The era of the internet of things is firmly upon us. That means we are also in the midst of a corollary era, the internet of things that you have absolutely no friggin’ need for. Just because something can be connected to the web doesn’t mean that it should be. Sure, you can put a camera inside a “smart” refrigerator so that you can see what’s popping off in your fridge while you sit at your office. But if your job sucks so bad that checking out a head of romaine lettuce at your desk seems like an enjoyable way to kill some time, then you need a new job.
So while tech companies may say you need a “smart” this and a “smart” that, all that’s really needed is a “smart” you to separate what will actually make your life easier and what will actually make things way more complicated.
Nowhere is that more true than in the home. For most people, whether they rent or own, housing expenses are the biggest money suck on the paycheck. So the most important questions to ask when evaluating a smart home gadget are “Will it save me money?”, “Will it protect my investment?”, and “Will it make my life easier?” The best gadgets will do all three.
We found six gadgets that will check off those boxes and are a great place to start as you smarten up your home.
HONEYWELL LYRIC T5 WI-FI THERMOSTAT
The new Lyric T5 isn’t a learning thermostat, but it is so easy to program and adjust that it might as well be. It also costs about $100 less. Honeywell’s geofencing technology allows you to establish an infinitely adjustable perimeter around your home. Anytime your phone (presumably with you nearby) enters that perimeter, it will set the temperature at your desired setting. When you leave, it will lower the temp to a preset number to conserve energy and save money. The Lyric T5 works with Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon’s Echo, so if you don’t feel like adjusting the thermostat with your thumb, you can do it with your voice.
NEST CAM OUTDOOR
Nest recently launched an outdoor camera following the success of its indoor ones. Other outdoor cameras are battery powered so they only turn on when they sense movement to save juice. Nest’s plugs into a standard socket so it is always running and records high-def video that looks incredibly clear even at night and in crappy weather. You receive an alert on your phone when the camera detects motion or hears an unusual sound, and the camera has a built-in speaker and microphone so you can deliver a message, whether that’s “get off my lawn, you crazy kids,” or “leave the package by the door, please.”
AMAZON ECHO DOT
Amazon’s new Echo Dot is a lot of things. It’s a voice-operated device that uses Alexa (Amazon’s version of Siri) to perform tasks like playing music and telling you the weather. It is also a control center for other smart home devices, allowing you to adjust the thermostat or turn off a light with a simple voice command. The Echo Dot also works as a standalone speaker and connects with other speakers via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm jack. And at $49.99 it’s damn cheap, almost a quarter the price of its big brother the Amazon Echo with the same important functionality.
DYSON 360 EYE
Vacuuming is a chore. Watching a robot do it is not. Dyson took all of its knowledge from making more powerful vacuums and packaged it into a compact WiFi-enabled robot sucker-upper. The 360 Eye has tank tracks that allow it to crawl over small obstacles and delivers impressive suction (much more than a Roomba) across all types of floors. You can schedule times for the robot to clean with your phone, and it will automatically return to its docking station when it runs low on power.
HONEYWELL LYRIC WI-FI WATER LEAK AND FREEZE DETECTOR
There are few more unsettling feelings than coming home to find that a leak has sprung. The damage can be widespread and is expensive and upending to fix (major water damage can require removing extensive portions of ceilings, walls, and floors). Honeywell’s WiFi water leak detector is a standalone device that is really easy to use. Simply lay it down in an area prone to leaking like a basement and the device will send an alert to the Lyric app on your phone when it comes in contact with water so you can act before it’s too late. The device runs on AA batteries, which should last for around three years, and comes with a four-foot cable sensor that extends the area of detection.
When they aren’t saving your life, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are just plain annoying. They make obscenely loud sounds at the most inopportune times and are impossible to turn off. Of course, if you’re in actual danger that’s the whole point: You don’t want to sleep through a fire in your house. But the Nest Protect takes a much more civilized approach. It starts by giving you a heads up chime and speaking to you in a human voice to alert you of potential danger. If it’s no big deal, you can silence the alarm with the app on your phone. If it is urgent, the alarm grows louder and can identify the location of the emergency. Nest Protect tests its batteries and sensors more than 400 times a day so you don’t have to lie about checking your smoke detector once a month anymore and when the battery runs low, it sends a notification to your phone, putting an end to the days of wandering around your house looking for the mysterious chirping sound.