates the very latest Apple HomeKit technology (http://www.apple.com/uk/ios/homekit/) so you open and close the front doors with voice activated commands via Siri, rather than having to go through an app.
The company has also just unveiled a smart doorbell too. The $200 Doorbellcam features a built in WiFi camera which is triggered if someone comes up the path or driveway. If the buzzer is pushed it’s also possible to speak to whoever is there via your smartphone, no matter where in the world you are. Handy if you want to tell the postman to deliver a parcel next door!
Another popular smart home solution is Nest from Google (www.nest.com) which retails for around £130. Like Hive, it will let you control your home’s heating and hot water via your smartphone. But it can also be used in conjunction with the Nest Protect smoke and CO2 detector which will send an alert to your phone if there’s a problem. Another Nest product is the £159 Nest Cam security camera. This enables you to stream high resolution video footage from your home directly to your smart device, including smartphone, web tablet or laptop computer.
Want to adjust your home’s lighting at the touch of a button? Once you would have needed an expensive bespoke lighting solution from companies like Lutron (www.lutron.com), requiring special cabling throughout the home.
These days much of the same functionality can be achieved with cheap, easy to install wireless solutions such as the Philips Hue (www.philips.co.uk/hue). Available from around £60 it’s billed a personal lighting solution, enabling you to choose different light settings and patterns for each room of the house should you wish. Controllable via your smartphone, it’s possible to switch the lights on and off remotely to give the impression that there’s someone home. There’s even a geolocation/geofencing option which means that the lights will automatically switch on as you are approaching your property, even without having to take your smartphone out of your pocket.
Thanks to the latest Apple HomeKit technology, it’s also possible to use voice commands to switch your lights on and off using voice commands instead. Indeed, with the recent introduction of Apple HomeKit technology it’s now becoming much easier to link all of your home automation products together so you could – say if you want to enjoy a cosy night in - dim the lights, shut the curtains, switch the home cinema on, even lock the door all at the touch of a button. Now that’s smart.