Its nice living in the future, isn’t it? The internet is no longer confined to our phones, tablets and laptops: you can now buy a range of voice activated and app-controlled gadgets for your home. Yes, you’ll never have to get up to flick a switch ever again Read on for a glimpse at some of the new tech you could kit out your new loft and home with. With new inventions all the time you can find everything from the time-saving and practical to the over-the-top and decadent.
The first thing you’ll need for a truly futuristic home is a hub device to connect all of your other gadgets to. With the Google Home or Amazon Echo (owned by about 8 million people as of January 2017) hubs, you’ll be able to control a range of other gadgets with your voice. Both feature digital assistants powered by Google search or Microsoft’s Bing, respectively.
These can also fulfil a range of functions in themselves. Want to know the weather forecast? Is the capital of Kyrgyzstan on the tip of your tongue, but just evading you? Ask Alexa (or the somewhat more prosaically named ‘Google Assistant’). But the real usefulness of these devices, as mentioned, is their ability to sync up with other gadgets around your home so you can assign all of them voice commands. Don’t want to get out of bed to switch off the lights? Just tell your hub to do it for you. This is what centuries of human progress have really been leading up to.
As mentioned, one of the many things you can now control via voice commands or Smartphone apps is your lights. Phillips’ Hue lights can be controlled via an app to change the colours and the brightness, and you can even set them up so your entire house briefly flashes or dims every time someone sends you an email, which seems a little extreme to us.
Picture the scene. It’s a freezing day in London, despite the fact that it’s April and the week before it was 20 degrees. You know your house is going to be a bit chilly when you get home, and for at least half an hour you’re going to have to hide under tonnes of blankets and read holiday brochures, gazing longingly at Caribbean beaches. All this is a thing of the primitive pre-internet past. Now you can control your thermostat via your phone and heat your house off before you even step on the train back from work.
You know how you have to bend over to flip power sockets on and off all the time? Well save your back, now you can get smart sockets which plug into your stupid, regular power sockets. These WiFi power outlets will enable you to switch on and off your mains electricity with a tap on your phone or a voice command.
Remember when you had to stand around waiting for your water to boil before you could have your precious first cuppa of the day? Why don’t you just turn your kettle on from the warmth of your bed on the other side of the house? By the time you stumble bleary-eyed into your kitchen, you’ll be able to make your tea or coffee in no time. Yes, you can buy kettles which connect to the net now.
Ok, so these aren’t exactly new – but they are much better now. In fact, you can now get robotic vacuum cleaners that will do a round of your house and then return themselves to a charging point so they’re ready to do it all over again. Unfortunately they can’t empty themselves into your bin and then take it out on collection day. But we’re sure that’s coming soon.
We’ve all had our smoke detectors go off while we’re innocently cooking bacon or overcooking a pizza into a lump of charcoal. With internet-connected smoke detectors, you can just shut it up again with a tap on your phone. And as it sends you a notification when it goes off, you’ll be alerted if your house goes up in flames while you’re at work, giving you the chance to call the fire brigade before someone across the street notices columns of black smoke, which is also pretty handy.
Burglaries are an unfortunately widespread occurrence, and with police resources stretched, they’re rarely properly investigated and there’s often little evidence. However, you can buy a range of high-definition security cameras and alarm systems which will activate whenever they detect unusual activity and stream the footage to the cloud, where it can be retrieved and used as evidence. Most can be set up to alert and send the video to you too, so you can check if someone’s breaking in or it’s just the postman or your cat. Some of these devices can even monitor the air quality in your home.
This is another one that’s been around for a bit. You can use your fridge to order more food the moment you notice you’re out of something. Some also have interior cameras so you can check if you really did run out of milk before you take a new one off the shelf. You can also probably see who’s been nicking your expensive chocolates. There’s no such thing as a perfect crime anymore!
You might have an app or a fitbit which tracks how much you walk and exercise, and with some of these you can track your sleep too. Or you could buy a high-tech bed to do it for you. You can now buy a bed which uses embedded sensors to track your heart rate, breathing and movement. Connected to its app, it’ll make suggestions to you about bed firmness and bedtimes to help you understand how to sleep better.
The Rest bed
The temptation to just swat off your alarm or set it to endlessly snooze can be strong at times. Which is why the ‘Clocky’ robotic alarm was invented. This little alarm clock on wheels flees you as it goes off, meaning you simply have to get out of bed in order to turn it off. And once you’re out, well, there’s no point in getting back in, right? It could also be some handy morning exercise, depending on how committed Clocky is to evading you.
Is the sun suddenly hitting you in the face and ruining your movie? Get app-controlled blinds and, combined with your voice-activated lights and power sockets, you’ll never have to get off your sofa again! While we’re on the topic of not getting off your sofa, you can also buy internet-connected camera doorbell systems, so when someone comes a-knocking, you can check your phone to see if it’s some pesky salesman or lobbyist you can safely ignore. Or, if you’d prefer, use the speaker to tell them where to stick it. There’s really no end to the list of household items which can be improved with a little bit of wireless internet, is there?