INNOVATIVE TECH FOR EVERY ROOM IN THE HOUSE
HomePod Smart Speaker ($349) I've owned Apple's smart speaker since its release in February of 2018. For most of that time, I've primarily used the HomePod in the same way I would any other wireless speaker. While it has excellent sound quality, it has a limited feature set compared to the Amazon Echo ($99.99), and I hadn't found it useful in my dayto-day life. Once I set up my smart home though, that completely changed. The HomePod is now the command center for controlling every HomeKit-compatible device in my house. I also own an Amazon Echo, and I was surprised to find HomeKit to be much easier to set up and use than Amazon's smart home integrations. The Echo was difficult to set up and fails to execute my smart home commands at least half of the time.
Eero Home Wi-Fi System ($399) The vast majority of smart home devices communicate with each other and with you via Wi-Fi. This makes your router kind of like the central nervous system of your smart home. Having a strong signal in every corner of the house is essential for setting up a smart home. Eero is what's called a mesh router. Rather than having one central location, Eero comes with a router and two WiFi extenders called beacons that you can plug in anywhere in your home. Eero uses machine learning to manage which devices in your home are connected to which beacons. I have plaster walls and have struggled to get coverage in my home, especially with a 5-gigahertz connection. The Eero allows me to have excellent coverage throughout my home. It was also absurdly simple to set up. If $400 sounds too expensive and you have a smaller home or aren't that concerned with coverage, Eero offers the router without the beacons for $200.
Nest Protect Smoke Detector ($119) The Nest Protect smart smoke + CO2 detector is probably the least exciting product on this list but the most likely to save my life. The smoke detector works with Nest's app and sends a notification any time it detects smoke or CO2. I can't tell you how much peace of mind that creates, knowing that I'll be notified of a fire in my home even if I'm not there. It also allows me to turn off the smoke detector from the app when it's a false alarm rather than having to climb a chair and take out the battery the old-fashioned way. Finally, when the Protect is running low on batteries, I get a push notification on my phone rather than an annoying beeping noise at 3 a.m.
Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance Starter Kit ($149) Philips makes a wide range of excellent smart lights. The lights come with a companion app and are HomeKit compatible, allowing you to control the lights from your phone or from Siri. The app is very intuitive, and installing the lights was relatively easy. Not only can you turn on and off the lights from your phone, but you can also adjust the color and brightness. It's really nice to be able to have a softer light in the evenings, and I've found that adding a little bit of pink to the light can give the room a really nice feel. While I've enjoyed being able to control the lights using Siri, the lights only respond to my digital assistant when the switch is turned on, meaning that to make the lights useful, you have to commit to only controlling them with your phone or Siri and never using the light switches.
Ecobee4 Thermostat ($249)
I've used a Nest thermostat in my house for years and have loved it, but I've recently made the switch to Ecobee. Just like the Nest, the Ecobee uses algorithms to create smart schedules for my heating and cooling, and also allows me to control my thermostat remotely via a companion app. But the Ecobee has several other features that make it my smart thermostat of choice. First of all, it's compatible with HomeKit, which means I can control the temperature using Siri and create automated rules in the Home app. Second, it comes with a sensor that integrates with the thermostat. The second story of my house isn't well ventilated, and my thermostat is located downstairs. So when it thinks it has hit the correct temperature, it's still uncomfortable on the second story. With the Ecobee, I can place the sensor upstairs and have my thermostat rely on that reading instead. The final perk of the Ecobee is that it comes with Amazon Alexa integration. While I use Siri primarily, it's still nice to be able to talk directly to the thermostat using Amazon's artificial intelligence when I don't have my phone handy.
August Smart Lock Pro + Connect ($279)
The August Smart Lock might be my favorite of all of my smart home accessories. It automatically locks the door when I leave the house and unlocks the door when I arrive home. The lock comes with a companion app, which allows me to unlock the door remotely (even when I'm not in the house) and create a “temporary key” for guests by equipping their smartphones with access for a limited time. You can install this smart lock with any single-cylinder deadbolt. Having a door that locks automatically is great for my peace of mind, but I've found I keep accidentally locking people out. I recommend getting the August Doorbell Cam Pro ($199) along with the lock so that you know when someone arrives at your home (even when you aren't there).
Nanoleaf Light Panels – Just the Basics ($229)
The Nanoleaf light panels are the least practical item on this list, but the most fun. The Just the Basics bundle comes with nine modular triangular lights. You can arrange the lights into any pattern you like and mount them on your wall using the included double-sided mounting tape. You can control them with your phone from the companion app or by using HomeKit. The lights change colors based on various patterns that you can select in the companion app. They also come with the Nanoleaf Rhythm, which allows the lights to respond to music. I have my lights set up above my record player, and they are a unique addition to the home. This was a fun device to show off! I give the Nanoleaf 10 out of 10 stars for the wow factor.
Eight Jupiter + Mattress ($999–$1,299)
Eight's smart mattresses have sensors built into them in order to allow you to monitor your sleep patterns. The app gives you a sleep report each morning that tracks when you fell asleep and how often you were in deep sleep. The sensors are also compatible with HomeKit, which means you can build custom rules, such as turning off the lights and locking the doors when you get in bed. $999 is very expensive for a smart home accessory but actually very affordable for a mattress. Not only does Eight come packed with smart features, it's also a very comfortable memory foam mattress.
iRobot Roomba 960 ($529–$699)
iRobot is making the dream of having robots clean my house a reality. Smart vacuums have been around for a while now but have come a long way since their initial introduction. The Roomba 960 supports multiroom and multi-surface cleaning. You can control it via a companion app that lets you schedule cleanings and view a report after each, including a map of where it has cleaned. The app notifies you if the Roomba gets stuck or if the bin needs to be emptied. Robotic cleaning is not yet perfect—it can't handle stairs and occasionally gets stuck (I had to rescue my Roomba a time or two)—but it's still amazingly convenient and well worth the expense.