Like a bit of space age science fiction, smart home technology is becoming more and more accessible. Just about every detail of home comfort can be controlled from the palm of your hand. Whether via iOS or other mobile apps, Smart technology can take command of your thermostat, lighting, as well as your appliances. And yes, it can even mind your pets and keep an eye on your house while you’re away. With features that include full remote control from your mobile device and voice activation, some of the best apps even have the capacity to talk to each other, connecting a network of technologies within the home for a completely customizable digital experience. Even while you sleep, your smart home products are hard at work, optimizing your sleep cycle and keeping your family safe from the unthinkable. Much more than just a nifty thing to have, smart home systems have the ability to save you money while offering better solutions, a broad range of features and increasingly better integration across all platforms. The main trends we are seeing focus on home comfort. In the latest advances, most apps can now be controlled using a smart television as a hub. Essentially turning your TV into a control center, it becomes a smart hub for every compatible component in your house, from locks and security systems to sprinklers, thermostats and cameras. LG introduced its new SmartTV platform at 2015’s CES show, previewing the new feature as something to be included in all of their 2016 sets, allowing users to control compatible smart home appliances from LG and other manufacturers. Making your daily routines more green, efficient and saving you money in the process is the goal of most smart home products. But, for the cool factor alone, the most exciting thing to emerge is probably the integration of Amazon Echo, a voice recognition bluetooth speaker that goes well beyond its main feature. Originally meant as a voice-activated streaming solution for listening to music and viewing media from various sources, it also reads audiobooks, answers questions in a Siri-like manner, delivers the news, weather and sports while controlling a growing list of smart home devices. Technologies like Hue, WeMo, SmartThings and Ecobee are remotely operated via Alexa, a cloud-based voice activation platform that is fast becoming integrated into more and more smart home products. Alexa even has its own IFTTT channel, so users can create their own ‘recipes’ for home automation. These top five smart home technologies have earned their status based on popularity, functionality and convenience: #1. Ecoisme Ecoisme tracks the energy consumption of all your connected devices, and provides valuable tips on how to reduce your usage and make your home more energy efficient. Notifications are sent via their mobile app as a ‘friendly reminder’ that you left a window or your fridge door open or an appliance on, and it connects with other smart devices such as WeMo and NEST to make your home – and you by proxy – even smarter. Pros: inexpensive, intuitive and hooks directly into your home’s electrical system. Uses spectrum analysis to differentiate between devices and even manufacturers. Can provide useful tips on how to make your home more efficient. Cons: none noted. #2. Nest Nest is a suite of products as well as a hub for other compatible technologies. You’ll see ‘Works With Nest’ on many brands, including Philips Hue and Whirlpool washing machines, but its core proprietary products are its energy-saving thermostat, a self-testing smoke and CO2 alarm, and a fully controllable 1080 HD camera. Pros: easy to install and control, attractive styling. Cons: components are expensive, security could be compromised, and reportedly their support is not great. #3. Petcube Petcube is taking the pet-loving world by storm. How great is it that you can dial into your petcube to see what Rover and Fluffy are up to, but to go one step beyond, you can actually have a two-way conversation with them and play with them via a laser pointer. Petcube has been adopted by many animal shelters and veterinarians, and there is a global network that even non-users can dial into via a smartphone app, allowing them to check out and play with other people’s animals remotely. Pros: all of the above. Works through a mobile app. Sleek design. Laser pointer and voice system for remote play and communication. Cons: no video recording available and so far night or low light recording is not supported. Compared to other next-generation web cameras, it is a bit limited in features. #4. August August is a home access system that promises to make you more efficient in every way. From letting the right people in the door to checking on your kids, it’s a mobile controlled security command center with a range of products: a smart lock, doorbell cam, a smart keypad for code-based door access, and a remote for all of your door locks. Pros: fully automated features for all components. Easy to install, safe, simple and works with your existing deadbolts. Cons: door lock is not Android compatible. It’s expensive. Bluetooth is not optimal and can be hindered by digital interference. Control over WiFi requires purchase of a separate hub, which requires an additional investment of $250. #5. Harmony Companion Harmony Companion from Logitech is a whole-home control system. Originally conceived as a universal remote for audio visual systems, it can be connected to a range of smart technology enabled devices such as lighting, thermostats and more. Though it can be controlled via iOS or Android devices, Harmony Companion is the only smart home system that offers the option of a physical remote control. Pros: flexible connectivity – works over WiFi, Bluetooth or IR. Automatically detects devices. Universal remote has easy to understand activity related buttons, like ‘Watch TV’. Easy to use for tech-heads and non-geeks alike. Cons: Expensive. Remote screen is not backlit, and there are only three buttons supporting six activities. Initial setup must be done through an iOS or Android device. The Takeaway: the Smart Home Technology revolution is coming It is clear that smart home technology is bounding ahead at breakneck speed, creating solutions for everything from mood lighting, home comfort and security to monitoring and improving your carbon footprint. Whether you want to fire up the slow cooker from the office, put your house into lockdown or set the mood with music and lighting without getting off the couch, there is a device – and an app – for that. Space-age cool factor aside, we are rapidly approaching the tipping point where every component in every home will communicate, and efficient convenience is the order of the day. With growing accessibility and an ever-increasing variety of compatible appliances and devices coming on board, even the most analog among us will soon be joining the smart home revolution. 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