Gadgets

H-APP-Y HOMES

Switch on lighting, heating and even open doors for deliveries when you’re out. It’s a brave new world out there. Are you tech-ready?

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You may have read a lot about the “Internet of Things” (IoT) but, like most techie buzzwords, most people aren’t really sure what it means. If you use an app to control your heating, that’s the Internet of Things. If your lights can be turned off via your phone, that’s the Internet of Things. If a ‘thing’, eg heat/light/locks/sex toy (yes, really!) can be controlled via the internet or an app, then that’s the Internet of Things.

Live footage from IP security camera positioned in garden from Axis.

We already have Nest, the internet-connected high-definition security camera that enables you to see your home, away from home. Then there’s Hive, that allows us to turn the heating on or off well before you put the key in the door. Philips’ Hue gives you control over the level of light and even the colours. You can also sync it with music, TV or games. And just around the corner are even smarter solutions, all brought to you by the IoT.


DID YOU KNOW…

that 4K TV – the stage after HD – is here and will give four times the bandwidth?


Home security
An iP-enabled video door entry system gives you an instant visual on your phone or tablet to see who’s lurking behind the door. You can talk to the visitor too, which is great if you’re chilling in the garden or upstairs as you can install a unit on each floor, each with a VDU display.

Turn your house into Big Brother central with 24/7 security and video surveillance that can be stored for up to a month. Check it all from an app on your desktop or smartphone, even when you’re on holiday. “Pretty much every client we are working on is having them put in; it’s probably the hottest technology right now,” says Viki Lander of Ensoul Interior Architecture. You can get good quality IP security cameras from Axis Communications UK, www.axis.com.

To avoid hundreds of different devices all operating independently, the Canary security system connects your smart tools together. It’s very easy to set up and will monitor your house, watch for intruders and send you video of any irregular activity. It will also check in on the temperature and air quality using a set of built-in sensors. (£133.35 through Amazon)

Nest Protect is an intelligent smoke and carbon monoxide detector that will alert you to a problem wherever you are, and can be viewed or silenced from your phone. The app sends a message – “There’s a fire in the basement, get out.” It’s wired to the mains so won’t run out of battery. (£89 from John Lewis, plus the cabling cost).

2Remote locks
Locks that can be controlled by the IoT are already here. We originally assumed they’d replace keys but there are very few things more convenient than a well-cut piece of metal in your pocket. Remote locks score big time in granting time-limited access to people you wouldn’t normally want to have a key.

Do you want to grant the plumber access between 10am and 3pm next Monday? Or perhaps allow the Amazon delivery person to open the front door to put that parcel in the hall? Remote locks can do just that. In Sweden, there are trials with grocery delivery companies who’ll come in and unpack your shopping, putting your Marmite in your cupboard and your pesto in the fridge. www.gluehome.com

Lighting
Touch-control lighting panels to set the mood in each room are pretty cool and Lutron automated lighting systems are the gold standard. Pre-set floor lights in the TV room, over-table lights in the dining room and entrance hall lights for when you arrive home. It does mean that each light fitting needs to be cabled back to the Lutron system, which can also control window blinds and curtain rails; just press a button and the curtains will swish to a close.

Amazon Echo
If the IoT is the mechanic by which you control your various devices, think of Alexa as a super-efficient PA. It “learns” your voice and soon you’ll be opening doors, switching on the heating and playing tunes without lifting a finger.

Home sprinklers
We’ve all been there. You’re spending the summer in Nice but can see from your IoT camera system that your lawns in SW18 are a bit yellow.

Rachio gives you full control of your “yard” as our American cousins would say, which to you and me means you can turn on your sprinklers in Earlsfield, while sipping your Dirty Martini on the French Riviera. www.rachio.com

Mesh wifi
Not strictly the IoT but it will make your connected devices run much more smoothly. Home wifi can be a nightmare. Hot spots, cold spots and different channels are often a huge source of family arguments. If you’ve ever wondered why your office wifi isn’t the same, the reason is Mesh. It’s an approach that turns repeaters into one massive wifi zone and it’s coming this year. It’s expensive but it will transform your home wifi coverage. BT is one of the first to launch in the UK (Jan 2017) with offerings from Google and others on their way.

3Music to your ears
Music lovers can have multi-room sound with a system such as Sonos controlled through an app on an iPad, phone or desktop. Just pick the room and the music from your music library (streamlined from Spotify, Apple iTunes or Deezer), and the technology does the rest. Speakers can be fitted in the ceiling or alternatively or alternatively use portable Sonos speakers.

Where to start
Retro-fitting all these wonderful gadgets is difficult and costly so it’s best to do it when renovating, especially if you’re refurbishing the ground floor and/or basement as these are the areas where you need to lay the cable. If you do, allow space for a cupboard to store a stacking system to for AV/IT/ Sonos/Sky/fuse boxes/AC unit. Make sure it’s child-proof and keep it locked.


 

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