Just Go Smart

The complete guide to the connected home


You may not have noticed it, but our homes are getting smarter — from thermostats to fridge freezers, from television sets to music systems, more and more of our gadgets and electrical goods are connecting to the Web and automating our lives. You may have also seen the Wi-Fi Kettle, which lets you start making a brew remotely from your phone (and get an alert when the water's ready). Super-smart, interconnected technology is having an effect across every part of our homes.

 

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LIGHTING

The Philips Hue range of lighting products can be controlled by mobile apps, letting you dim particular bulbs or change their colors from the comfort of your sofa (or from the other side of the world). Plug the lighting app into Web service IFTTT, and you can come up with all kinds of weird and wonderful combinations: flash the lights when you receive a Twitter notification, increase the illumination if the weather forecast shows rain, and much more besides. Lumen bulbs work in a similar way, and there are rumors of Samsung launching its own range of products.

 

HOME ENTERTAINMENT

There are all kinds of ways to get your music and video piped around the house, depending on your setup — powerline connectors, Apple's AirPlay system, the tried-and-trusted DLNA system built into Windows, and so on. One of the most impressive product lines in this category are the wireless Sonos speakers — the company has just launched its newest Play:1 speaker, and like the others in the set it can be used to send music all around the house via your router. As for smart streaming boxes that can put Web content up on your television set, you really are spoilt for choice: the Apple TV, Google TV devices, Roku, Western Digital's TV line and others.

 

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APPLIANCES

In the run up to Christmas, Samsung opened up a Home Innovation Space in Harrod's in London. The showroom provides a look at some of the clever, interconnected electrical goods we could soon be seeing in our own kitchens, dining rooms and lounges: there's the Intelligent Ecobubble washing machine that you can control remotely from your smartphone, the Samsung T9000 fridge that lets you change compartments from fridge to freezer (and back again) at the touch of a button, and smart vacuum cleaners that can spot the dirtiest places in your home

 

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GADGETS

You may have already come across the next-generation, intelligent Nest Thermostat, and the company has now added a Nest Protect smoke detector to its line-up too. Both items offer remote monitoring and automatic learning, and this is a running theme shown across all the connected gadgets making their way to the market: remote, over-the-Internet controls (typically via a smartphone app) and intelligent operation that takes care of most tasks automatically. As our Wi-Fi networks grow stronger and the Internet of Things gathers pace, there's plenty more innovation to come.