The holidays are here, and it’s time to start thinking about gifts for your family and friends — if you haven’t already. If you have a techie or gadget lover in the family, some of the best presents you could give them are “smart” home devices. Many of these connected devices add easy convenience to life.
For instance, a smart lock will allow them to lock — and unlock — their home via a smartphone. This enables many different scenarios, like the option to let people in your house when you’re not there. You can also track who’s coming and going, and revoke access if necessary. There’s a lot more to smart locks than that, but you get the gist of it.
Since smart home products make such great gifts, we decided to put together a list of several you can consider getting for others.
- Connected Video Doorbell
The best place to start when building your modern smart home is the front door. Aside from a smart lock, you can also install a smart doorbell. As you’d expect from most connected devices, smart doorbells can tap into a local Wi-Fi connection to offer advanced features.
One of the best things about a connected doorbell is that you can see who’s at your front door without ever opening it. You can use your smartphone to check who it is, and you can even communicate with them via two-way audio. If it’s someone soliciting, you’ll know right away thanks to the live video feed.
If you pair this with a smart lock, you could first check who’s at your door and then let them in without ever leaving the comfort of your couch. It’s this joint scenario that shows the full potential of a completely “smart” home.
A great example of a connected doorbell would be the Ring Video Doorbell, which you can buy from multiple retailers for about $250.
- Smart Lock
The purpose of a smart lock is pretty self-explanatory. You can interact with the deadbolt or lock on your door remotely. This allows you to gain access to your home using a smartphone, so you can give up on traditional keys if you wanted. Many of them also come with key fobs, which work like access passes.
You can also distribute and revoke digital keys to provide access to service professionals, family, friends, neighbors and even couriers.
Not at home and want to let your in-laws in the house before you get there? No problem! You can issue them a digital key, so all they have to do is tap their phone to the lock and presto!
Examples of a smart lock include the Kevo, Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt, and August Smart Lock.
- Smart Security System
Gone are the days where you have to pay a hefty installation and subscription fee for great home security service. Now, you can outfit your home with a “smart” system monitored by none other than you. Some devices offer a premium service where you can have a professional keep an eye on your home, but the point is it’s not necessary.
This type of device is more broad. It can include door and window sensors, cameras and much more.
Devices like the Canary and Piper are comprehensive solutions. You just buy them and place them in your home for remote monitoring support. You can even tap in with a smartphone and remotely check up on your house.
Of course, you have to mix and match most of these devices to create a full system. Or, you can go with something like Lloyd Security alarm and video surveillance systems which come with everything together.
- Smart Lamps and Bulbs
The concept of a smart lamp or smart bulb may seem silly at first. But when you think about how convenient it is to control lights remotely, it’s another story.
Imagine being able to turn lights off — or on —from your couch or bed. This would be great for times when you get ready to turn in for the night and may have forgotten to turn off one or two lamps.
Many smart bulbs allow you to change the color and hue of the glow. So, you could turn a room red or blue using the bulb. You can even illuminate the color of the room based on music or video playback. It’s a pretty cool thing to see.
But the real benefit of having any connected device is that it can communicate with other “smart” tech. This allows you to set up automated systems that keep your home functioning without any input. For instance, a Nest smart thermostat can detect when you’re on your way home from work, turn the air to your preferred level, and turn on lights so you can see.
Gifts like these include the Philips Hue bulbs or the Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer with remote.
- Smart Thermostat
The Nest learning thermostat is the obvious choice here, but there are others from companies like Honeywell and GE. What a “smart” thermostat does is completely replace your central air and heating controller.
The “smart” thermostat can learn your habits and is generally more energy efficient. This allows it to do things like turn down the air at certain times of the day, make sure you’re comfortable at night or get your home ready for guests before they arrive. Plus, it’s super convenient that “smart” thermostats — like the Nest — handle this autonomously, without any input from you.
Of course, you can always interact with the unit from a smartphone or control panel.
Another benefit — namely in the case of the Nest — is that they can communicate with other smart home products. The Nest acts as a sort of hub, interacting with other devices to keep your home automated. It can turn out lights at a certain time. Turn down — or up — the air temperature. Turn off smart TVs or appliances, and much more.
- Smart Cleaners
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to worry about vacuuming your home ever again? Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but it would still be awesome if it were possible.
With smart cleaners — like the Roomba and comparable devices — that’s sort of achievable. To be honest, you’ll always have to do some measure of cleaning, we humans just tend to be messy beings. But devices like the Roomba will automatically trawl your home and clean up crumbs, dirt and dust littering the floor.
They operate out of a dock or wireless command center, leaving when it’s time to go clean and returning when it’s time to charge up their battery. You still have to empty a dustbin or trash collector inside the unit from time to time, but they are relatively hands off.
With devices like this you can turn cleaning — at least cleaning the floor — into a spectator sport.
- Smart Hubs or Controllers
With all of these “smart” home devices littered throughout your home, you need a much better way to control them. Otherwise, you’ll end up using a dozen or more mobile apps and interacting through third-party tools.
A smart hub — or smart home controller — is something like the Wink Hub system. It provides a central interface to control all of your smart home products and can link up with them via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even mobile networks.
With the holiday season fast approaching, your friends and family will certainly appreciate any gifts you give them. However, if they’re into technology, it’s hard to go wrong with gadgets that make their home smarter.
Scott Huntington is a writer from Harrisburg, PA who covers all things tech and automotive. Check out his site offthethrottle.com or find him on Twitter @SMHuntington.