The best part? Most of the items on this list won’t break the bank.
The Amazon Echo is an interesting looking piece of kit. At first glance, it looks more like a prop from the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation than something you can get shipped to your home with two-day delivery. But beyond its form, its function is utterly futuristic.
Essentially, it’s a computer you can talk to. Called Alexa.
Ask it to play some music, and it will. Alexa can tell you the latest football scores, and order you some cup-noodles from Amazon grocery. It can tell you what’s on your agenda, and even give you directions. But even more impressively, it can control a huge range of smart home automation gear, including products from Samsung SmartThings, Belkin WeMo, Insteon and Philips Hue.
Philips 456210 Hue White and Color Ambience Kit, 2nd Generation
We’re huge fans of Philips Hue here. For those yet to hear of it, the Philips Hue is essentially a range of networked LED lightbulbs connected to a central hub. In addition to being massively energy efficient (especially compared to the halogen-bulbs of yesteryear), they can also change color, and even be remotely controlled from a compatible Android and iOS smartphone.
The second generation of the Philips Hue Kit comes with some radically different changes. For starters, brightness has been increased from 600 lumens, to a retina-burning 800 lumens. It also includes support for Amazon Echo and Apple’s HomeKit. The latter means you can control your lighting from your iPhone or iPad (running iOS 9 or newer)
Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation
The Google-owned Nest produce a lot of gear that gets us salivating. The latest generation of the Nest Learning Thermostat is no exception.
Essentially, it’s a thermostat which is remotely programmable and controllable. Using a compatible smartphone, you can control the temperature of your home from anywhere in the world. Coming home from work? Nest lets you crank up the heat, so you come back to a house that’s warm and toasty. Likewise, if you’re heading out for the day, you can turn off your heating, so you’re not paying to warm an empty house. They’re really quite versatile
But what makes the Nest Thermostat especially awesome is that it can learn from you. Eventually, it’ll start heating and cooling the house without even asking you. Pretty convenient, you have to admit?
It’s simple to install a Nest Thermostat. If you get stuck, they have a 24/7 support line. A lot of plumbing and heating companies offer installation as a paid service, too
WeMo Light Switch
If you want all the convenience of the Philips Hue system, but can’t afford its high price tag, you’re going to want to pay attention to this.
The WeMo Light Switch embeds into your existing light system, and allows you to control it remotely through your smartphone. It even has support for IFTTT, meaning you can turn your lighting on-and-off when a condition is met, as well as Amazon Echo.
WeMo Insight Switch
Also from the Belkin WeMo stable is the Insight Switch. This is very similar to the previous item on this list. It’s WiFi enabled; it can be controlled through a smartphone, IFTTT, and Amazon Echo; and it sits on the cheaper end of the Smart Home spectrum.
But there’s one difference. While the WeMo Light Switch was simply for household illumination, the Insight Switch is for anything that you plug in. Want to turn on your television the moment you step through the door? With this, and a bit of IFTTT creativity, you can. Want to schedule your child’s night-light to turn on at 8PM? You can.
Samsung Smart Things Hub
One of the biggest complaints I have when it comes to smart home automation tech is the vast, competing standards. There’s so much gear around, and so much of it isn’t compatible with each other.
The Samsung Smart Things hub goes some way to address this. It can connect with a wide range of Smart Home products, including those from Bose, Philips Hue, Sonos and more, and control them through the companion app.
There’s also a range of Samsung Smart Things products that work natively with the hub. The Smart Things Outlet is very similar to the WeMo Insight Switch, while the Motion Sensor and Arrival sensors will tell you when there’s an intruder in your house, or whether you’ve got houseguests at the front door.
It’s probably less than you think, too. The Nest Protect will set you back $99.00 on Amazon.
Did We Miss Anything?
Will you be getting a loved one some smart home automation gear this Christmas? Got any recommendations? Tell me about it in the comments section below.