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Tech for smart homes

How to make your home smarter

Find out how the internet of things could let you control your home with a smartphone.

What do I need to know first?

The internet could be about to change the way we run our homes in much the same way it has revolutionised the way we shop, stay in touch and manage our banking.

It’s all because of what’s known as the ‘internet of things’, where device and appliances come with a Wi-Fi connection and a downloadable app. That means we can control them using a smartphone or tablet that’s connected to the internet, whether we’re at home or not.

Find out how the internet of things could help you and your family keep warm, save money and make your home more welcoming.

Smart lights and power switches

The Efergy Ego lets you set a random schedule that you can use to turn lights on and off to deter burglars when you’re away. Belkin’s Wemo Insight Switch also lets you set custom alerts – set one to let you know when your washing machine cycle has ended, for example.

Smart lights offer more than just convenience – they can help you set the mood of your home, too. Elgato’s Avea bulbs let you choose the colour of your lights as well as their brightness using a range of pre-set ambient lighting schemes from your Android or Apple device (including the Apple Watch).

The Philips Hue range of lights can also create ambient lighting that complements the movie or console game you’re playing, or pulse to the beat of music.

Manage the temperature

Smart heating systems are a practical way to save money and make sure your home is nice and toasty when you get up or get home. The Nest Thermostat adapts to the way you use it – after a week it will set a program based on the temperatures you entered on its dial – but you can make changes any time you want using the app. Pair it with the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector and the system will shut down your boiler at the first sign of trouble.

If you want more control, Honeywell’s Evohome enables you to control the temperature for individual rooms using a gadget that attaches to the valve on your radiators.

If you’d rather not pay for a whole system upfront, consider paying in monthly instalments for the Tado smart thermostat starter kit. This system uses your smartphone’s location to switch your heating on when you’re heading back home.

Shower the smart way

Hydrao will help you keep an eye on water usage by changing the colour of the LED lights built into the shower head based on the amount of water you’ve used – green for less than 10 litres, moving up through several changes to flashing red for more than 50 litres.

Hydrao is designed to teach younger family members about the importance of not wasting water in a fun way. But with water companies planning to install usage meters across the UK by 2020, it could give the whole family a reminder to use only what they need.

Smarten up your clothesline

There haven’t been many major developments in the way we wash our clothes in recent decades – but that’s starting to change. Samsung has been selling Wi-Fi washing machines in Korea for some time 1 and their Ecobubble range brings smartphone-controlled laundry to the UK.

Connect it to your home network and you’ll be able to control all aspects of operation from your phone. And there’s no soap drawer – instead you add detergent liquid to an inbuilt dispenser, with capacity for about a month’s worth of washes. The Ecobubble can even work out how much detergent to use for your load based on information from 4 sensors. 


Cook up a digital feast

If you like to keep a close eye on your culinary creations, the AEG steam oven could give you an eye on the inside. Its cookview camera can beam a live image from the main oven direct to your smartphone or laptop, so you won’t need to risk opening the oven door to see if your cake has risen.

Its inbuilt food sensor lets you monitor the internal temperature of roasting meats, so you can cook them to perfection 2.

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