Best Devices for Your Home Automation System
With an increasing number of devices on the market and price points that fit within most budgets, smart homes are becoming a viable option for more and more consumers. And, these devices are no longer only for the tech savvy, the early adapters, and the gadget crazy. With interfaces that are smooth and easy to use, and with a smartphone in just about every pocket, anyone can transform his or her house into a smart home. However, now the big question comes up: Which of these home automation devices is best? While the answer largely depends on what you want to automate and how much money you want to spend, there are some devices that are just good, no matter how you analyse the choices.
Here are our picks for the ten best home automation devices.
1. Google Nest
This is a company that’s gone from being the manufacturer of a quirky smart thermostat to a Google-owned home automation powerhouse.
Now, with the Nest Developer Program and Nest API, there are more and more devices that work with the whole Nest system, like smart locks, smart light bulbs, and more.
Called “Works With Nest,” the initiative is growing. With the name recognition of the Nest brand plus Google’s reputation for pushing things forward, Nest looks like it could transition from cool curiosity to the main dominator the home automation sector.
As for pricing, the Nest Learning Thermostat runs £249, the Nest Protect is £89, and the Nest Cam costs £159.
This is a self-contained smart security system. As of this writing, Canary won’t sync with any other smarthome device. However, as it stands on its own, it’s pretty complete.
Plus, who’s to say that in the future, it won’t have compatibility? Canary is a wifi video security camera with 1080p HD resolution and a 147-degree lens for an impressively wide field of vision. Plus, it asks you questions to help it learn, like identifying what certain motions are.
It will learn your presence and automatically switch to disarmed mode when it senses you’re home. There’s also a sensor to measure indoor temperature, humidity and air quality, and it’s quite a nice looking device.
It retails for $249 USD, or about £160.
3. SmartThings Home Automation
A true smarthome hub, SmartThings is a total system that’s expandable to suit your individualised needs.
You can add on motion sensors, moisture sensors, smart outlets, open/closed detectors, and more, plus it’s compatible with several different smartlocks, smart lights, all sorts of other smart devices, smart thermostats (yes, even Nest), some Jawbone trackers, and more.
The starter kit sells for $199 USD (about £125), and additional sensors cost around $50 (or £32) each. So, getting started won’t dent your wallet too much, but if you really want to outfit your house as a smarthome, it can get very expensive very quickly.
Still, if you have the cash, SmartThings either has everything you need or works with everything you need for total home automation.
Proclaimed by its creators as a dashboard for your home, Sentri is a home monitoring system that learns your schedule and your preferences.
The device itself is a cool looking, shiny square with rounded corners, and it monitors temperature, humidity, outside weather conditions, and motion.
Plus, there’s a security camera in it. Sentri works with a number of other smart devices on the market, including Nest, smart outlets, smart switches, smart locks, smart bulbs, and more.
The only bad thing? It’s not even available to the general public yet.
However, it’s shipping this fall for $299 USD, so just under £200. That’s a bit on the high end for a home automation device, but if it’s as good as it looks, it may be well worth it.
This home automation system is more of a personal AI assistant that keeps track of your home and your schedule.
Interacting with Cubic is a lot like talking to another person, which is either pretty cool, totally futuristic, or a little creepy, depending on your perspective. Fully funded and then some on Indiegogo this past winter and expected to ship this fall, Cubic works with lots of other smart devices, so it also acts like a hub.
The device consists of a home cube plus a small badge, so you don’t even have to be in your home to talk to Cubic. It looks great based on the demos, but it will be interesting to see if this really takes off and if average consumers are actually comfortable talking to their home’s AI assistant.
Cubic’s current pricing is $195 USD for the home cube and $99 for the badge, so expect to spend about £200 for both. Be warned, though, that the price is expected to go up once Cubic starts shipping (which is expected to be November 2015).
Interacting with Homey is a lot like interacting with Cubic: you just talk to it.
Again, it’s still not certain that consumers will take to devices like this. And, frankly, it’s also not clear how well a voice-controlled device like Homey will work in practice.
However, Homey, which is produced by the Netherlands-based Athom, looks to be a fairly useful smarthome hub. It works with all sorts of smart devices — or it will, as shipping has been delayed (it was originally supposed to be shipped to initial backers this past spring).
The name is silly, and you have to initiate interaction with a juvenile-sounding “Hey, Homey,” but this is perhaps the nicest looking smart home hub we’ve seen: a smooth white sphere with rainbow lighting around the equator, like a space age disco ball. Homey can be preordered for €229, so around £160.
7. Wink Relay
The Wink Relay is a smart home command centre that goes on a centrally located wall in your home and communicates with various devices and sensors (temperature, humidity, proximity, the usual).
Its interface is a small touchscreen that looks a lot like a smartphone on your wall, despite the company’s insistence that it doesn’t.
This isn’t a bad thing, though, since it looks good, it’s easy to use, and you can see all of your compatible devices listed in front of you. You can coordinate the Wink Relay with lights, switches, outlets, locks, and more, and you can always build upon and expand your home’s system.
The cost is $300 USD, so around £190, and Wink recommends professional installation.
8. Belkin WeMo
Rather than a central smarthome hub, the Belkin Wemo is an app-driven system of, to borrow a phrase, small pieces loosely joined.
What are the pieces? Well, there are lots from which to choose, like outlets, smart LED bulbs, security cameras, a coffee pot, a crockpot, and more.
It all uses a series of IFTTT (or If This Then That) protocols, or recipes, to make everything work together.
Like many of the other systems mentioned here, you can add to your smarthome at your will and gradually switch over to complete home automation.
9. Amazon Echo
Even though it’s not yet available in the UK, the Amazon Echo is still worthy of a mention. Yes, yes, it’s true that Amazon is best known as an online retailer and not as a manufacturer of hardware, but then again, consider the popularity of Amazon’s line of Kindle devices.
The Echo could be big. It’s sort of a glorified speaker — really, really glorified. You interact with a Siri-like AI named Alexa, and she responds very well to voice commands. Ask her questions, and you’ll get answers, though Alexa feels more limited than Siri, probably because Echo doesn’t interface directly with Google (as of now, it’s just Wikipedia).
Echo’s Alexa can also keep track of your schedule, give you lots of information, and add to notes and things like shopping lists. One big drawback is that there’s no real iOS compatibility yet, though we have to believe that’s coming.
The current retail price is $180 USD, so about £115. It’s maybe not something you’d run out and buy right now, but keep an eye on the Amazon Echo. This could be much more popular down the road.Buy on Amazon
10. Your iOS Device
The best part of this great home automation device? Chances are good that you probably already own it. Or rather, you own the hub to connect everything — you’re still stuck buying the devices, and of course, they have to be compatible with HomeKit.
But if you’ve got an iPhone or iPad running iOS 8.1 or later, you can download Apple’s HomeKit app, effortlessly pair your compatible devices, and you’re in business. Like some of the other items on this list (and, frankly, home automation in general), Apple HomeKit is in its nascent stages.
While it’s true that not all Apple innovations are a total success (Newton, anyone?), chances are good that HomeKit will really take off in the coming years.
Ready to Automate Your Home?
You’ve got quite a few choices when it comes to converting your house to a smarthome. Some devices are focused on temperature control and environmental comfort, while others serve as a hub for whatever devices you want to connect in.
Others still are like robot companions, responding to your voice commands and practically carrying on a conversation with you.
While getting in on the home automation game right now may make you an early adapter, it’s probably safe to say that these devices and systems will become more popular in the next few years. And of course, it’s highly likely that more and more devices will be coming on the market.
Still, if you’re ready to take that big step and create a smarthome, we think you’ll be happy with one of these systems.
See recommended smart home devices on Amazon
Nest Learning Thermostat
Philips Hue Starter Kit