The best Internet of Things gadgets to smarten up your home
If you haven't joined the Internet of Things (IoT) train yet, now's the perfect time to get on board. Smarts have been crammed into pretty much every household appliance you can think of, and with competition heating up there are more options than ever. New Atlas rounds up some of the best IoT gadgets to smarten up your home this holiday season.
The best place to start building any IoT network is with a connected speaker, like Google Home, Amazon Echo or the upcoming Apple HomePod. These devices act like a hub for other devices, allowing you to control everything through an app or by barking voice commands from across the room, so let's kick off with three of 2017's best examples.
Google Home Mini/Max
This year, Google expanded its Home speaker by adding Mini and Max models to the lineup. As you'd expect, the Mini shrinks the tech down into a squat package about the size and shape of a donut, and at US$49 you could scatter a few around the house. The Google Home Max, on the other hand, beefs up the basic model into a higher-end speaker, with better sound and deeper bass. It'll run you about $399.
Amazon Echo Show
With some tight competition in the home assistant field, this year Amazon set itself apart from the crowd by adding video to what's usually an audio-only experience. The Amazon Echo Show has all the skills of the vanilla Echo, and adds the ability to make video calls, play YouTube videos or show live feeds from connected security cameras or baby monitors. Sure, a tablet could probably do much the same (and more), but the Echo Show is purpose-built for being yelled at, and at $229, it's cheaper than other devices too.
If music is more your jam, Sonos has just recently jumped into the smart speaker game with the Sonos One. Where other smart speakers may sound a bit tinny, the Sonos One pumps out room-filling sound through two Class-D digital amplifiers, a tweeter and a mid-woofer, and it can easily integrate with other Sonos speakers. It doesn't lack in the brains department either, borrowing Amazon's Alexa assistant for most of its voice commands and skills. Sonos One will set you back $199.
Ikea Trådfri smart lights
Philips dominates the smart light arena with its Hue bulbs, but they're pretty pricey. Enter Ikea's alternative Trådfri, which could be a great first stepping stone to smart-lighting your home.
Although they aren't as colorful as other offerings, the Trådfri lights can be dimmed and brightened, switch between warm and cool modes, and set to different mood profiles. Everything's controlled through an app, a remote control, or voice commands via Alexa or the Google Assistant, and in a nice touch of system agnosticism, it's compatible with Apple HomeKit as well. For $80, the starter kit includes the Wi-Fi gateway, the remote control and two LED bulbs.
Sometimes it'd be great to be able to control the weather, and smart thermostats can kind of let you do just that – even if it's only inside your own home. The ecobee4 is one of the most feature-packed of these gizmos, with this year's edition boasting Alexa built in, meaning it's now voice-enabled right out of the box. That alone opens up the range of abilities the device has, and saves you the trouble of having a separate speaker sitting on the bench.
On top of that, the ecobee system comes with room sensors that can be placed around the house, so that temperature readings aren't just taken from one spot. That makes it a steal for $249.
Rachio Smart Sprinkler
The Internet of Things is also wiping out thankless chores outside the house, and first on the list is watering. The Rachio smart sprinkler uses information about what types of plants you're growing and the kind of soil you have to build a personalized watering schedule, but its best trick is its ability to keep an eye on the weather forecasts and reschedule the watering depending on the rain.
Again, it connects to the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant and Nest, and can be controlled by an app so users can monitor how thirsty their garden is from afar. Available from $199, the Rachio could pay for itself by cutting your water bill or the cost of replacing plants you forget to water.
Gate Smart Lock
The Smart Lock from Gate Labs is a combination video doorbell and Wi-Fi deadbolt, and the two seem like such an obvious mix that we're surprised it hasn't been done before. The Gate lock fits into most existing deadbolt cylinders, connects to your home Wi-Fi network and syncs to a smartphone app. When a visitor presses the button or sets off the motion detector, it triggers a video call to your phone, whether you're home or not. From there, you can remotely unlock the door – or not.
The Gate Smart Lock can also be unlocked using a good old-fashioned key, or with a numeric passcode that can be set for single or multiple uses. It can secure the rest of your IoT swag for $349.
Aura photo frame
Digital photo frames are a great alternative to committing to a single picture on the wall, but it can take just as much hassle to get the images you want on there. Aura is designed to display a range of photos without you having to do any curating. Instead, it automatically syncs with an app on your phone that does the picking and choosing for you, and which also allows family and friends to contribute their own shots.
Rather than cycling through 50 failed selfies and the saucy snaps you forgot to delete, all images are run through Aura's algorithms before they're put on show for the whole house to see. That filters out any blurry or low-res shots, duplicates or nudity.
To top it off, the frame is kitted out with sensors for lights, motion and gestures. It seems a little pricey at $299, but unlike other systems there are no ongoing fees for the unlimited cloud storage.
Roku Streaming Stick+
Streaming TV and movie services are starting to fragment, but Roku's sticks do a good job of pulling it all back into one place. This year's edition, the Streaming Stick+, can handle 4K and HDR video, adds voice control to the remote, and boosts the wireless range up to four times further than the previous model.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is available now for $69.
Getting out of bed is usually the worst part of the day, but the smell of sizzling bacon or freshly brewed coffee can make it less of a chore. The Olfactory Clock helps you wake up and smell the coffee – literally – every single morning.
Three minutes before the alarm drags you kicking and screaming into the wakeful world, the Olfactory Clock gives off the pleasant aroma of coffee, bacon or the beach to make the transition a little sweeter. Those scents come from swappable capsules that are good for 30 uses each.
At $80 for the clock and $7 per capsule refill, the Olfactory Clock could make a great gift for the chronic snoozer in your life.
Check out more of the best in technology and innovation from 2017.