The age of the connected house is here, and best smart home systems can put control of your home at your fingertips.
A decent, coherent system has to play nicely with wealth of devices on the market – and with major companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and Philips embracing the idea of a truly connected living space, there's more choice than ever before.
Essential reading: Building the ultimate smart home
If you're looking to update your home, going connected is increasingly the smart choice. Before you buy anything though, check out our round up of the best smart home tech.
Control your home
Amazon Echo 2
Amazon's famous smart speaker tower has finally gotten an upgrade. It's a little shorter than the previous generation, and comes with a couple of new coverings to give it a fancy new look. For instance, you can get a wood, cloth, or aluminum covering now.
If you want to give your Echo a new look, you can buy a brand new shell and install it after the fact. More importantly, there's also a new bass speaker that promises to improve sound quality. To take advantage of that, you'll be able to link a handful of Echo 2's with multi-room audio, like a Sonos system (there's even a three-pack of Echo 2's for $249).
Of course, Alexa can still command all your smart home products. You can bark commands to turn on and off the lights, set heating by temperature, turn on smart appliances - all of it. Support for Alexa is growing on a weekly basis, like support for Sonos speakers, Hive thermostats, Philips Hue lights and much, much more.
The Echo 2 officially comes out 31 October, and there's also the more expensive Echo Plus, which can act as a smart home hub, that comes out on the same day. In the meantime, however, you can still pick up the more affordable and less feature packed Echo Dot.
$99.99 | Amazon
Google's Amazon Echo rival may not have as much support as its taller foe, but it's quickly catching up. The smart speaker also taps into the company's search engine, and your Google account, pairing that with a unique contextual question/response system.
It'll let you control your lights, thermostats and switches if connected to Philips Hue, Nest, August, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. It's also more of a looker than the Echo speakers with a customisable base to help it blend in with your living room or kitchen decor. Plus, Google has been adding new features like visual support on a TV, calling and notifications.
There's also the smaller, more affordable, and - frankly, cuter Google Home Mini. You're not going to get as good of an auditory experience as you would on the larger Home, but you are getting mostly everything else at an impulse-buy worthy price point.
Wareable verdict: Google Home review
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat is the poster child for connected home systems, and its ability to adapt to your needs makes it a leader. It monitors your heating/cooling habits and matches them up to the weather outside.
Now into its third generation, the smart home device now also adds the ability to control your hot water tank and uses OpenTherm technology to help create a more efficient heating setup.
There's also the more affordable Nest Thermostat E, which comes with all the same information save for a lower resolution display and the lack of Farsighted, which displays weather information.
British Gas Hive
Calling Hive a smart thermostat is underplaying what's become a serious smart home ecosystem in its own right. Hive now includes lights, cameras, door sensors and smart plugs – making it one of the most complete solutions on the market.
Hive has been the pick of smart heating systems for UK users for a while now, but the Centrica-owned company (known more widely as British Gas) has finally jumped across the pond. You can pay outright for the theromostat or a monthly subscription of $16.99 per month, which bags you the Hive Active Thermostat and the hub.
Smart home showdown: Nest v Hive
It's a solid and robust system that enables you to create schedules, turn your heating and cooling on/off remotely and create a comfort zone temperature range. It will also smartly switch off should it detect your smartphone is taking a holiday.
If you want to use the rest of the Hive smart home ecosystem, the 'Welcome Home' subscription service allows customers to get a Hive Hub, Active Plug, two window or door sensors and two lights for $9.99 per month. There's no thermostat included in that, however.
Tado Smart AC Control
We may live in one of the world's colder climates, but if you rely on your AC like we depend on our heating, Tado is your perfect smart home system.
Tado Smart AC Control smartens up AC units, enabling you to schedule cooling from your smartphone. What's more, it's compatible with Amazon Echo so you can cool your home via your voice, and set up IFTTT rules to put you in control.
Philips Hue smart light bulbs hook up to an app that enables you to change the colour and brightness of individual lights, for the ultimate in mood settings. They can also be hooked up to a host of IFTTT 'Applet' recipes via slick apps for iPhone, and Android. In the US, you'll get a starter pack with four 600 lumens LED bulbs. In the UK, you'll still only get three (for now, at least).
LIFX's bulb is a worthy rival to Philips Hue with 16 million colours, 1,000 shades of white alone and Wi-Fi bulbs with maximum brightness of 1,000 lumens. Set up is simple, and there's no need for a hub or router, and LIFX can even connect to your Nest smart home system if you have one.
The app itself is easy to use, and aside from controlling colours and setting themes, you can also split your home up into zones and then create timings for them, which is a great way to secure your home when you're away. LIFX is actually having a huge clearance sale right now, so keep an eye out for new products shortly.
IKEA is looking to muscle into the smart home game, and it's starting with the Trådfi collection, which aims to make it simple and affordable for you to turn your lighting situation smart. Plus, all its systems will work with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home, making it simple to fit into whatever system you prefer.
It all starts with the Gateway Kit, which will nab you two white LED lights, a remote control and a gateway that links them all up. If you want to go a little cheaper, there are also wireless motion and dimming kits available, but they'll just get you a single bulb and a remote.
August Smart Lock Pro
August is the big name in smart locks, and its new Smart Lock Pro is upping the ante. It now comes with a Connect bridge, which will let you control your smart lock from anywhere with your smartphone. There's also a feature called DoorSense, which uses a small module to check whether your door is actually closed before locking.
It can use this new sensor to give you smarter alerts, like letting you know when the door has been open a little too long. This feature is still in beta, but you'll eventually be able to set up custom notifications for certain times of day, and for deliveries. Oh, there's also a more affordable Smart Lock for $149. It lacks the Connect bridge, but it's still got DoorSense.
Yale Keyless Connected
The key-free Yale smart lock can also be made to be smartphone-free as well to make things even safer.
You can open sesame with either a key fob/card or alternatively with a pin code. That code can be changed at any time and you can even hand out one for temporary access. If someone does try to crack the code, the alarm will be sounded to help scare them off.
In the US, Yale has the Assure Lock line, which works similarly but dumps the key fobs for digital keys that can be shared via app.
Canary is another learning smart home system that aims to add a touch of smartness to dull incumbent home tech.
Housing an HD camera and packed full of sensors, it aims to smartly detect security threats in your home, from a person who shouldn't be there to an open window – and delivers the bad news to your smartphone via a cheery push notification.
The big draw here is the lack of a subscription - this Full HD security camera is about the same price as rivals like Nest Cam but gives you access to your videos for no extra monthly payment.
It also boasts face recognition and motion sensor accessories for doors and windows.
The smoke alarm
The smoke alarm is the dumbest device in your home. It sits around for months, when you're never quite sure if it's working, before screaming the house down over some burned toast.
Nest's offering enables you to wave away false alarms, alerts you to problems via smartphone when you're away from your home and even works as a motion activated night light.
First Alert ONELINK Wi-Fi
Nest kind of has the smart smoke and CO detecting market sewn-up but don't discard First Alert if you're looking for some automated Apple HomeKit compatibility.
The alarm, which replaces your current wired device will alert you with notifications in the event of a smoke or carbon monoxide emergency and the HomeKit integration means you can run tests and alter mood lighting directly from your iPhone.
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