The 5 Essential Smart Home Devices

Some objects should be internet-connected--and others shouldn't

smart home
Image: iStock/philipimage

There is so much talk about smart devices that the phrase is in danger of becoming cliché. In a nutshell, a smart device is an object that connects to the internet through various connectivity options. These options can include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or more exotic connection protocols such as Z-Wave or ZigBee.

More smart device manufacturers are going with Wi-Fi as the de facto connection option. This makes sense because the consumer smart device industry is targeted at homeowners, many of whom who have Wi-Fi. A Wi-Fi connected smart device means you don’t have to introduce any extra equipment to connect and manage a smart device that may support, for example, Z-Wave or ZigBee.

I’ve been a technology professional for almost two decades and covering tech as a journalist for the last 10 years. I’ve had my eye on the smart device industry since its beginnings. Since the idea of “smart” things emerged, there have been some really ridiculous items that can be connected to the internet: diapers that tweet you when baby makes wet-wet, a Bluetooth-enabled shaming fork, and socks that let you measure your fitness performance (I’m just happy for ones that stay odor-free and dry). 

Clearly, not every single item in our lives needs to be internet or app-connected (I dread thinking about connected underwear).

Then there are items that are kind of cool to have connected but the average person could contently live their life without them; I’m thinking voice-activated assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo. Sure, it’s cool that I can just spurt a command in the air requesting the current temperature or nearest movies playing and have my request spoken right back to me. However, is this ability bettering my life over doing the same tasks with my phone? Hardly.

I don’t want to sound like a completely cynical jerk about smart devices. There are many devices where remote management, control, and access can enhance our lives, especially in the areas of safety, security, and economy. Here are five smart devices I think anyone should consider:

Smart Lock: Smart locks provide extra protection for your home over a traditional key lock. In addition to securing by key, a smart lock uses a wireless protocol such as Bluetooth and a digitally encrypted key to unlock. It’s a high-level, relatively low-cost home security solution.

Surveillance Camera: Another great way to secure your home and monitor your environment while you are away is through a smart surveillance camera. Most of today’s home cameras on the market will send your phone a notification if there is movement in your home (you can “train” many of these cameras to recognize family members and pets). Some of these cameras will alert you when a smoke or carbon dioxide alarm goes off, as well.

Smart Thermostat: Smart thermostats like Nest, use sophisticated algorithms to learn the most energy-efficient, yet comfortable temperature settings for you at home. It’s a great way to reduce energy costs over manually adjusting the thermostat.

Smart TV: More and more broadcast channels are being streamed as well as tons of original internet content. With a smart TV offering a plethora of classic and choice TV, movies, and videos of all genres, it’s time for more people to remove their mouths from the expensive teat of cable TV and begin cutting teeth on streamed content via smart TVs.

Smart Lighting: Smart lighting is not just convenient, it’s another way to reduce costs. You can set smart lights to turn on as soon as you enter a room or before you get home, for security purposes. Program lights to turn off a certain hour and never worry about anyone forgetting to turn off a switch.