7 must-have smart home devices for 2017

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**Note: Believe it or not, we’re not being paid by any of these products to write this post. We genuinely just love all these devices. That being said, if anyone wants to pay us retroactively, we totally wouldn’t mind.**

Today we live in the future. Well, not really, but sometimes it sure does feel like it, right?

In any case, those of you who have had the honor of visiting our humble abode in Salt Lake City, UT will know I’m just crazy about tech and smart home stuff! My wife just rolls her eyes these days when I send her links of the newest things I want to try.

There is a whole host of different products, hubs, and systems out there. Just reading about Bluetooth and Z-wave and Zigbee can make your head hurt. But here are 7 must-have smart home devices that I think every smart home should have—and they will all work together:

1. Philips Hue

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The best smart home systems start with lighting. We’ve all had those moments—made your food, grabbed your blanket, turned on Netflix ready to binge, sat your backside down on the couch—damn, left the kitchen light on.

Hue gives you the power to turn off those pesky lights without ever having to get off the couch. Just use the Hue app (or Alexa voice control) to switch them off. On top of this convenience, these lights come with an incredibly easy install plus an energy rating that will keep your electrical bill low while boasting a lifespan of many, many years!

You can buy a start-up kit, like the one pictured above, and then just add light bulbs as you need! Check out the Philips Hue website for all the information on available bulbs.

2. Arlo Pro

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve always thought the idea of having a home security system is really nice—but you balked at the set-up fees and the monthly subscription costs. That’s where Arlo comes in.

Arlo is a truly, utterly wireless camera option! You spend a couple hundred bucks on a siren/hub combo and camera, then you can add as many additional cameras as you wish. Place them around your home, boot up the hub, download the app, and you’re set. That’s it. Get alerts to your phone if motion is detected when you aren’t home! Use the cameras to talk through and listen in on any unwanted visitors!

3. Amazon Alexa

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The Amazon Alexa is like your sci-fi fantasies come to life. You trigger it by saying “Alexa,” then you ask a question or tell it to do something, and it happens. Tell Alexa to order your favorite pizza from Pizza Hut, tell her to turn off the kitchen lights, or tell her to lock the front door. She does it all. She’ll even tell you a joke or play your favorite song from Spotify or Amazon Music.

We love the Echo Dot, the smaller of the two devices pictured above, costing $49.99 a pop. We paid only $39.99 when they were on sale, and we placed four of them around the house, so there’s no need to shout too far.

4. Schlage Connect Deadbolt System

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Do you hate carrying your keys around? Do you struggle to get them out of your pocket and into the lock when you have arms full of children and groceries? Yeah, I thought so! But that isn’t necessary anymore, thanks to the Schlage Connect Deadbolt System.

Not only does this piece of hardware look really cool, it’s also built extremely well. You can program individual codes for everyone in your family, and hand them out to your friends—if you want to. And the coolest part? Just ask Alexa to lock your door, and she will. Or integrate with the Samsung SmartThings hub and never have to touch your door lock again!

5. Nest Learning Thermostat

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The Nest Learning Thermostat was one of the first smart devices on the market—since its acquisition by Google, it has only gotten better. Just adjust the temperature manually for a week or two as you leave and arrive at home, and Nest will learn your schedule so that you never have to adjust it again.

Integrate it with the rest of your ecosystem: you can program it to automatically turn off your furnace in case of a fire, or turn on your Rachio sprinkler whenever you want.

That, and you can tell your Alexa to turn up the heat all from the comfort of your own bed.

6. Nest Protect Smoke/CO Alarm

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Cool is cool. But the Nest Protect Smoke/CO Alarm is where cool meets practical. The Nest Protect can tell the difference between smoke and steam, and whether you just burnt a bit of toast or if there really is a fire.

And it won’t just go off with a crazy high-pitched alarm—a calming female voice will first warn you that she detects some smoke, and you have the option of switching it off from your phone before the actual alarm sounds. (That’s right, no more swatting kitchen towels at the ceiling!)

7. Samsung SmartThings

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For me, the Samsung SmartThings hub is where it all really comes together. The SmartThings hub connects with its own devices, and many, many others, including all those I listed above already. It is the core of your smart home system and allows you to set up almost limitless automation options. Here’s a small sampling of the automations we’ve set up through SmartThings:

  • When we leave the house, SmartThings locks our Schlage deadbolt, turns on our Arlo Pro security cam system, shuts off all the Philips Hue light bulbs, and sets the Nest Learning Thermostat to money-saving eco temperatures. It also keeps a check on our door sensors, and sends us an alert if they’re unexpectedly opened while we’re away.
  • When we walk into the bathroom during the day, lights come on automatically via a SmartThings motion sensor. When we stumble into the bathroom at 5 a.m. after the alarm goes off, lights come on at a soothing 20% brightness so that we don’t get blinded half-asleep.
  • We can tell Alexa to start our “TV Time” automation. She turns off all the lights in the house, dims our media room lights, and flips on our super nifty LEDs on top of the bookcase. It’s the perfect TV-watching ambiance.
  • Ever pulled into the driveway and found the sprinklers are on as you assess how to get from car to house without getting soaked? Not with SmartThings! SmartThings uses geo-location to know when you arrive home, and if the sprinklers are running, it will tell your Rachio smart irrigation system to shut them off for a few minutes!
  • Do you struggle to wake up in the morning when it’s wintry, cold, and dark? We don’t. That’s because our Samsung SmartThings hub has got some smarts—it starts fading our bedroom lights on about 30 minutes before our alarm, imitating the rising sun in the summer months. By the time that alarm goes off, you’ve been gently been pulled into consciousness!

But seriously, there is so much more you can do! Wondering if your dream is possible? Contact me at alecdown@gmail.com and I’ll let you know.

–Alec

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