While scouring the internet for viral video gold during the now routine YouTube binge, you’ve probably come across a fair share of hilariously over-the-top infomercials.
A sign that you’ve fallen too deep into the rabbit hole is when you catch yourself watching the 80s infomercial for the The Clapper Sound Activated On/Off switch. The cheesy lines and novelty of turning on lights and appliances with a clap seems ridiculous, but less than 25 years ago the Clapper represented the pinnacle of home automation for many households.
In a time when Google’s self-driving cars are set to roam the streets and Xbox Kinect allows for video games to be played without controllers, mass-produced smart home technology has become less of a gimmick or a nod to the far off future.
The Nest Learning Thermostat proved in 2011 that there was a huge market for simple and affordable smart home products. Only a few years later, Google acquired Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. New tech start-ups are now following the Nest model, focusing their efforts on developing smart home products that are easy-to-use, aesthetically pleasing and targeted to the mass market.
“Right now is the time for the smart home,” said Mark Belinsky, CEO of Birdi, a New York-based startup developing a smart-air monitor. “For the past 50 years we’ve been promised the future and that’s finally happening now.”
Ready to transform your home? We’ve compiled a list of the five smart home products you can buy this year.
Wally Home, cost: $300
Photo: Wally Home
The home of the future is a highly aware home. Yet, in place of eyes, ears, nose and a mouth, the smart home is reliant on sensor technologies to perceive.
The first product from Seattle-based SNUPI Technologies, Wally’s sensors are able to detect moisture, temperature and humidity and will notify you at the earliest sign of a leak or mold.
“The sensors will just pick up readings that get sent up to the cloud where all the processing occurs,” said Jeremy Jaech, CEO of SNUPI Technologies. “There’s a fair amount of machine learning to figure out your home’s risk areas.”
Not only will Wally send a push notification and text message to your phone when there is a threat, it will also connect you to an extensive network of homecare professionals through its concierge service.
Wally also circumvents the issue of battery life that has traditionally plagued wireless home sensor technologies. It does this by using the electrical wiring in your home as a giant antenna to transmit data from sensor to hub. The batteries on Wally’s sensor can last up to 10 to 15 years.
Wally Home is available for purchase here and comes packed with six sensors. After an easy do-it-yourself set up through the Wally app, you can place the sensors anywhere in your home. “Wally works really well in oddball places. So you can stick it under the washing machine or the dishwasher,” said Jaech.
Situ, cost: ≈ $69
People spend as much time reading nutrition facts as they do terms and conditions. Cryptic and outdated, food labels do little to inform us of exactly what we’re putting in our bodies and are largely lacking when it comes to fresh food items.
Situ is a smart food scale that offers a smorgasbord of calorie and nutritional facts on the food you’re eating, dishing all the details to your phone via the device’s bluetooth chip.
Michael Grothaus, a former Apple employee now living in England, developed the scale after struggling with weight issues and the challenges of maintaining a balanced diet.
“We all know it’s healthier to eat fresh foods cooked at home rather than pre-packaged meals you buy off the shelf,” Grothaus says on the SITU site.
“But the problem with home cooking is that it’s very hard to tell the nutrition content of the fresh foods you’re preparing. This means that many people–such as calorie counters, diabetics, and people with high blood pressure–often turn to pre-packaged meals to manage their dietary intake because, until now, it was the only way of knowing the exact amount of nutrients they were putting into their bodies.”
While simple and intuitive, the Situ process isn’t totally autonomous. Users will be required to manually input the type of food they’ve placed on the scale before it can start crunching the numbers. However, once your favorite foods are saved and you begin using the device regularly, everything becomes more streamlined.
Situ isn’t a quick weight loss fix and doesn’t pretend to be. The device is intended to make living a healthier life more manageable and efficient.
Situ has already reached its Kickstarter goal of $60,000 and is expected to start shipping in November 2014. Sign up here to find out when you can buy your own Situ.
Birdi, cost: $119
Nest Labs may have dominated the market with the Nest Learning Thermostat, but its latest offering – the Nest Protect smoke detector — is set to face some competition from Birdi Smart Air Monitor.
Compared to the Nest Protect’s eye-catching design and speech capabilities, Birdi is more of an introvert. But don’t be fooled by its minimalist exterior, because when it comes down to features, Birdi packs more of a punch.
While both devices warn against fires and carbon monoxide threats through a smartphone app and allow you to silence false alarms, that’s where the similarities end. Birdi is capable of monitoring indoor pollution, humidity, dust and even pollen count, keeping those who suffer from allergies or asthma fully informed and empowered.
The device also sends tips on how to improve your home’s air quality to your phone, from hints on the best times to turn on your air purifier to suggesting what temperatures will allow you to sleep better.
“As a security device it’s most important we fulfill on our promise to save lives as well as make people healthier,” said CEO Mark Belinsky.
While Birdi is proactive when it comes the health of your home, it’s not overwhelming and won’t be constantly vying for your attention, as illustrated by the company’s decision to not include a voice feature with the device.
“We won’t bother you unless we really have to,” said Belinsky. “It’s not grabbing them with numbers or graphs, it’s gently providing what the circumstances are.”
Following a successful Indiegogo campaign, Birdi is expected to start shipping in October of this year and can be pre-ordered here.
iDevices Kitchen Thermometer, cost: $80
Anyone who’s found themselves anywhere near a kitchen before a dinner party understands exactly how hectic and nerve wracking cooking can be. The impending threat of a dry turkey or a burnt pie can drive even the most calm and collected individuals to hysterics.
The Kitchen Thermometer from Connecticut based iDevices is a smart food thermometer that will act as your kitchen therapist. It tracks the temperature of your food in real-time as it’s baking in the oven and notifies you when the meal is ready through your phone.
Packed with two separate temperature probes, the rounded device takes up no more space than a soda can on your kitchen counter.
The kitchen thermometer will get to work from the moment you poke temperature probes into your food, displaying all the data to the iDevices Connected App dashboard. A list of temperature alerts is available for users to choose from. Users can also create their own alerts for unique recipes.
The device is currently on the market for $79.99 and can be purchased here.
Tado Cooling, cost: $149
Tado Cooling is a wall-mounted device that links your smartphone straight to your existing air conditioning unit and from there, acts as your personal AC assistant, autonomously turning the AC on or shutting it off based on whether you’re home or not.
By analyzing smartphone Wi-Fi signals and network information, Tado Cooling determines your location and ensures that your AC is never left wastefully running when no one’s home.
“What we didn’t want to do is build a remote control. We wanted to go one step further,” said Leopold von Bismarck, Chief Marketing Officer of the Munich-based Tado.
Tado Cooling will also set the AC to your preferred temperature, taking into account weather forecast, personal behaviour and individual characteristics of your home (for example, wood floors or tiles) when doing so.
With an easy plug and play installation, Tado Cooling hooks up to 82 percent of AC systems. If you’ve got an AC unit in your home, it’s likely going to work with Tado.
As of June 11th, Tado Cooling reached its Kickstarter goal of $150,000 and will follow in the footsteps of the Tado’s previous venture into the energy management space — The Heating App. The Heating App does for your heater what Tado Cooling does for your AC and ran out of stock just four weeks after its release in November 2012. Tado restocked and the Heating App is still selling well.