This might be the year your home gets a higher IQ.
New smart home devices are hitting the market that can help your house do anything from order groceries to improve your sleep.
“Our homes are dumb, and we’ve just accepted it,” said Barry Daoust, founder of Smarthomes.us and an expert on smart home technology. “People don’t realize how much you can do.”
While an integrated whole-home system would make your life easier, there are steps you can take without plunking down a lot of cash. You can start by getting a smart home installer to make a single room “smart,” and then expand from there.
Or you could buy and install just one smart home device.
“You can start small,” Daoust said.
Here are five of the latest innovations that could make your home smarter this year:
A fridge that won’t let you run out of milk.
The new Family Hub refrigerator from Samsung can do everything except cook dinner. You can use it to order groceries online when you’re running low, digitally display your kid’s artwork and even deejay your dinner party. The fridge, available in spring 2016, features three interior cameras that snap photos of the shelves every time the door closes. From the grocery store, you can grab your phone to check the most recent photos to see if you’re out of milk. An LCD screen on the outside of the door lets you share notes with family members and display artwork — no magnets necessary.
A camera that tells you when your kid is home from school.
The Vivint Ping camera, an in-home smart camera out in spring 2016, will ping your phone when a person enters the room where the camera sits. And you can even set it up to let you know when your child comes home from school. When you’re away, your kid, spouse or elderly parent at home can press a button to start a video chat with you on your phone. And if you’ve got the Vivint Sky smart home platform, the camera can act as a security camera and start recording if a burglar triggers your alarm system. The alarm then alerts a 24/7 monitoring center to call the cops.
A device that lets you answer your front door while away.
You told the dog walker to come over at 5, but you’re stuck at the office. No problem: the Vivint Doorbell Camera, which won a 2016 innovation award, will let you chat from afar with a person at your door. The device also integrates with the whole home system, so you can open the door remotely and Marley still gets his walk. Another new product, the August Smart Lock, lets you create virtual house keys for guests from your smartphone.
Technology that allows you to let visitors in from afar can be a huge help, according to Daoust, who recently opened his own garage door from the office to let a painter in so his wife wouldn’t have to wake their 4-year-old from a nap.
Smart locks make life a lot easier, said Joel Worthington, president of Mr. Electric, a company that installs smart home technology.
“There’s no more hiding keys under a mat,” Worthington said.
A bed that helps you sleep better.
What if your bed could figure out why you’re tossing and turning at 2 a.m. and fix the problem? Sleep Number’s new It bed, available in summer 2016, uses biometric sensors to “track your whole body hundreds of times per second,” according to Sleep Number. The bed measures your heart rate, breathing and movement and gives you tips on what to change, like your Sleep Number setting or the temperature in the room. The bed can even figure out if you’ve got an early meeting the following day and will nudge you by smartphone alert to hit the hay.
A smoke alarm that talks instead of chirps
If you’ve been woken up at 3 a.m. to a shrill chirping sound, then had to drag out a ladder while half asleep, you might want to get a smart smoke alarm. The new, redesigned Nest Protect gives you a friendly verbal heads-up — for example, telling you “there’s smoke in the kitchen” — and warning you that the alarm might go off. When you realize you’ve just burnt some toast and there’s no danger, you can shush the alarm from your smartphone. The device also checks itself each night and glows green to assure you the battery is OK.
Keep it all connected
Many consumers who aren’t using an integrated system get tired of downloading multiple apps—wishing their smart devices would just talk to each other. So, many companies are working on creating technology that can be integrated with devices and systems from other companies, Worthington said.
In the meantime, you can use an app such as Stringify to connect smart devices in your home, said Dave Evans, Stringify cofounder. For example, you can decide ahead of time that if smoke is detected in your living room in the middle of the night by your Nest Protect, you want your smart lamp to blink red 50 times to help wake you.
“A smart home should act as a system, not a collection of disparate devices,” Evans said.