Smart House Tehcnology

Amazon Echo

It looks like a tube of Pringles but this is a voice-controlled speaker with its own virtual assistant, called Alexa. Say, “Alexa, turn up the heating in the living room” and if you have the right thermostat such as Nest, British Gas Hive and a range from Honeywell, Alexa will oblige. She will also tell you a joke, confirm sports scores, convert pounds to kilograms and so on. The multi-directional speakers in the Echo can be used for playing music, too, though this is not hi-fi quality. Incidentally, if you have a person called Alexa in your household, you can change the “wake word” which gets the system listening to you. Available in black or white finish. You can also order an Uber, control the Neato Botvac and tell you your weight that morning on the Fitbit Aria bathroom scales.

Smart House Tehcnology

Nest Learning Thermostat

The handsome Nest comes in several anodised aluminium finishes and can be wall-mounted or placed on a portable stand. It talks wirelessly to your boiler and can control radiators and water heating. If the sensor realises you have left the house it switches to Away mode, to save energy, though you can also turn heating and water on or off remotely via your smartphone. The system gently encourages you to turn the heating down and emails you an energy summary each month. You can set a schedule, though for the first few days it notes when you turn the heating on and off and creates a suitable timetable automatically. Works with Google, Amazon. Installation by a Nest-approved agent is quick and simple. It doesn’t work with every kind of heating but the website is pretty comprehensive and guides you through crucial details.

Smart House Tehcnology

Dyson 360 Eye

You know with Dyson you’re going to get something impressive, and this small robot vac didn’t disappoint. Although this one has the largest price tag, it’s the smallest and most compact (roughly the size of a Quality Street tin), taking up minimal space in the cupboard or at its charging dock. It’s simple to use – you leave it to charge and then press the (only) button to get it going. It works its way methodically around your home and if it gets stuck on rugs or shoes, it turns off, navigates its way back to safety and starts again. It maintains Dyson’s high suction power, although still not as good as a standard vacuum cleaner, and certainly sucked up the most dirt out of all the robots tested. The app allows you to schedule when you want your robot to start cleaning and the instruction manual is clear to follow (unlike others we read).

Smart House Tehcnology

Nest Protect

This is the most elegant smoke and carbon monoxide alarm you’re likely to see. It’s a smart sensor, too, as it can tell the difference between smoke and steam. And instead of the shrill and unpleasant noise most smoke alarms make, this one speaks a warning before the alarm proper goes off. It alerts your phone, too. It comes in two versions, wired and battery-powered. If you have the battery version, it alerts you when the battery needs replacing. If you have Nest Thermostat, the two can work together so if Protect detects an emergency, Thermostat turns off the heating. It even works as a night light when it senses you walk past it. Works with Amazon, Google.

Smart House Tehcnology

Elgato Eve Energey

A smart power switch is one of the simplest ways to get into home automation. This HomeKit-enabled device plugs into your wall socket and then you can plug your light or fan or kettle or whatever into the switch. Like the Degree, it’s easy to set up and it means you can turn the attached electrical device on and off remotely and monitors electrical consumption. Then it can calculate the cost of the switch’s usage. Works with HomeKit.

Smart House Tehcnology

Philips Hue Ambiance

The Philips Hue range is tremendous. There are three bulbs in the starter kit which are controlled from a wireless bridge unit. The bulbs can be set to and of 16 million colours – just pick the shade you like best and you can set up automated timers. Or turn the lights on and off remotely. You can add other Hue lights such as candle bulbs and standalone lights. Choose from screw fit or bayonet fitting bulbs. It works with HomeKit, Google Home and Amazon and does equally well with each.