Smart Apartment

12 smart thermostats to make your home the right temperature

by Megan Wollerton May 15 2019

When Apple alumni Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers unveiled their first-gen Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011, they ignited interest in a previously overlooked part of the home. All of a sudden, folks were paying attention to more than thermostat functionality — they were looking at design and the possibility of integrating their heating and cooling systems into their app-centric connected worlds.

But, Nest (now Google Nest) did more than just showcase smart design and offer an outlet for tech-savvy consumers early on; it also inspired other companies to create their own versions of the DIY smart thermostat.

The innovative heat and AC devices that have emerged are all slight variations on the same energy-efficient, customization-focused theme. Each one does something a bit different in terms of features and final execution. Take a look at the smart thermostats we’ve reviewed so far to see if you might be ready for an upgrade.

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Ecobee Ecobee3 Lite

The Ecobee3 Lite is Ecobee’s entry-level smart thermostat. Use the related app to monitor and make changes to your settings remotely. You can also connect it to a wide variety of smart home partners (see below). While this particular Ecobee thermostat doesn’t come with a temperature and proximity sensor accessory, you can buy a two-pack separately for $79. Adding sensors gives you the chance to keep an eye on the temperature in other areas of your home, as well as improve its ability to determine when you’re home or away.

Price: $169

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, SamsungSmartThings, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON

Ecobee Ecobee4

The Ecobee4 is a Wi-Fi-and-app-enabled thermostat that relies on sensors to detect whether you’re home or away. Yes, you can still schedule it the old-fashioned way, but this thermostat’s adaptive sensors know your routine can be unpredictable. The Ecobee4 automatically cancels Away mode if the motion and proximity sensors notice you’ve come home unexpectedly — all so that you can be as comfortable as possible. Isn’t that nice?

This model also has a built-in Alexa speaker and won a CNET Editors’ Choice award for its impressive performance and innovative design. That means you can use it as a voice control hub in your home, as well as to control the thermostat.

Price: $249

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Emerson Sensi

The Emerson Sensi retains a traditional thermostat design, but adds in a related app and integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Wink. It works well overall, but is missing advanced features and accessories like temperature sensors and algorithmic learning. The Sensi is still a solid bet if you want basic smart functionality for less than other many other connected thermostats available today.

Price: $130

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Emerson Sensi Touch

The Emerson Sensi Touch is priced to compete with models like the Ecobee3 Lite. With support for Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Wink, the Sensi Touch has a solid roster of smart home partners — and an updated touchscreen display. It also offers geofencing and monitors the indoor humidity.

Price: $169

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Wink

Read CNET’s full review of the Emerson Sensi Touch Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Google Nest Learning Thermostat

The $249 Nest Learning Thermostat wasn’t the first smart or app-enabled model to hit retail, but its unique design definitely changed the game. Its radial dial takes cues from retro thermostats, but some clever tweaks gave it modern appeal. And, its learning algorithm adapts to your comings and goings so you don’t have to worry about setting fixed Home and Away schedules. Your Nest will also send you energy reports based on your usage patterns to gently guide you toward a more efficient, economical heating and cooling routine.

Price: $249

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Read CNET’s full review of the Google Nest Learning Thermostat.

SEE IT ON AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Google Nest E

The Nest E is the Google company’s entry-level smart thermostat. You get roughly all of the same features offered with Nest’s high-end learning thermostat, but the E used plastic hardware components (rather than metal) to keep prices down. And while this model retains Nest’s rounded thermostat design, its frosted gray-white finish sets it slightly apart.

Price: $169

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Read CNET’s full review of the Google Nest Thermostat E.

SEE IT AT BEST BUY

Honeywell Lyric

The Lyric thermostat was designed to compete directly with the Nest. But instead of a Nest-style learning algorithm or Ecobee3-esque adaptive sensors, the Lyric relies heavily on geofencing. You can set either a 500-foot or 7-mile range and when it senses that you’re out of range, it will set itself to Away mode. When it detects that you’re back within range, it will kick Home mode back on so your home is nice and cozy by the time you reach your front door.

Price: $199

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings

Read CNET’s full review of the Honeywell Lyric Round Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Honeywell Lyric T5

Honeywell’s Lyric T5 smart thermostat works with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. It also has geofencing capabilities, similar to the pricier Honeywell Lyric thermostat. The T5 successfully automated Home and Away modes whenever my phone moved in and out of the customizable geofencing range during testing. It’s a truly smart thermostat at a reasonable price, especially since it supports Alexa and Siri voice control.

Price: $150

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit

Read CNET’s full review of the Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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iDevices Thermostat

The affordable iDevices thermostat works with Alexa and Siri voice assistants. It also has a related app for accessing features from your phone — or tablet. Other than its voice integrations and related app, iDevices’ thermostat doesn’t do much. It doesn’t have geofencing, offer learning algorithms or come with standalone temperature sensors. Still, this simple thermostat is a decent entry-point into smart heating and cooling.

Price: $130

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit

Read CNET’s full review of the iDevices Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat

The Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat is expensive at $319. But it has a neat-looking see-through OLED touchscreen, an integrated Cortana speaker and built-in air quality sensors. Use the related GLAS app to check in on your heating and cooling remotely — and to make any on-the-go adjustments. If you have a separate Amazon or Google smart speaker, you can also control the GLAS via Alexa and Google Assistant commands.

Price: $319

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana

Read CNET’s full review of the Johnson Controls GLAS Smart Thermostat.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Chris Monroe/CNET

Lux Geo

Like every other smart thermostat on this list, the Lux Geo comes with a related app for remote access to your heating and cooling settings. It also offers geofencing for automatic arming and disarming. Its most distinctive feature, though, is its design. The Geo can be mounted on your wall either vertically or horizontally, which helps if you have old paint, wallpaper or holes you want to cover with minimal effort.

Price: $140

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

Read CNET’s full review of the Lux Geo.

SEE IT AT AMAZON
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Lux Kono

The Lux Kono smart thermostat looks pretty neat, but the knob was fiddly and difficult to use. It has a detachable faceplate that comes in 11 colors. It works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. I tested it with an Amazon Echo Show, a Google Home Max and a HomePod and all three let me make basic thermostat adjustments using voice commands.

Price: $153

Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

Smart home motorized window blinds: Best options for 2019

Options range from add-on motors, to bespoke blinds fitted in-between two panes of glass

Motorized window blinds which raise and lower with a push of a button – or automatically at a certain time – may sound like the stuff of luxury hotels and multi-million dollar mansions. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Just a couple of years ago, motorized blinds were expensive to install, and with few options available to even the most well-heeled property owners looking for their next smart device. But there are a now a range of more affordable alternatives.

Some fit to the wall next to your window, then use a motor to pull on the blind cord, raising or lowering as you see fit. Then there is Ikea, which will enter the smart bling industry in August this year, after a short delay.

Below are some of the most popular options available to property owners today.

Lutron Serena

Serena by Lutron offers a wide range of smart home connectivity

Serena smart shade by Lutron offer a complete online service for ordering bespoke motorized blinds for your home. You can pick the shade style, fabric and size, types of remote control – everything. You can also order a range of swatches for free to see how the materials look and feel before going ahead with your purchase.

These blinds can be controlled via the Lutron smartphone app, or Apple HomeKit (including speaking to Siri and using the Apple Watch app). They can also be raised or lowered by speaking to the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, or via the Samsung SmartThings and Wink 2 hubs.

The blinds also tap into the Nest ecosystem, automatically raising when smoke or CO2 is detected by the Nest Protect alarm, and there is support for IFTTT (If This, That That) for further smart home automation.

Pella Insynctive

Pell Insynctive blinds are fitted between the glass of your windows

 

Pella is a high-end solution which fits a motorized blind between the two panes of glass in each of your windows. These can be controlled via a companion smartphone app, but out of the box there is no further smart home integration – so you can’t use Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit or IFTTT to control the blinds.

Instead, you can buy the Pella Bridge, which includes Z-Wave and means the blinds can be controlled by the Wink 2 smart home hub and other Z-Wave systems.

There are also Pella Insynctive products including a garage door, bolt lock, door and window sensors that round out its smart home system. Pella also appeals to the smart energy home owner: Its Designer Series wireless aluminum blinds, along with its cellular shades, are battery-powered, and can be recharged by a thin horizontal solar panel.

Ikea

Ikea smart blinds will be on sale in August 2019

 

Ikea had planned to launch its first smart motorized blinds, called Kadrilj and Fyrtur, in April this year. But, as of April 2019, they have been delayed until August so that Ike can spend more time working on the software used to control the blinds.

These battery-powered blinds will connect to Ikea’s Tradfri hub, which is used to control the company’s Zigbee smart light bulbs. This means the blinds should offer Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit (and Siri) control.

As ever with Ikea, the selling points of these blinds will likely be their simplicity, a design which fits in almost everywhere, and their price. On that final note, they are expected to start at around $110 per window.

Somfy

Somfy produces a wide range of motorized blinds, awnings and shutters for inside and out

Somfy

Somfy is a big name when it comes to the motors which power blinds, as well as outdoor awnings and shutters, plus an increasing range of smart home devices – like flood lights, cameras and alarm systems.

Inside the home, Somfy produces smart, motorized systems for window shades, curtains and projector screens. These can all be controlled via the Somfy smartphone app.

When connected to the myLink bridge, Somfy’s motors can be controlled via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, making it easy to add them to your existing smart home automation systems.

Soma

This $149 motor operates most ball chain window blind mechanisms

A simpler (and potentially cheaper) option for making your blinds smart is to install a motor.

This example by Soma is the result of a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The company claims the $149 device can operate all ball chain shades, and the companion iOS and Android smartphone app can be used to set schedules for up to 10 windows.

Soma also sells a kit of two motors and two solar panels for $238.

Control via Alexa and Apple HomeKit is also possible, but this requires the $99 Soma Connect hub, which is powered by USB and connects to your router.

Axis Gear

At $249 per window, the Axis Gear is not a cheap option for bringing automation to your existing blinds

Axis Gear costs $249 per blind motor and works in a similar way to the Soma. Once installed, the Gear rotates to pull on the cord or chain, raising and lowering your window blind.

The company says the device is “guaranteed” to lift any blind weighing up to 10 lbs, or your money back. Just like the Soma, it can run on solar power, but there is also the option to install 12 AA batteries as a backup for when solar power isn’t enough to refill the battery.

There’s a control button on the device itself, plus an iOS and Android smartphone app for scheduling your blinds, organizing them into groups, and controlling several at once.

Gear uses the ZigBee standard to connect to a Samsung SmartThings hub, and from there it can be configured to work with voice commands issued to Alexa and Google Assistant.

Move by Teptron

Move is a battery-powered motor which controls most types of manual window blind

 

Finally, another retro-fit motor option is the Move by Teptron. Currently priced at $49 (half price), the Move represents very good value for money compared to some other options, and can be controlled via a smartphone app for iOS and Android.

The motor is powered by rechargeable batteries or a micro USB cable connected to a wall outlet. Unfortunately, beyond the company’s own app there is no other way to control the Move – so Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit and IFTTT are all off limits for now. Bur at this price, budget-conscious readers may still be interested in fitting the Move to their blinds.

Consumer ‘Smart Home’ Technology Predictions For 2019

WRITTEN BY Mark N. Vena

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is the premier consumer electronics event, where companies big and small get a chance to showcase their new technologies. It always provides a strong glimpse of where the industry is going, and as such, is a must-attend for analysts like myself. On the eve of the show, here are my top 5 Nostradamus-inspired predictions for 2019.

#5: We will start to see practical robot solutions for the consumer that are “sociable” in design, capable of natural interaction with humans. The solutions we’ll see in 2019 will still be a far cry from the lovable robots in The Jetsons, Star Wars, or Lost in Space, but they will be an important step forward from the single usage model products (e.g. Roomba) that we have today.

Advances in digital assistant technology such as Amazon.com'sAMZN -0.16% Alexa, Google GOOGL -0.19% Assistant, and (to a lesser extent) Apple AAPL +0.31% Siri, have laid the groundwork for the human interface capabilities needed to make these solutions useful and intuitive to use. Companies like Boston Dynamics have done amazing work with robots that utilize high resolutions cameras to sense the environment and move with animal-like dexterity. Given the developments we’re already seeing in the AI and machine learning area that will allow robots to “mature” and become more useful over time, I suspect we’ll see products similar to Sony ’s next generation Aibo (which was announced at last year’s CES). Genuine robotic pets may indeed have mainstream appeal, for uses such as giving comfort to the elderly or providing “roaming” home security surveillance in a way that a fixed camera cannot.

Mobile robot solutions like Temi, which performs a number of interesting entertainment, news dissemination, and video conferencing functions, point in the direction of where the market is headed. Roomba, look out.

#4: 802.11ax, otherwise known as Wi-Fi 6, is going to be the next “big thing” in wireless connectivity—particularly in the connected home. Both Qualcomm QCOM +0.35% and Intel INTC +1.1%introduced new chipsets supporting this new specification, and new routers with 802.11ax-based radios will start to hit the market this year from all the major routers companies (including Netgear and Linksys).

Why is 802.11ax going to be such a game changer? The essential problem with today’s Wi-Fi is not purely speed—802.11ac provides sufficient amounts of bandwidth for most home users, with theoretical speeds over the Gigabit threshold. The much larger problem is Wi-Fi congestion in the typical home, with many devices (sometimes up to 15 or 20) competing for bandwidth. The 802.11ax standard takes its cue from how LTE cellular technology solves network overcrowding, with wider and multiple channels that significantly increase throughput.  Yes, 802.11ax will be anywhere from 5X to 10X faster than existing Wi-Fi technology, but more importantly, it will handle these competing client requests for bandwidth in a more organized, intelligent and robust manner. In addition, 802.11ax promises to improve battery life on devices, since the range will be (generally) further and the transmission of data will be faster.  In that manner, the clients will not need to work as hard.

As always, the downside to new wireless standard transitions is the proverbial “chicken and egg” phenomenon—the client device and the router must both have 802.11ax support to realize these benefits. Still, there is enough industry momentum behind 802.11ax to make me believe that the transition will begin in earnest this year. Consumers will benefit from the upgrade cycle.

On a tangential note, I’m also excited about what Plume and others have done in the “beyond wireless” area with OpenSync. OpenSync is an open source initiative focused on assisting service providers by opening up hardware ecosystems to enable an improved foundation of new smart home services and apps. This type of “outside the box” initiative has already garnered support by several major service providers and device manufacturers and I expect to see a lot of traction around this later this year.

#3: If you think Amazon Alexa is already pervasive in your home, you haven’t seen anything yet. 2019 will be the year that Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant become an inescapable presence in homes and public venues. According to Amazon, by the end of 2018, tens of millions of smart devices were already connected to Alexa. Additionally, more than 28,000 smart home devices, among 4,500 unique brands, are compatible with Alexa—a 600% increase over 2017.

While I’m not prepared to declare that the voice assistant wars are over—Google Assistant has also made impressive market share gains in this area—Amazon is clearly the leader in this space. The proliferation of digital assistant devices—not just speakers, but lamps, cars, microwave ovens, TVs, clocks, and more—will be an ongoing big story for 2019. It won’t just be in the home: Amazon announced last year it was partnering with Marriott Hotels to put Echo devices in their hotel rooms to improve guest access to amenities.

Putting aside all the thorny privacy issues that will undoubtedly get more attention in 2019 as “ambient computing” in our daily lives becomes more pervasive, the bottom line is that we are rapidly becoming a world where something is always listening. While some will view this (understandably) as an Orwellian nightmare, there are undisputed productivity and lifestyle benefits to gain as well.

#2: “Genuine” wireless charging of devices will start to emerge in 2019.  Consumers have been fooled a bit by companies like Apple and Samsung who have tried to convince them that “inductive charging,” a technology that has been around for over 20 years that requires two surfaces to be touching each other for a charging connection to be enabled, is the same as genuine wireless charging. Nothing could be further from the truth. While inductive charging for cell phones and other devices eliminates the need for a cable, several innovative companies are working on genuine wireless charging that frees devices from power outlets and battery changes.

One company that shows significant potential in this area is Wi-Charge. Using safe, invisible light, Wi-Charge’s technology provides enough power to charge a phone across a room. The implications of their technology are enormous. Not only could it help solve the battery charging dilemma that nearly every consumer face on a daily basis, it could also enable the use of more IoT devices (e.g. smart locks, door and window sensors, etc.) in the home, where battery replacement is irritating, and power outlets are not available.

Wi-Charge’s technology is already FDA-approved and complies with worldwide government standards. It is currently collaborating with several well-known partners to create wire-free appliances and charging devices. This truly could be one of the big technology stories in 2019.

#1: Facebook Portal may be the first truly great home video conferencing solution that gets doomed because of privacy concerns. It pains me say this, but I can’t remember a similar product like Facebook Portal that has gotten such tremendously positive reviews from a technology, ease of use, and design standpoint, but an almost universal slap in the face from the media because of Facebook FB +0%’s bad track record in the privacy area. The major press reviews have been almost universally consistent: great hardware but you simply can’t trust Facebook.

Having been one of the early users of Portal, I can attest to Portal’s superb video quality, excellent user experience, beautiful product design, and innovation (the camera smoothly follows you as you’re speaking to someone). But to my chagrin, I haven’t been able to convince a single member of my extended family to buy one (even devoted Facebook users like my mom and aunts) because they think Facebook might spy on them when Portal is not being used.  Interestingly, they don’t have any issue using Apple’s FaceTime to video conference with families.

I recognize these fears are largely emotional since Facebook has taken many precautions, both in its backend infrastructure and with the product itself (the ability to cover up the camera to prevent the company from spying on you). Still, many consumers, particularly older ones who remain committed to the traditional Facebook platform, have been put off by the company’s rash of bad press around privacy over the past year. In that sense, Facebook has a much bigger problem than just Portal. Sales of Portal over the holiday season have been modest (even light by some reports). I won’t be surprised if Portal makes an early exit from the scene later this year. It’s a shame, but it’s self-inflicted in my view.

Beyond CES

There are numerous indications that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show will be substantially bigger this year in terms of the number of product exhibitors and attendees. After I return from CES, I will publish a recap of some the more interesting products on display next week.  At CES, I’ll be fortunate enough to attend media-only events like CES Unveiled, Pepcom’s Digital Experience, and ShowStoppers, in which hundreds of startups show off their wares in a convenient, egalitarian format. These annual events truly provide great insight into where the general consumer market is headed and I won’t be surprised if many of the products that are shown speak to many of the themes I’ve described above. Stay tuned.

14 Predictions For The Future Of Smart Home Technology

Successful CIOs, CTOs & executives from Forbes Technology Council offer firsthand insights on smart home technology & business.

A decade ago, the idea of controlling your home’s thermostat, lights and security systems remotely via smartphone would have seemed like futuristic science fiction. But 2017 proved to be the year of the smart home. Technology in this market continues to grow leaps and bounds, and Zion Market Research predicts it will reach $53.45 billion by 2022.

Shutterstock

2018 holds even more promise for the smart home industry, as devices like Google Home, Alexa and Amazon Echo become more commonplace and artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated. We asked 14 members of Forbes Technology Council what they think consumers can expect in the coming year.

1. The Next Security And Privacy Crisis

We have shared our digital footprint for convenience. With smart home technology, we are sharing our physical footprint. It is not a matter of if but when these systems will be compromised, and the consequences could be much more severe than lost social security numbers. Addressing security and privacy will become a fundamental concern that will shape this industry. – Dimitri StiliadisAporeto

2. Integration Of Smart Home Devices

Integration will make or break smart home technology. Navigating goofy AI misunderstandings for 12 appliances and the front door is not the way of the future. But can smart homes make sure you remembered to turn off all the lights? Lock up? De-activate alarms upon recognizing your face? I believe we will see more integration that supports homeowners in 2018. – Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

3. A Greater Role For Artificial Intelligence

I’m wrapping up repairs and renovations on an investment property, and we opted to install a bunch of Nest and Ring products to better secure our investment. The video surveillance is great, but I can see AI being used to automate threat detection and maybe more proactively alert us if something goes awry. This would revolutionize the human aspect of remote video monitoring. – Tim MaliyilAlertBoot

4. A Focus On Surveillance And Appliances

Homeowners will like the idea of more cool ways to control their homes. Surveillance has become more necessary to combat crime, as more people work from home and want to protect their physical and intellectual property. Appliances also could be a focus since people would like their appliances to take on more of the workload. – Chalmers BrownDue

5. New Smart Home Use Cases

In 2017, the majority of applications revolved around security and thermostats, and the devices did not interoperate. In 2018, smart home device makers will take a platform approach, and the devices will interoperate and new use cases will emerge such as appliance diagnostics, energy conservation and the prevention of major damages during natural disasters. – Naresh SoniTsunami ARVR

6. Homeowner Data Sharing

Sharing the data of homeowners with businesses will probably be the next big thing in smart home technology. Having your fridge order the food you need or setting the lights and preferred temperature for your arrival is what is coming soon. The data that you share with the smart devices will be of great interest to the companies that build such products. – Ivailo NikolovSiteGround

7. Increased Efficiency, Control And Customization

AI is set to disrupt the home. Technology will become much more efficient, and we will be able to control everything from appliances to radio volume to security from one central place. As a matter of fact, as AI develops, we eventually won’t need to manually control anything, as these devices will automatically adjust to our preferences. – Arthur PerelessPereless Systems

8. Customer Service As A Differentiator

With more and more smart home devices entering the market, there is an opportunity for forward-thinking companies to use customer service as a differentiator. An IoT environment can present a number of challenges for consumers ranging from basic troubleshooting to privacy concerns. Companies that are innovative and knowledgeable about delivering customer service excellence will stand out. – Michael RingmanTELUS International

9. More Security Concerns

We’ll see a proliferation of integrated platform solutions from big players in tech. Amazon will offer in-home food delivery straight to your fridge, leveraging its smart home platform. However, security will be a concern; a customer’s home could be robbed by a contractor. I also see a future where passwords are leaked or homes get hacked, and that’s something the big players need to plan for. – Neha SampatBuilt.io

10. Higher Cross-Compatibility Standards

I’m hoping for some real progress on standards. The smart home market has huge potential, but it’s still too fragmented. Consumers shouldn’t have to think about whether they want to invest in Nest, Amazon’s Echo line or products that support Apple’s Homekit. In 2018, I expect to see greater cross-compatibility and less focus on platform lock-in. – Vik PatelNexcess

11. Smart Kitchen Gadgets

I think we’re going to see more and more smart kitchen gadgets come on the market, such as rice cookers that are connected to Alexa, smart crockpots and integrated apps. We’ll be able to ask Alexa how much time is left on the device or control them from our smartphones at work. – Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

12. Smart Spaces Outside Of The Home 

Naturally, smart home tech will continue to become more accessible and inexpensive to the mainstream. As consumers become accustomed to the conveniences that come with smart tech, they will begin to seek out these efficiencies outside of the home. Next year, we’re likely to see an uptick in commercial smart building tech, particularly in offices seeking to adapt to more mobile workplace trends. – Arie BarendrechtWiredScore

13. The Replacement Of ‘Test Phase’ Products With Better Alternatives

As more technology and innovations are brought to the market, automation will make the home experience simpler and more pleasant. Next year will see an increase in the gadgets released in the IoT sphere. However, as this technology is relatively new, the testing phase will see the cleaning out of multiple products that are replaced by better alternatives. – Alexandro PandoXyrupt

14. Increased Voice Control Integration

Home technologies will integrate into so much more of our daily lives. Voice control of technologies that are included in your phone, TV, home audio and even car dashboard will be commonplace by the end of 2018. Voice is going to be the breakthrough advancement that really allows these technologies to become ubiquitous. – Tyler ShieldsSignal Sciences

11 smart home devices you didn’t know existed

With connected appliances, the dream of controlling every single aspect of our homes with a virtual butler is fast becoming reality.

Aside from the usual suspects – smart TVs, smart bulbs, smart speakers, smart thermostats, smart door locks, etc., did you know that there’s a whole army of smart appliances out there, waiting to go “Maximum Overdrive” in your home?

Turning your house into a smart home is exciting but be careful! Listen to my Komando On Demand podcast to learn how to watch for the warning signs so technology doesn’t take over your home.

You’ll be surprised by how many appliances are getting “smartified” nowadays. They may be wacky, weird or unnecessary, but some actually do make sense.

Here are 11 smart home devices that you didn’t know existed (but you’ll be glad that they do.)

1. Smart Toilet

Do your business in style with this smart toilet! The Numi from Kohler is a whirlpool of technology and it’s flushed with comforts you didn’t even know you needed. It has a motion-activated cover and heated seat, a retractable multi-function bidet, an air dryer and deodorizer, a foot warmer, fancy lights and Bluetooth speakers!

For ultimate toilet control, you even get a dockable touch-screen remote so you can totally flush it from afar. The price tag for this ridiculously lavish lavatory? Around $6,500.

2. Smart Pet Food Dispenser

Our pets are part of the family and they need not miss out on the smart appliance revolution. The PetSafe high-tech pet feeder will make them feel right at (smart) home.

This Wi-Fi connected pet feeder can be controlled with its own iPhone and Android app so you can feed your furry companion from anywhere. You can set meal schedules and slow dispense times to prevent bloating and vomiting. It will even notify you when your pet’s food has been dispensed.

The PetSafe Smart Feed is $179 but that sounds reasonable for your peace of mind, don’t you think?

PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Dog and Cat Feeder, Smartphone, 24-Cups, Wi-Fi Enabled App for iPhone and…

By Water & Feed

$179.95$199.99

Rated 4 out of 5 by 168 reviewers on Amazon.com

3. Smart Bed

Having a perfect night’s sleep is vital to overall health and people have been using smart wearables like Fitbit to track nightly sleeping patterns. But what if your bed does that itself?

Sleep Number’s 360 smart mattresses can track your nightly sleeping patterns, make adjustments to their firmness and can even adjust their temperatures.

It’s not going to be cheap to make your bed smarter. These smart beds start at around $3,200.

4. Smart Egg Tray

Now here’s a smart product that you don’t think you’d need but it actually makes sense, in theory.

The Quirky Egg Minder is a smart egg tray that will tell you how many eggs you have at home and when it’s time to throw them away. LED lights on the tray will tell you which one is the oldest egg and, with its smartphone app, will alert you if you’re running low.

Ever been to the grocery store wondering how many eggs you have left at home? Well, with Quirky Egg Minder, you can just check remotely with your smartphone!

This eggs-ellent (sorry) idea can be yours for as low as $14 right now. Not a bad price to shell out (sorry, again) for if you’re looking for extra kitchen smarts.

Quirky Egg Minder Wink App Enabled Smart Egg Tray, PEGGM-WH01

By Quirky

$10.99

Rated 2.5 out of 5 by 517 reviewers on Amazon.com

5. Smart Toothbrush

If you think brushing your teeth optimally is hard enough then you deserve this $180 smart toothbrush from Oral-B.

The Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 smart toothbrush connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and uses facial recognition to track where you’ve brushed so you don’t miss a spot.

The app will also provide real-time visual coaching on brushing time and pressure. It is so smart, pressure sensors will even automatically slow down its brush speed to protect you from excessive brushing. It’s like having a dentist in your bathroom!

6. Smart Fork

Let’s face it, the smart toothbrush will go great with a smart fork because, you know, we need all the tech help we can get for life’s basic necessities.

If the smart toothbrush can alert you if you’re brushing too hard, this smart fork will warn you if you’re eating too fast.

The logic behind the HapiFork is sound – if you want to eat healthier, you need to slow down your eating pace. And this uber-utensil can help you do it how? By buzzing when you’re biting more than you can chew.

It connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone and with an app, you can see your eating statistics unfold in front of you in real-time. You can then upload this data to Hapi.com and have everyone judge your table manners.

HAPILABS 100 HAPIfork Bluetooth-Enabled Smart Fork (White)

By HAPILABS INC.

$62.95

Rated 2.5 out of 5 by 4 reviewers on Amazon.com

7. Smart Frying Pan

Why would anyone buy a $229 smart frying pan? Well, because they can!

The SmartyPans frying pan is an interactive frying pan that has built-in sensors that track the weight of the ingredients as you drop them on the pan.

It also has built-in temperature sensors that ensure you have the perfect level of heat each time you cook the eggs you got from your smart egg tray.

With the SmartyPans app, you can follow step-by-step cooking instructions, create and share your own step-by-step recipes and even track the nutritional value of what you’re cooking. Who wouldn’t want that for $229?

8. Smart Toaster

Do you quietly judge your old traditional bread toaster and think that it’s so dumb it can’t even make perfect toast every time?

Now, you can toss that old clunker out and get the Breville Die-Cast 2-Slice Smart Toaster instead.

With its 1-touch automation, the Breville smart toaster will lower your bread automatically with delicate care, regulate the toasting time and a fancy LED panel will inform you about the current toasting cycle.

For extra entertainment, with its Lift and Look function, you can also check your toast while it’s cooking without interrupting the toasting cycle.

Breville BTA820XL Die-Cast 2-Slice Smart Toaster, 1.2-Inch Wide x 5.2-Inch Deep

By Breville (Feb 29, 2008)

$125.95$129.95

Rated 4 out of 5 by 823 reviewers on Amazon.com

9. Smart Water Pitcher

Have you ever sat at your family dinner table thinking “Honey, our water pitcher needs to get smarter fast”?

Well, say no more, Brita’s Smart Pitcher to the rescue! Nothing incredibly fancy but this Wi-Fi enabled pitcher will track and order its own replacement filters from Amazon.

How about that? A pitcher that buys its own accessories and charges them on your credit card. The robot takeover is slowly happening people.

Brita Medium 8 Cup Infinity Smart Water Pitcher and Filter – BPA Free – Black

By Brita

$43.99

Rated 2.5 out of 5 by 82 reviewers on Amazon.com

10. Smart Floss

Cultivating healthy flossing habits is challenging. It’s just too much work, right? And getting the perfect length of floss each time is so difficult, humanity definitely needs this smart dispenser.

Flosstime is an automated floss dispenser that delivers the perfect amount of floss with a single touch. It will also frown at you if you neglect to floss your teeth (judge-y appliances seem to be a recurring theme here).

You can attach it to your bathroom mirror and have your whole family join in the flossing fun. Flosstime can be yours for $26.

11. Smart Wine Dispenser

To cap this off, why not have a glass of wine from this smart wine dispenser?

The Kuvée Connect and the Kuvée Key are Wi-Fi connected wine dispensers that will always pour the perfect glass from a FreshPour enabled wine bottle each time.

And with the Connect, you can even rate, favorite, view and buy refill wine bottles on its built-in LCD touchscreen! I bet other wine bottles can’t do that.

Apple HomeKit: Everything you need to know

Get to know the software behind Apple’s Siri-powered smart home platform.

BY  

“Siri, open my bedroom shades.” 

You might not know it, but you’re using Apple HomeKit every time you issue a smart-home-related voice command on your iPhone, HomePod — or other Siri-compatible device.

HomeKit is to Apple what Alexa skills are to Amazon, or what actions are to Google. It’s that intangible, but vital in-the-background software that makes it possible for you to turn on your smart lights every morning with a simple Siri command (or from Apple’s iOS-only Home app).

HomeKit software was introduced way back at WWDC 2014 — before we had even heard of those now-ubiquitous smart speakers called the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. Still, HomeKit and the HomePod smart speaker aren’t nearly as well known as their competitors. Here’s a close-up look at Apple HomeKit — what it is, why it matters and how it fits into the growing smart home landscape. 

A brief chronology

The timeline for HomeKit is important because it helps explain how Amazon and Google gained ground so quickly — even though they technically joined the smart home market after Apple. Take a look: 

June 2014 – Apple announces HomeKit at WWDC, but no accompanying smart speaker and keeps it closed to developers

November 2014 – Amazon introduces the Amazon Echo, along with Alexa, Alexa skills and the Alexa app

June 2015 – The first batch of HomeKit-enabled devices hit stores, updated with MFi chips as part of Apple’s certification program

September 2016Apple introduces the Home app for adding HomeKit devices and controlling them from your phone

October 2016 – Google introduces the Google Home, along with Google Assistant, Google actions and the Google Home app

February 2018 – Apple introduces the HomePod, the first Apple smart home speaker, nearly four years after HomeKit

Between November 2014 and February 2018, Amazon and Google also added additional smart speakers to their device lineup. Amazon’s smart speakers range from the $50 (£50, AU$79) Echo Dot to the $230 (£200 or roughly AU$300 converted) Echo Show. Google’s range from the $50 (£50, AU$80) Home Mini to the $399 Home Max (not yet available internationally, but we predict a £399 and AU$599 price when it is). 

TAKING A LOOK AT HOMEKIT’S COMPETITION

AppleAmazonGoogle
SoftwareHomeKit (closed)Skills (open)Actions (open)
Voice assistantSiri (iOS only)Alexa (Android and iOS)Google Assistant (Android and iOS)
Device(s)Apple HomePodAmazon Echo (among others)Google Home (among others)
Mobile appHome (iOS only)Alexa (Android and iOS)Google Home (Android and iOS)

Open or closed?

There’s a reason HomeKit isn’t as well known as Alexa skills or Google actions.

Unlike Amazon, which opened up its Alexa skills to developers early on (the same goes for Google actions), Apple has maintained control of HomeKit from day one. Outside commercial developers can’t create Siri-voice-powered integrations for their connected devices. Also, Apple previously required third-party companies requesting integration with Siri to install a piece of hardware called an MFi chip in their devices.

The MFi chip is no longer required, but HomeKit hopefuls still have to go through the MFi certification program to apply for integration with Siri. 

Largely because of its closed-off nature, HomeKit hasn’t advanced as quickly as its competitors. Here’s where you can find all of the devices that work with Apple HomeKit.

Home

HomeKit lives in the iOS-only Home app. It’s the place where you pair new compatible devices, assign them to rooms in your house and create custom “scenes” (if you want) like “Good morning.” “Good morning” might turn on your bedroom lights, adjust the living room thermostat and open all of the window shades — simultaneously. 

You can either enable your “Good morning” scene from the Home app or ask Siri to do it on your iOS device or on a HomePod smart speaker. 

sylvania-homekit-pairing
Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Adding a HomeKit device to the Home app (see the screenshot above) involves scanning a special code included with your purchase. It’s typically printed on a sticker on the device itself. 

Unlike Amazon or Google, Apple’s Home app wasn’t introduced until two years after HomeKit was first announced. The earliest HomeKit integrations, unsurprisingly, were confusing to configure because there was no mobile app to launch them from. You instead had to connect them through the third-party device’s native app, which didn’t always follow a standardized process. 

The outlook

Apple finally has all of the main pieces it needs to be a comprehensive smart home platform — HomeKit, Siri, the HomePod and the Home app. Why it took the tech giant four years between introducing HomeKit and actually offering a smart speaker to accompany it is less clear. Either way, there are still a couple of things Apple could do to grow the customer base of HomeKit: a Home app for Android customers and a HomeKit SDK that’s completely open to developers (another thing that was reportedly in the works, but is currently only available to MFi licensees) — but I’m not holding my breath.

Everything you need to know about the Amazon Echo

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The Amazon Echo is the biggest tech breakout in recent memory — a voice-activated, internet-connected “smart speaker” with a built-in virtual assistant named Alexa that can answer your questions, follow your instructions and control your smart home devices. As Amazon likes to put it, the Echo is a Star Trek computer for your home.

Now approaching its fourth year, the Echo and its multiple offshoots, including the mini-sized Echo Dot and the touchscreen-equipped Echo Show, have found their way into millions of homes around the world. If they’ve found their way into yours and you don’t know what to do with them, or if you’re just curious about whether or not you should also buy in, then you, my friend, have come to the right post.

What is the Amazon Echo, and how does it work?

Let’s start at the beginning. Amazon introduced the Echo smart speaker at the end of 2014. It’s a standalone Bluetooth speaker with an array of “far-field” microphones that can hear you at a moderate distance plus a Wi-Fi connection to the Amazon cloud.

You wake the Echo up by saying “Alexa,” the name of Amazon’s virtual assistant (you can change this wake word to “Amazon,” “Echo” or “Computer,” if you like). Once the speaker hears the wake word, the ring around the top will light up blue to indicate that Alexa is actively listening for your question and command. Say something like, “what’s the weather today,” and Alexa will answer your question — in this case, with a quick summary of the day’s forecast.

Here’s how that works: Whenever you ask Alexa a question or give her a command, the Echo records the audio and uploads the snippet to Amazon’s cloud servers. Those servers translate the audio into text, then figure out the best way for Alexa to answer. That info gets sent back to your Echo speaker, where Alexa translates the text back into a spoken response. All of this happens in about a second.

amazon-echo-plus-08
Press the mute button on the top of the Echo and Alexa will stop listening for the wake word.Ian Knighton/CNET

So, Alexa is always listening to me?

Sort of. The Echo is always listening for the wake word, but it only starts recording and transmitting audio once it thinks it hears it. Echo devices indicate this with that blue ring of light — when it lights up, that means Alexa is recording and uploading what it hears in order to figure out how to respond.

Amazon uses encryption to protect those audio snippets whenever Alexa uploads them, and it stores them in the Amazon servers so that you can play them back in the Alexa app to hear what Alexa heard and see what she thinks you asked. You can erase that backlog of audio snippets any time you like (here’s how), and you can also press a button to “mute” the microphone and keep the Echo from listening for the wake word at all. In that case, the Echo’s ring will turn red to indicate that Alexa is covering her ears.

OK. So what all can Alexa do?

There are countless ways to put Alexa to use, but here are the main ones:

 

Click here for a complete rundown on everything you can ask Alexa.

 

amazon-echo-2ndgen-19
The Echo is great for streaming music, audiobooks, and podcasts. If you want, you can connect the Echo with your existing speakers via auxiliary cable or Bluetooth.Ian Knighton/CNET

Click here for our top Alexa tips for music lovers.

 

Click here for CNET’s top-rated smart home gadgets that work with Alexa. 

 

Click here to learn how to set a recurring alarm on your Echo device.

echo-dot-alexa-calls-messages-green.jpg

Click here to learn more about calling landlines and mobile numbers using Alexa.

 

Click here for our regularly-updated list of the 50 most useful Alexa skills.

 

Oh, and if you need to buy something on Amazon, Alexa can help with that, too. Imagine that!

amazon-echo-lineup-05
Alexa comes in a variety of different packages.Ian Knighton/CNET

How many different kinds of Echo devices are there?

After the Echo became a clear hit with the mainstream, Amazon doubled down and began releasing a number of offshoot devices designed to broaden the appeal of Alexa’s voice interface. All of them offer the same Alexa features in different packages and with different features that might interest different kinds of people. Here’s a quick list:

amazon-echo-spot-product-photos-10

Beyond those, you’ll also find Alexa in Amazon’s Fire tablets and Fire TV voice remotes — as well as a rapidly growing number of devices not made by Amazon. Amazon sees outside developers as a huge part of the Alexa strategy, and it’s making considerable efforts to make it as easy as possible for manufacturers to build Alexa into their devices.

Bottom line: Amazon doesn’t care which voice-activated device you buy — just so long as you’re talking to Alexa.

echo-2-product-photos-17
The Echo had a head start, but Google Home is nipping at its heels.Tyler Lizenby/CNET

What are the alternatives?

The Echo had the market to itself for about a year before any real competition showed up. But these days, the smart speaker category is about as crowded as it gets.

The closest competitor would be the Google Home smart speaker ($130 in the US, £130 in the UK and AU$200 in Australia). Powered by the voice-activated Google Assistant — it comes the closest to matching Alexa’s wide variety of features and integrations. Like Amazon, Google offers a smaller-sized version for $50 (£40 in the UK, AU$60 in Australia) called the Google Home Mini. It also offers a king-sized version called the Google Home Max for $400 (£400 in the UK, AU$580 in Australia) that offers superior sound quality. Amazon doesn’t have anything that matches the Max speaker, at least not yet.

Apple does, though. Its Siri-activated HomePod, which costs $350 (£320 in the UK, AU$500 in Australia), also offers better sound than any Echo device, though the features and integrations feel narrower and less developed than what you’ll get with Amazon or Google.

Other notable competitors include the Cortana-powered Invoke smart speakerfrom Harman Kardon, and also the abundance of third-party speakers that make use of Alexa or the Google Assistant to offer a fully developed voice interface. Most noteworthy among these: the $200 Sonos One smart speaker (£200 in the UK, AU$300 in Australia), which offers excellent sound quality and your choice of Alexa or the Google Assistant for voice controls.

What other features should I know about?

We’ve covered the basics, so let’s take a look at some of Alexa’s more advanced features and how they stack up against the competition:

Voice recognition: You can train Alexa to recognize different voices, which lets her offer responses tailored to the individual user. You can also use this to keep your kids from making voice purchases — just know that the feature isn’t foolproof. The Google Home lineup can distinguish between different voices, too, but the Apple HomePod cannot.

Routines: Arguably one of Alexa’s most useful features, Routines let you trigger multiple things all at once using a single, customizable voice command. For instance, saying “Alexa, good morning” could simultaneously turn several smart lights on while Alexa reads the day’s weather forecast. You can also create custom Alexa commands using the free online automation service IFTTT, but they’ll each need to start with the word “trigger,” as in, “Alexa, trigger party mode.” The Google Home speakers have routine-like functionality, too — and like the Echo, they also let you craft custom voice controls using IFTTT. Plus, with Google home, no “trigger” word is necessary.

Drop in: If you like, you can authorize specific contacts to “drop in” on your Echo device to check in on you, or just use the feature like an intercom system from room to room. That’ll let your contacts listen and talk through your speaker (or view the camera feed if you’re using an Echo Show or an Echo Spot) without any input from you. Sounds creepy, yes, but it might make sense if you want to use an Echo device to keep an eye on a mischievous kid or an aging parent. Alexa will also let you “announce” things to the other Echo devices under your roof — a useful way to tell the family that dinner’s ready.

Memory: Always forgetting birthdays or other little pieces of info? You can ask Alexa to remember them for you. For instance, just say, “Alexa, remember that Kevin’s shoe size is 8” and when it’s time to buy your kid new shoes, you can just ask, “Alexa, what is Kevin’s shoe size?” and she’ll remind you.

External speaker support: The entire lineup of Echo devices can connect to external speakers using Bluetooth or a 3.5mm auxiliary cable. That’s especially nice with the Echo Dot, which is a pretty puny speaker on its own. The Google Home and Google Home Mini don’t have an aux jack for corded connections with external speakers, but they can connect over Bluetooth.

Smart entertainment controls: Entertainment is an ever-increasing point of focus for Alexa. Echo devices can already act as voice remotes for Fire TV streamers and for compatible smart TVs from names like Vizio, and we’re also seeing more and more content providers taking advantage of Amazon’s software development kit for video playback controls. That’s led to integrations with services like Dish and Logitech Harmony that let you channel surf using your voice. More services like them are certain to follow suit.

Google isn’t far behind here. Its Home smart speakers can already sync up with Chromecast streamers to launch content on Netflix or YouTube, and Google recently added new integrations of its own with Dish and Logitech. Watch this space — the battle to win the couch potatoes over is just getting started.

Where can I buy one?

The easiest place to get one of Amazon’s Echo devices is from Amazon itself, but you’ll also find them at major retailers like Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples, Sears and Home Depot. Amazon is also selling them in-store at Whole Foods grocery stores after it bought the chain for $13.7 billion last year.

Should I buy one?

If you’ve read this far, then you should certainly consider it. In-home voice control is evolving quickly, with new features and capabilities arriving week in and week out. That makes speakers like these a lot of fun to own — and with Echo Dot speakers available for just $50, £50 and AU$80 or less, Alexa’s barrier to entry is nice and low.

Of course, the same can be said of the equally cheap and comparably smart Google Home Mini. And if you’re an Apple loyalist, then the HomePod’s Siri controls might have you tempted to splurge. If you need guidance on which voice assistant is right for you, our quick five-question quiz can help you zero in on an answer. And as always, our smart speaker reviews are here to help, too.

 

Everything You Need to Know about HomePod as a HomeKit Hub

Jeff Gamet

 

Apple’s HomePod is more than an intelligent speaker, it’s also a HomeKit hub, just like Apple TV. That means you can use your HomePod as the bridge when you control your HomeKit smart home gear when you aren’t at home.

HomePod with smart home devices

HomePod is a HomeKit hub, just like Apple TV

Your HomePod automatically becomes a HomeKit hub if you’ve already added devices like smart lights and smart thermostats to your smart home setup, no need for you to do anything else. In fact, the setup process is completely transparent; the initial setup adds your HomePod to your HomeKit device list without requiring any action on your part.

HomePod and HomeKit Primer

Apple has been talking about its smart home platform for some time now, although it hasn’t gained traction in the same way that some others have. That means there are still plenty of people using Apple products who don’t know what HomeKit is, or how they would use it.

HomeKit

Apple introduced HomeKit in 2014 with iOS 8 as a platform to unify smart home device control. The idea is that you can control your lights, thermostat, window shades, garage door, locks, and more from a single interface—and all those devices can work together.

Device makers need to build HomeKit support into their products, which until recently has been a fairly arduous task. Apple relaxed the licensing requirements for hobbyists and tinkerers with iOS 11, and in iOS 11.3 is letting device makers enable HomeKit support through software so they don’t have to use custom chips any more. That should help HomeKit’s growth.

HomeKit also includes Siri support so you can control your smart home devices with your voice. That voice control, at least for now, is limited to iPhone, iPad, and 5th or 6th generation iPod touch models. HomeKit control isn’t available on the Mac even though Siri is part of macOS.

HomeKit Hub

HomeKit and Siri are great when you’re at home, but what about when you leave for work and forget to turn off the lights? HomeKit control from your iOS device is limited to when everything is on the same network. To control your smart home gear remotely, you need a HomeKit hub.

Apple includes HomeKit hub support in the fourth generation and newer Apple TV, and limited support in iPads running iOS 10 or newer. You can control an unlimited number of devices with an Apple TV as your hub, but only three with an iPad. The iPad also needs to be plugged into a power source while it serves as a hub.

Apple added another option to its HomeKit hub options with the introduction of the HomePod. That gives you two choices for streaming entertainment devices that let you remotely control your smart home tech.

HomePod Primer

HomePod is Apple’s wireless smart speaker with an A8 processor, seven tweeters, six far-field microphones, a high excursion woofer, and limited Siri support. The speaker dynamically adjusts its audio based on where it’s placed in a room to improve audio output and to create a stereo-like sound from a single unit.

You can control your HomeKit devices with your voice through HomePod, and like Apple TV, it serves as the remote connection to your smart home devices when you leave your local network. It also lets you use your voice to control smart home devices, no need to raise your iPhone or Apple Watch to talk. That’s a big plus for anyone who wants a completely hands-free voice system for Siri, like we already see with Amazon Echo and Google Home.

As a speaker, HomePod is getting good reviews. Even Dave Hamilton, who knows his audio and is already heavily invested in Sonos, thinks it sounds pretty good.

HomePod vs Apple TV: What if I Have Both?

Let’s say you already have an Apple TV and you add a HomePod. Which acts as your HomeKit hub when you’re out and about? The short answer is: either. The longer answer is your HomeKit hub devices decide on their own which will serve as the hub, and that can change any time based on device status.

HomePod and Apple TV as HomeKit hubs in the Home app on iPhone

My Apple TV and HomePod co-exist as Home hubs nicely

On my network, for example, my Apple TV has served dutifully as my HomeKit hub ever since that was an option. It continued to fill that roll for a couple days, and then my HomePod took over. At some point my Apple TV went into standby mode and when I power cycled my HomePod it took over as the hub. So far it’s been just as reliable as my Apple TV.

You can see which device is serving as your hub by launching the Home app on your iPhone or iPad, then tap the location icon in the upper left corner. Now tap Home Settings and select your network. While you can see all of your hub devices, you can’t select them, or change their status.

At first that annoyed me because I wanted to set which device served as my hub. Later I started wondering why it matters because what I really need to know is that at least one device is doing the job. Also, if I set a specific device as the hub, and it goes offline when I’m away from home, I couldn’t switch to the other because I’ve lost remote HomeKit access.

What does that mean for your HomeKit hub choice? I’d recommend avoiding using an iPad since you pretty much can’t use it for anything else, and you’re limited in how many devices it can control. As far as choosing between Apple TV and HomePod, either is fine—or both. Get what fills your other entertainment needs and let HomeKit choose which it wants to use as a hub. If you want to speak to the air and have your HomeKIt devices do your bidding, HomePod is the way to go.

9 tips for your new Apple TV

BY   
The Apple TV is a seemingly simple device, but there are a lot of hidden features that you need to know.

The Apple TV ($197.84 at Sam’s Club) may seem like a pretty simple device — a streamer box that connects to your television and works very similarly to an iPhone($999.00 at Apple) or iPad ($349.80 at Sam’s Club). In fact, the TVOS operating system is a lot like iOS, but there are some key differences that you should know when getting started with a new Apple TV.

Here are nine tips and tricks for your brand new Apple TV.

Force a reboot

While the Apple TV works almost flawlessly most of the time, things can go awry from time to time. Apps can freeze or stop working. We’ve previously covered five common Apple TV problems (and how to fix them), but your best friend will almost certainly be the force reboot option. There are two ways to do this:

  • Go to Settings > System and click Restart.
  • Or press and hold both the Menu and TV buttons until the light on the front of the Apple TV begins blinking rapidly. Release the buttons and the Apple TV will reboot.

Siri remote shortcuts

That’s not the only hidden function of the Siri remote either.

Of course, you can use the power of Siri by pressing and holding the Siri button (the one with the microphone icon on it) and speaking a command. You can say things like, “Jump forward 10 minutes,” “Get me some new shows on Netflix” or “Who directed this?” The list of Siri commands for Apple TV is expansive.

Still, the true beauty of the Siri remote are all the hidden hotkey functions.

  • Long pressing the Home button will give you the option to put the Apple TV to sleep.
  • Pressing Play/Pause while typing acts as a shift key.
  • double-click of the Menu button will start the screen saver.
  • triple-click of the Menu button will activate Accessibility Shortcuts.
  • Double-pressing the Home button opens the app switcher.

Control your TV with the Siri remote

The Siri remote can almost totally replace the remote for your television (at least when using the Apple TV). It’s generally enabled automatically, but if your Siri remote isn’t controlling your TV’s volume, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices and make sure Control TVs and Receivers is set to On. If the volume control still isn’t working, click Volume Control and click Auto.

The Apple TV can also power on and off almost television, but this is dependent upon the television itself. You will need to enable CEC, which has over a dozen different names depending on your TV brand.

Once enabled, when you press a button on the Siri remote, your television should power on. And when you sleep the Apple TV, your TV should also power off.

Pair Bluetooth devices

Whether you’re looking to play some casual games or watch a TV show without disturbing others late at night, Bluetooth is your best friend.

While you can play some simple games with the Siri remote, the Apple TV is compatible with MFi (Made for iPhone) controllers. To pair a controller, turn it on and put it into pairing mode. Then, on the Apple TV, go to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth. Look for the controller to appear under Other Devices and click it. Now when you turn it on, it will automatically connect to the Apple TV.

The same goes for Bluetooth headphones, which is especially helpful to late night watching if you don’t want the sound of the television keeping everyone in the house up. And you can replace the Siri remote with a Bluetooth keyboard, if you so wish.

Use your iOS device as a remote

Speaking of replacing the Siri remote, if you happen to misplace it or break it, replacing it is a cool $59.

But you can avoid replacing it altogether. You can use any iPad or iPhone to control your Apple TV. Just download the Apple TV Remote app. This gives you pretty much all the functions of the Siri remote, minus volume control. But it also comes with the handy option to let you type searches and other text input using the on-screen keyboard on your iOS device, instead of having to hunt and peck with the on-screen Apple TV keyboard.

Control your smart home devices

If you have any smart home devices that work with HomeKit, your Apple TV will act as a hub for them, and you can use the Siri remote to control your house.

Setup is a breeze — just connect your HomeKit devices to the Home app on your iOS device and make sure the Apple TV is signed in to the same iCloud account as you use on your phone. To make sure it’s set up properly, go to Settings > Accounts > iCloud and make sure My Home says Connected.

To test it out, press the Siri button and say something like, “Turn on the lights.”

The real beauty of HomeKit working with Apple TV is that your Apple TV will work as a remote hub, so you can control your home while you’re away.

Take advantage of the TV app

The TV app has become the centralized hub for all the stuff you want to watch. It will track the shows you’re watching and put new episodes in front of all the other stuff under the Up Next section.

The TV app is where you will buy new TV shows or movies and where you can find all your previously purchased items.

It’s easy to gloss over the TV app, but if you take the time to sign in to your TV provider and include all the streaming apps you use, it will become a helpful tool that will reduce the time you spend clicking around to pick up where you left off or finding something new to watch.

Automatically install apps

If you download a new app to your iPhone, it can be automatically installed on your iPad. The same thing can be enabled with your Apple TV — assuming there’s an Apple TV app for something you’ve installed.

To enable this, go to Settings > Apps and click Automatically Install Apps to switch it to On.

Quickly delete apps

You might find yourself going on an application installing spree with your new Apple TV. Or you might have automatically downloaded a bunch of apps you installed on your phone that you never use on your Apple TV.

If you need to quickly free up storage on your Apple TV, you could go through and delete each app individually from the home screen, which is painstakingly slow and cumbersome. Or you could go to Settings > General > Manage Storage to find a list of installed applications, organized from largest to smallest. There you can click the trash can icon next to each app you want to remove and click Delete to confirm.

Linking all with all

By 2020 over 20 billion devices will connect to the internet and every person on the planet will connect to at least four devices

Imagine. You have a rough day at work and arrive home tired. But the moment you reach your smart room, it plays a soothing music based on the biosensors that detect your blood pressure, skin temperature and heart rate. Realizing that you are feeling hot, the sensor turns on the air-conditioner. This connection of sensors and internet to everyday objects is called the Internet of Things (IoT). 

IoT has leveraged network connections through software and sensors in everyday devices like cell phones, tablets, wearables, home appliances and almost everything that can be thought of. Gartner Inc—the American research and advisory firm providing information technology-related insight for business leaders—predicts that by 2020, over 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet; and every person will then be connected with at least four devices. 

The connection of such devices allows remote controlling within existing network infrastructure alongside improved efficiency and reduced cost and human policing.  Because of its impeccable services in agriculture, medicine, energy management, home automation, finance and other industries, it will be hard for businesses not to deploy IoT.

Sensors everywhere 

IoT’s sensors and software can process real-time information and send data to the cloud. This enables businesses to get specific feedback on product performance.

Rolls-Royce aircraft engines, for example, have inbuilt sensors that monitor malfunctions before they become catastrophic. One can imagine the magnitude of its benefits to businesses. Management systems also use similar sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity and occupancy. Timely exchange of this information allows businesses to foster operational excellence and reduce recurring costs.  

Besides, IoT helps businesses develop smart products. Medical alert watch, helmet concussion sensor, intelligent oven, internet-enabled frying pan, smart yoga mat, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s virtual reality headset, Apple’s Homepod are just a few forays into the vast IoT world. Also, users at present desire multiple functions from the same device so new products have more and more innovative features. This is the reason the world’s leading manufacturing companies like General Electric and Bosch have already invested as much as $178 billion in IoT projects.

IoT is also creating opportunities and expanding economies. John Deere, an American manufacturing firm that has been selling farm tractors for decades, in 2012 introduced a device of connecting directing with their sold vehicles. This gave real-time information on cropping patterns. Besides its tractors, the company now sells valuable data to farmers.
India plans to spend US $15 billion in IoT by 2020, with the aim of getting six percent global share in IoT. Chinese businesses have also switched from ‘outside-in’ to ‘inside-out’ policy, shifting from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’, by investing in IoT. It is predicted that China’s GDP could swell by $196 billion in the manufacturing industries alone over the next 15 years. IoT initiatives have been adopted in Thailand to develop smart cities in Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. 

Lessons for Nepal 

IoT could be a game-changer for Nepal’s businesses as well. But sadly so far very few of them seem interested in harnessing the power of IoT and continue to rely on primitive manufacturing techniques. 

They don’t understand that if they don’t adopt IoT now, their competitors who do could steal an unbridgeable march on them. 

At a time the world is moving from Internet of Things (IoT) to Internet of Everything (IoE)—an intelligent connection of data, process, people and ‘things,—it is all the more important to invest in this sector.  

Due to its expensive initial set-up cost, even those investors who are well versed in this sector may have refrained from investing in IoT. But they are going to miss out on the speed, efficient asset utilization, cost saving, smart inventory tracking, and a lot more. 

But what happens if all industries successfully adopt IoT? First, it will make us a capital-intensive workforce, from a labor-intensive workforce we are right now. IoT does threaten existing jobs. But this is not unique to Nepal, nor will it be long-term. IoT will in time create its own jobs. Thus investing in IoT should be a big goal of Nepali businesses. 
IoT has caused fundamental shift in the way we look at the world. Soon, we will not be able to imagine a world without devices connected with internet (smart cars, smart home appliances, smart cities, etc.). They have become part of daily life of people across the world.  

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