Forbes magazine is among the many authoritative sources calling 2017 the year that the smart home went mainstream. A quick search for “smart home” at any major hardware chain’s website confirms the magazine’s prediction for 2018 — the hardware store and electronics store are crossing over.
Smart Devices: Innovative, but also Practical
Smart light bulbs, networked door locks and intelligent thermostats are common in any hardware store, and in the electrical aisle, power outlets now double as Wi-Fi extenders to keep the home communicating. The reason is simple: the practical value of these new products is passing the “wow” factor as a reason to outfit real estate with intelligence.
Designed in for Modern Homes
NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, leads their remodeling trends page with smart home tips for remodelers, and the tech showcase Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opened 2018 with home improvement products like refrigerators and dishwashers, now featuring smartphone-level computing power. Some of the hottest examples follow, with links to CNET commentary and other firsthand reviews.
The “Kitchen Quarterback”
LG’s Instaview refrigerator provides an Amazon Alexa-enabled focus for the kitchen, with local and remote access to its contents. The chef can plan meals without opening the door, and shoppers can check from the market to see what they need to pick up. The refrigerator can be networked with other LG kitchen appliances, which all work together to share information on the day’s recipes, cooking instructions and whether to hold the food warming for late arrivals.
Teamwork in the Kitchen
Whirlpool combines its microwave, oven and other kitchen appliances with its Yummly app to streamline kitchen activities and let people focus on spending time together. They are voice controlled via Alexa for easy hands-free setup and cooking when the app is not setting the agenda.
The Fridge as Entertainment Center
Instead of Alexa, Samsung’s smart refrigerator uses the Bixby voice interface along with a transparent touch screen, which provides door-closed viewing of snacks, drinks and ingredients. Expanding on the fact that the fridge is the center of the kitchen for most families, a two-foot screen provides app access to schedules, music and video and connections with other devices such as a front door video doorbell.
Fewer Trips to the Laundry Room
Whirlpool’s matched washer and dryer now interact using Alexa or send alerts to an Apple Watch. Key Alexa functions include asking how much time is left in the cycle from the kitchen or the pool and verbally pausing the cycle during a quick run to the store.
Tech in the Bathroom
Kohler, in the bathroom, provides another Alexa access point in the mirror with functions like traffic and weather updates, motion-sensing lighting at night and powerful makeup lights on command. The HiMirror Mini provides analysis of your skin for a quick objective review before you head out. Several shower-based smart home nodes, including one by Moen, are luxurious and connected at the same time.
Switches, Locks and Alarms
Great for vacation homes and remote management, Fibaro’s Z Wave monitors power draw from an outlet, sending an alert if something seems wrong. It can shut down the appliance remotely if needed. This thermostat from alarm.com goes the extra mile and watches for problems with the HVAC system and building conditions such as excessive humidity, catching maintenance issues promptly.
Schlage offers a new deadbolt which works with Google assistant, providing solid security and flexible, owner-managed access. Keep an eye out for the Myteepi Woody, a low-power package of sensors which listens for alarm sounds, keeps an eye on temperature and humidity, and watches for motion, sending alerts whether the power and Wi-Fi are up or not.
PointCentral’s own smart capabilities for vacation homes offer customized security, access and control over homes — and many of our solutions are compatible with Alexa.
Power and Lighting
Insteon and iDevices are integrating light switches and outlets for home automation and energy management. Insteon is now working with Google Home, and iDevices includes Amazon Alexa right in the switch.
As a retrofit for apartments and vacation homes, this smart home ceiling fan from Hunter listens to Siri, Alexa and now Google Assistant. If a remote check of room temperature indicates that the space is too hot for arriving guests, a ductless Carrier air conditioner unit takes smartphone-based direction from the homeowner or management company to fix the problem.
A complement to the well-known Roomba and other floor-based robots, the Winbot does windows — it’s one of this year’s home automation products that’s just fun to watch as it glides up and down the glass.
Several new products are perfectly designed to enhance the guest experience, including a product by Olfinity that provides clean air and fresh scents. App-controlled, it monitors air quality, filters the air and diffuses a bit of aromatherapy oil on command.
Smart home technologies like these 2018 offerings are organizing the lives of homeowners and apartment dwellers. They provide intelligent assistance, which lets people relax and just live.
Dave Maddox is a technical consultant and freelance writer with experience in control systems and information technology