Better Living Expert: High-IQ Households
Home tech makes life easier and more efficient
A smarter home can start with something as simple as having Siri on an iPhone in the kitchen to convert 250°F to Celsius, find a recipe for roasted cauliflower, or play your favourite podcast while you cook or clean.
The voice-activated features in smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo or Dot, and Google Home can go far beyond that by overseeing just about every system in the home. As of June, by the way, Apple added to the mix its HomePod, which the company says sets a new audio quality standard for a small speaker and delivers high-fidelity sound seamlessly throughout multiple rooms.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to high-tech home help.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Philips Hue wireless home lighting system lets you tune colour and brightness by toggling through the spectrum on a phone or choosing from pre-set colours. Certain hues, such as the warm coral and chilly blue may be too aggressive for some, but a pale pink would be flattering in a powder room or used as part of a nighttime routine in a child’s bedroom. Set as an alarm, it can be programmed to lighten gradually. Lights can be dimmed across the spectrum, and there are very useful standard settings for tasks like reading.
Adding motion sensors means light is only triggered when someone is, for example, on the porch or paddling to the bathroom. I tried two: the well-designed Hue model, which is smaller and more discreet than the Eve Motion Sensor from Elgato. I set the latter up pretty easily by capturing a bar code on the product package through Apple’s HomeKit to begin installation.
Who doesn’t want heat to drop automatically when everyone is in bed or out of the house, given that doing so can help save up to 23 per cent in heating costs annually? The ecobee thermostat can be connected to HomeKit either through the ecobee mobile app or the Apple Home app. The latest, the ecobee4, has Amazon Alexa built in, so the thermostat also tells time, delivers news and weather, and cracks corny bartender jokes. There’s also a new Alexaenabled light switch from ecobee.
If you get a lot of deliveries, want to keep an eye on pets—or kids after school—Omna D-Link camera lets users view everything remotely through iOS/Android devices. It has a 180-degree solution, and a motion detector that captures events and sends alerts, while a built-in microphone and speaker delivers two-way audio.
LOGICAL LOCKS AND CLEVER KITCHENS
The Friday smartlock, which the company claims is the world’s smallest, has a sleek design and comes in several metallic finishes. It allows the user to issue and revoke electronic “keys” for multiple people. Installation requires only a screwdriver and hacksaw, and users can still open the door in the traditional way, if and when it’s necessary.
Fridges with see-through screens were originally touted as being useful in checking the contents, but they may prove themselves more helpful as a smart hub for making shopping lists, ordering groceries, sharing calendars, finding recipes, tracking expiry dates on food, showing children’s art, and checking the news and weather. Forerunners include the Samsung Family Hub 2.0, which has a customizable 21.5-inch WiFi-enabled touchscreen or LG’s new InstaView ThinQ, which has a 29-inch touchscreen that becomes transparent with a double knock.