From TVs to speakers, kettles to heating systems, more and more of the devices we use every day are now ‘smart’. This means they connect to the internet, can be controlled using a smartphone and talk to each other, giving you more control over how you use them and saving time and money.
More and more people are use smart devices to turn their houses into smart homes - a fifth of UK households own a voice-assisted smart appliance. Find out what you need to create your own smart home.
1. Wi-fi: Connect your devices and control them remotely
At the heart of a connected home is your broadband, which your devices use to go online and communicate with you and each other. Some devices connect via Ethernet, but the majority use wi-fi, so stable wi-fi is crucial to a smart home.
If your broadband is the heart of your network, your smartphone is the control. Connected devices come with apps you can use to control them from remotely anywhere - as long as you have an internet connection.
2. Smart speakers: Control your home with your voice
Central to the smart home is a smart speaker. There are two choices, Google’s Home range which has a voice assistant called Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Echo range, which uses a voice assistant named Alexa.
Ask Google or Alexa a question and you’ll get an answer. Want to know what the weather is like and whether you should take an umbrella? Say ‘OK Alexa’ or ‘OK Google’ and 'what's the weather like today?' to find out.
You can also a smart speaker to set a timer, read out recipes and even answer general knowledge questions.
Smart speakers also work with smart home gadgets made by other companies, such as thermostats, speakers and lights, so you can use your voice to dim lights, adjust the room temperature and even unlock your car.
Getting started with a smart home is relatively cheap. Entry-level voice activated speakers like the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini cost between £30 and £50.
3. Smart heating: Save energy and money
Smart heating systems let you control your central heating from your smartphone. so if you’ve accidentally left the heating on, turn it off using the app.
Smart heating systems can detect when you leave or return home using data from your home and turn the heating off and on automatically. You can set a schedule and over time a system like Nest will learn your habits and program itself.
Having more control over your heating - including getting monthly usage reports - teaches you to be more aware of how much heating you use, so you’ll be more careful and could even save money. Nest estimates UK customers save between 8.4% and 16.5%.
Smart security cameras let you monitor your home remotely. So whether you want to check on your house during a holiday, or keep an eye on your pets, fire up the app and watch a live stream on your phone.
Nest, Hive and Canary make indoor and weather-resistant outdoor cameras, if they detect motion day or night you'll get an alert sent to your phone.
Your doorbell can even be smart, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 lets you see who is at your door, so you can choose whether or not to answer it. You can even talk to the person at the door, so you can tell the courier where to put a parcel delivery.
5. Smart lighting: Match your lights to your mood
Lighting can make a huge difference to your how you feel, and with smart lighting systems you don’t have to live with variations of white.
Connected lighting systems like Philips Hue and Ikea’s Smart Lighting let you change the colour of your lighting, whether you are reading, listening to music or having a romantic meal. If you are having a movie night you can add ambiance by matching your lights to the type of movie you are watching.
With smart lighting, if you leave your lights on you can turn them off using the app and set a schedule, so your lights turn on automatically when it gets dark.
6. Smart plugs: Make your existing appliances smart
This is a simple and affordable way to turn your standard lights into smart lights, which you can turn off or on remotely. You can also use a a smart plug on devices such as an iron, hair straightener or a coffee machine, providing peace of mind in case you accidentally leave them on during the day.