Ready to Make Your Home Smart? Here’s Where to Start

See State of the Art Smart Home Tech Products

As we explore the future of home furnishings, we’re keeping an eye on the latest smart home tech — and we’ll be exploring new IoT tech at PBM’s NEXT Conference in Austin this fall. In the meantime, here are a handful of our favorite devices that can help make homes more fun, more comfortable, and safer.

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

Anybody starting out with smart home tech will want voice control (see our best of CES story for more on that) and will need smart plugs, for controlling lights and electronics. Belkin’s Wemo Mini takes just minutes to configure and its small profile leaves a plug open for other devices. The Mini works with Amazon Alexa and Google Voice. You can find them for less than $30 online.

Netgear ARLO Q camera

This high-res (1080p) Netgeardigital camera offers a wide-angle lens and night vision so you can see what’s happening in your house at any time of day. One nice feature is the ability to save 7 days worth of video capture, on the cloud, at no cost to you. The device also features a speaker and mic, so you can (remotely) tell neighborhood kids to stay off your lawn. The Arlo Q works with Amazon and Google assistants, and sells for about $150 online.

Philips Hue White starter kit

Philips Hue White starter kit

The Philips Hue Starter kit comes with two warm white bulbs that are wifi-smart and can be set on a schedule (or dimmed without using a dimmer switch). You control the lights using the accompanying app, for automating while you’re home or on vacation. And, of course, you can control them with your voice, using Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit. They use a standard E26 fixture and come with a small bridge device that lets them mix with other smart home devices. You can find them for under $70 online (for two bulbs) or less than $90 for four bulbs. Adding more bulbs run a little less than $15 each.

August Smart Lock Pro

There are a number of smart locks on the market, but the really cool thing about the August Smart Lock Pro is that it works with your existing deadbolt. The lock essentially covers the inside deadbolt on your door, which can be locked with an app. The Smart Lock can also tell you if your door is closed. You can share a code that allows friends and sitters (dog and baby) to access the lock without needing a key — and you can manage how long they have access. The Smart Lock runs about $120, and you control it using a smartphone app. The Pro version costs about $250 and comes with a small bridge device to connect it to wifi, for remote use.

Samsung SmartThings Hub

Samsung SmartThings Hub

For less than $100, you can add Samsung’s SmartThings Hub to act like traffic control for your various smart home devices. You can use Alexa voice control to tell your devices what to do, and it works with a large number of compatible devices, including thermostats, smart plugs, lights, locks, speakers and security sensors.

Nest Protect

Nest has a well-earned reputation for making some of the most consumer-friendly smart devices around. Its Protect smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector offers a human-like voice to alert you about small problems (a small amount of smoke from burnt toast) before they become big ones (a fire). If it senses danger, from, say, the alarm in the basement, it can alert you via your phone, or wherever you place the other alarms. The system has emergency lights, runs battery and sensor self-checks monthly, can last up to year, and can be silenced using your phone. It can also integrate with smart bulbs to show you the way in an emergency and turn off your HVAC system. The Protect runs about $100.

Join us at the PBM NEXT Conference Sept. 24 – 26 in Austin, Texas where we’ll discuss more smart home innovation and what it means to consumers, retailers, and manufacturers. Visit www.pbmnext.com for more information.