Smart Home gadgets you NEED now
There’s so much we can do to get our homes running smarter. There’s any number of products that will do things for you automatically, or examples where once inaccessible technology can now be yours at home. Everything from automating your lights, to remotely locking your doors, checking the weather on demand, or even testing your food for impurities… it’s all possible now inside your own home.
I recently had a chance to run tests in my home of several “smart” gadgets, and we showed them off on CTV Morning Live (watch HERE). Here’s a bit about each one, and some testing notes.
The Wink hub is kind of like a nerve centre of home automation. The hub connects to your home’s wifi, and drives the Wink app on your phone. The app then allows you to control any number of add-on devices. I did have some initial trouble getting the hub working, but Wink/Quirky was quick to replace what was likely a defective unit and I was up and running again quickly. Once the hub and app were in sync, I was quickly able to set up GE Link light bulbs, which allo you to use your phone to turn the lights on and off and to dim them. I tested the soft while light bulbs, which was great, but it would be even better if the LED bulbs had colour options like LIFX or Philips hue bulbs I’ve reviewed previously. That said, you can actually run Philips hue bulbs on the wink hub, but you do still need the Philips hub or starter kit, so it’s kind of redundant.
I also tested the Quirky Pivot Power bar along with the Wink hub. It’s a wifi-enabled power bar that allows you to turn some of the outlets on or off remotely. The Pivot also curls and pivots (hence the name!) and allows you to plug in large size plugs or transformers with ease.
The Wink system has been easy to use and program, and one of the only downsides is the large size of the hub. I also know some reviewers have had trouble with getting the system set up initially, as I did, but the Wink/Quirky customer service folks handled things very well.
By comparison to Wink, the WeMo hub is tiny; it fits in my palm. This was by far the easiest set up I’ve had lately; the hub conected instantly and without trouble. I set up WeMo light bulbs first and they too connected instantly. I did have some confusion setting up the add-ons like the WeMo Insight switch, but I figured out after a few minutes that the WeMo app actually has 2 screens that look like the set-up screen. I was using the wrong one. Once I figured that out, and got into the right one, the plugs connected easily. Once everything is connected, you can use the WeMo app to set timers for lights, or your heater, fan, you name it. I wake for work well before the sun is up, so being able to set the lights to slowly come on, or the fan to warm the room before I get out of bed is a treat. The WeMo system is available at Best Buy, Amazon.ca and Future Shop.
What’s a Personal environment monitor? The Lapka kit contains 4 sensors which measure radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity and how organic your produce is. It connects to your iPhone and the Lapka app and displays its readings on your phone. I tested my home for radiation and electromagnetic fields, and it came up fine. I also used it to test some fruits in my pantry for the presence of nitrates (from fertilizer). My biggest beef with the Lapka is that there’s not a lot of information either in the package or online about what you’re testing for, or why. I felt like I needed an advanced degree to know what I was doing with the PEM.
I really love this product, both because it looks like the most futuristic humidifier you’ll ever see, and because it was easy to use, and ABSOLUTELY QUIET. I have a humidifier at home and it’s so noisy we need to keep it on the other side of the house from the bedroom. The Roolen is silent. It emits a cool mist that humidifies your home and in “automatic” or smart mode, it will automatically shut off when your home hits optimal humidity. Simple, easy and smart. A full tank will also last almost 18-24 hours, so it only needs filling once per day. You can get one in Canada on Amazon.ca
The Netatmo weather station is a neat idea for weather geeks. One of its brushed aluminum cylinders sits unobtrusively in the home, the other goes outside, and you access their info via an app on your phone. It measures temperature, of course, but also humidity, and noise levels indoors. it’s also equipped to send weather alerts to your phone, but I found they didn’t work in Canada. A neat idea for a gift if someone you know loves weather. Add-ons include alternate temperature sensors and a rain gauge. You can read my full review of the Netatmo on Future Shop’s Tech Blog or get one on their website.