The term “smart home” has been thrown around a lot recently but the simple truth is that whether we like it or not, our homes are becoming more connected.
With so many companies and gadgets all vying for a space in your living room it can be daunting to work out how to proceed in a way that doesn’t then give you a massive headache in six months when you find out the next thing you buy is compatible with anything else in your home.
Well thankfully we’re here to help. Here are our favourite home gadgets that manage to be both excellent while also being as universal as possible which means that they’ll work with just about everything else you plan on buying.
From the voice-controlled Amazon Echo to Google’s glorious reimagining on the WiFi router these are the simplest, coolest ways to give your home that upgrade to 2.0.
If you live in a house where the internet coverage has more dead zones than a slasher movie, this WiFi router will ensure there’s a happy ending. Rather than using a single router, you buy multiple 'hubs' which can be combined and positioned at different areas in the house to create a 'mesh network' that blankets the house in high-speed WiFi. How many you use depends on the size of the area you want to cover – each hub covers an area of 1,500 sq ft. As you’d expect, it can all be monitored and controlled by an app on your phone.Price: £129 (single) £229 (double)
This is the first of our two smart home hubs we've included. Everything starts with the smart thermostat which can control your heating. From there Hive make just about every smart home gadget you can think of including door sensors, motion sensors, lightbulbs and even smart cameras. They all connect to one simple app and the entire system is fantastically easy to use. It's not as customisable as Nest but by having a simple closed system you've got what is essentially a foolproof way to upgrade your entire home.Price: From £249 (including professional installation)
Sky Q is the apex of Sky's TV viewing experience and it pays off. The Q box allows you to watch 4K films, TV and sport while complete access to Sky's OnDemand content gives you a dizzying array of things to watch outside of Live TV. It's smart too as each box learns the viewing habits for that room and gives you recommendations and if you decide to opt into Sky's internet package as well each Sky Q box doubles as a WiFi hub extending the WiFi around your house. No, it's not cheap, but you do at least feel like you're getting what you pay for.Price: From £20 per month
If you want to feel more secure in your home, the Arlo Pro security camera is the way to go. It is completely wireless and weatherproof, using advanced motion detection and night vision, and comes with a 130° wide-angle lens. Hook it up via the app to your phone or tablet, and you can monitor what’s going on from anywhere, while it also includes a 100+ decibel siren that can be triggered automatically or remotely. What sets it apart from the competition is that it comes with a free cloud storage subscription that gives you 7 days of recordings as standard.Price: From £299
Nest is our second and last smart thermostat on the list. Nest differs from Hive by claiming to be more intelligent so that you can be more hands-off about your heating. Using sensors that recognise when you’ve left the house, it switches to Away mode to conserve heating, and it also familiarises itself with your heating habits and adopts them automatically. It also uses a leaf icon to suggest optimum temperature for saving energy, and provides all kinds of stats via the app to help you save more.Price: From £180
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Amazon's Echo has really come into its own in the last 12-months. It's so much more than just a speaker you can ask questions. Thanks to its enviable list of compatible services and devices it can do everything from turn the heating up, change the lighting or give you the traffic on your way to work. This second-generation model is smaller, cheaper and best of all it actually manages to sound much better than the original. If you're tired of pressing buttons then this is as good a place to start as any.Price: £89.99
You'd be forgiven for thinking we've just recommended that you buy a plant as an alternative gadget. Fear not. This is the Parrot Pot, a fantastically smart flower pot that contains its own water reserve, an army of small sensors and smartphone connectivity to keep you updated on your favourite succulent. It'll automatically water your plants for you and even has a holiday mode that'll keep them ticking along while you're not around.Price: £39.99
Manufactured by the same Bugatti whose cars come with a price tag that makes Saudi Princes blush, this kettle certainly looks the part. Its futuristic angular shape is itself rather aerodynamic, but while this might be expensive for a kettle, you won’t have to re-mortgage your house for the want of a cup of tea. It comes with some neat innovations, like keeping the water at your chosen temperature, essentially giving you hot water anytime, and it also includes a timer, so you can set it to boil for breakfast. Most of all though, it just looks very cool.Price: £208
It's a testament to Sonos' rock solid ecosystem that it's still considered the gold standard of wireless audio systems. In addition to that, the Sonos One is the best of both worlds. Not only is it a great-sounding Sonos speaker but it now also comes with full Amazon Alexa compatibility. Think of the One as a premium Echo and you're on the right track. Yes it's more expensive than an Amazon Echo but if you're looking to solve two problems in one fell swoop then you can't go wrong.Price: £199
If Amazon's ecosystem isn't for you then perhaps Google's is. The Home speaker might be more expensive than Amazon's Echo but it does come with the advantage of tying into Google's own Android ecosystem. You can send content around your home via Chromecasts while the Home's speaker defies its smaller size.Price: £129