Is it Time to “Smartify” your Home?
Lots of new products are hitting the market that can "smartify" your home: Customizable lighting, app-controlled thermostats, and garage gadgets are just a few of the devices we've been testing out lately in the Good Housekeeping Institute labs. And with all these cool home tools making headlines, it's easy to start dreaming big about the new ways you can outfit your home.
But is it time to invest in these latest and greatest products? Not necessarily — in my opinion, most of the new items aren't necessities or worth spending big bucks on. Sure, many of these new smart devices may help you save money on energy bills, but they are also still evolving and are all very disconnected and different — which can be a lot for a person to juggle if you aren't super tech savvy (or patient).
But there's good news: In the not-so-distant future, smart home products will be much more intuitive to operate and will work together seamlessly. Your best bet is to hold off on upgrades in your home unless you're moving or planning a massive renovation.
And while this won't be the year we'll all be installing full suites of connected products, we are most definitely moving in that direction. If you haven't bought a home appliance in a while, you'll be excited to learn about all the new options on the market. Washers, dryers, fridges, and more now come with Internet-connected options, allowing for easier operation, improved efficiency, and remote diagnostics when something goes wrong. Imagine not having to call in a repairman and wait for him during a three-hour window. Now, a dishwasher technician can diagnose and even repair a dishwasher over the phone — or at least get the proper parts in order before he shows up. In addition to mobile app-controlled devices for your home, there are ones that can also be operated by voice or gesture, some that can be controlled with a wearable smart watch or fitness band, and others that react to the activity of other connected devices (most notably from the suite of "Works with Nest" products).
If you're ready to try out some of these products now, a tip for when you shop: Look for platforms that allow devices to play nicely with one another, and have the capability to learn or adapt as products evolve. Or consider getting a hub to help keep everything connected — these robust and easy-to-use systems offer platforms for devices that are guaranteed to work together. Well-known options include Revolv,SmartThings, Staples Connect, Lowes' Iris System, Wink from Quirky, and WeMo from Belkin.
I look forward to the near future when the "connected home" will integrate better with the rest of the "Internet of Things" — what experts and tech lovers call all of the sensor-based, internet-connected items flooding the market right now. Your home will become a dynamic hub that knows when you're near (thanks to geo-locating sensors) and acclimates to your preferences. Just think: Your alarm clock will trigger your coffee machine. Your TV will display your schedule and show you the best route to a planned meeting spot; it will then pre-program your car to get you to your destination on time. And while you sleep, your thermostat will alert your pre-loaded washer that it's the most energy efficient time to run.
The Bottom Line
While we've come a long way from fridges littered with unnecessary apps, we're still a far way from a totally streamlined solution. In the meantime, check out products like the Misfit Bolt lightbulb (it's a self-contained smart bulb that doesn't require additional hardware) and the Pella Insynctive family (window, door, and garage door sensors) that can give you a taste of the future.