What’s next in connected gadgets?
The connected home is the next real frontier in tech. Now that we have computers in our pockets and on our wrists it’s only logical that the rest of the things we use become smart and web-connected.
Already it’s possible to get smarter lights, speakers and even kitchen scales, all of which feature in our guide to the ultimate connected home.
But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout 2016 we’re going to see far more connected devices and far better ones, as once dumb appliances overcome their teething problems and fulfil their potential.
The world in which your smartwatch or phone will automatically turn on your lights or heating when you enter a room is incoming – as long as you remember to keep your phone or watch charged, that is.
Samsung Family Hub refrigerator
Smart fridges sometimes get a bad rap, becoming the punchline in the connected home joke. But connected homes aren’t a joke any more, and smart fridges are slowly but surely becoming more than just gimmicks.
The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator has a 21.5-inch 1080p screen, which can be used to display recipes, a calendar, notes and more. The screen can also be used to stream TV and music – and screw sticking your shopping list on the door, you can out and out order your groceries on it.
And the Family Hub has another trick up its sleeve, in the shape of built-in cameras that show you what’s in the fridge. You can view the contents from your smartphone wherever you are – so if you get to the shop and aren’t sure if you need to buy milk you can just take a look on your phone.
It’s set to launch in the early part of 2016 for $5,000 (around £3,400 or AU$7140).
Sony Multifunctional Light
When is a smart light not just a light? When it’s Sony’s Multifunctional Light. Not only is it app-controlled and capable of shining in a myriad of colours, it can also sense motion – so it can turn itself (or other connected devices) on when it senses your presence – as well as temperature and humidity.
It can also be voice-controlled, and can play music through a built-in speaker – there’s even a microSD card slot.
Sadly, the Multifunctional Light isn’t out yet and is initially only headed for Japan, but if this is the future of smart lighting it should be well worth the wait.
$179.99 (roughly £126 / AU$261)
The Amazon Echo could one day be at the heart of smart homes everywhere, especially if the company ever sees fit to release it outside America.
It’s a voice-controlled device that talks back, and can be used a lot like Google Now or Siri. You can ask it questions which it will answer by searching the net, or have it check your calendar and set alarms. It can also play music and read ebooks at your command.
But the best thing about the Amazon Echo is that it can connect to an ever-growing number of other smart devices, enabling you to control them – you can turn off your lights, adjust your thermostat, and (coming soon) start your Ford car remotely with voice commands rather than using an app.
The Netatmo Presence is smarter than your average security camera, as it can tell the difference between people, animals and cars – so when it sends you a real-time alert it won’t just be warning you of movement, but the type of movement.
Beyond that, this outdoor camera has many of the same features as its connected rivals. You can view live video feeds on your phone, save footage and customise the notifications you get.
At night you can choose to use an infra-red mode to keep on monitoring your home, or switch on a floodlight to deter burglars and light your way if you’re coming home after dark.
The Netatmo Presence is not out yet, but it’s coming soon and we’re jolly excited.
Philips Connected Multicooker
Cooking is an art – unless you have the Philips Connected Multicooker, in which case it’s barely even an activity.
This clever device, due to hit the stores this year, links up to the Philips ChefConnect app, which is home to a library of recipes. When you find one you like the look of, just tap on it and simply add ingredients to the oven as and when it prompts you. It’s like your mother’s supervising you, but without the disapproving tutting.
With 21 cooking programmes the Connected Multicooker does the rest, so you can sit back and relax, knowing your food will be cooked to perfection and that you’ll get an alert on your phone when it’s done or when you – sigh – need to actually do something.
We’re still desperately awaiting the release date and price of this one – not least because the diet of cereals that we try to live on is starting to wear thin.
Neato Botvac Connected
Robot vacuum cleaners are nothing new, but they’ve come a long way since the futuristic visions of the 1960s – and certainly a lot further than jet packs and cities on the moon.
The Neato Botvac Connected is available right now, and it’s one of the most high-tech yet, with app control enabling you to instruct it to clean your house even when you’re not in.
The Botvac Connected will also send notifications through the app, and cleaning can be paused and scheduled. Or, if you’re on the same Wi-Fi network as your robo vacuum, you can manually control it from the app for optimal cat-scaring fun.
If you like the look of the Amazon Echo, but wish it was slightly more scary, Jibo might be for you.
Like the Echo, this ‘cute’ robot is voice-controlled and talks back. It can look things up, interact with other connected devices, take photos and shoot videos, and play video and display information on its built-in screen.
The scary bit is that it can track motion, with the screen turning to face whoever it’s speaking to. This makes it a little more lifelike than the Echo, although it’s still planted to one spot – which is probably for the best if you don’t want to be one of the first victims of the connected gadget uprising.
It’s still awaiting a release date, but will go on sale later this year for $749 (£529, around AU$1075).
There are quite a few sleep-tracking apps out there, but if you want a deeper insight into your nightly habits you’ll need something built from the ground up for the purpose – something like the Samsung SleepSense.
Slip this under your mattress and link it to the accompanying app and you’ll be able to get insight into your movements, heart rate and respiratory rate. The SleepSense will also use this information to tell how long you spend in REM sleep and deep (restorative, nice-feeling) sleep, and give you a score based on the average data for your age.
But the Samsung SleepSense doesn’t just tell you how you’re sleeping – it also gives you advice on how to improve your sleep, and can link to other smart appliances, such as thermostats and light bulbs, to ensure that your sleeping conditions are optimal.
Best of all, in the morning it will gently wake you up at the optimal time, based on the data it’s collected – although sadly we’re still waiting to see when it’ll launch and how much it will cost.