This holiday season you can help your loved ones usher their abodes into the 21st century by giving them a smart-home gadget. These devices are just like everyday household appliances or gadgets, but they come with either an Internet connection or the ability to communicate with a smartphone.
Here's five smart-home gadgets we think would make great gifts:
1. Philips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Pack
A great way to introduce someone to the smart home is with Philips Hue light bulbs. These LED light bulbs plug into the same light fittings as ordinary bulbs. The difference is they can be controlled with your smartphone and shine many different colors of light. The light bulbs connect to a main hub, or “The Bridge,” which plugs into your Internet router. This allows you to control your lights from your smartphone, tablet or computer and change them to any hue you’d like or even turn them on or off when you’re not in the house. By changing the hue of your bulbs, you can set a different tone for any kind of setting, such as a sunrise color in the mornings to gently wake you up.
The Hue Starter Pack includes three lights, a Bridge and the cables necessary to set up the system. Available from Amazon.com for $189.97.
2. August Smart Lock
These days, anything can be a smart gadget, even your front door. The August Smart Lock gets smart by making it possible for you to open your door using nothing but a smartphone. The device fits into most American doors’ deadbolt cylinders, and it connects to your iPhone or Android phone using a Bluetooth connection.
Once you come into proximity with the lock, it will recognize you and open on its own. You can also send “virtual keys” to your friends and family so they can enter using their devices without you having to be around. The August Smart Lock goes on the inside of your door, so you can still unlock it with a physical key if you need to. The August Smart Lock is available from Apple for $249.95.
3. Nest Thermostat and Nest Protect
Nest is one of the top players in the connected-home market. That’s why Google bought it for $3.2 billion in January and why it gets two items on our list. The first is the Nest Thermostat, a sleek temperature-control system that learns more about your habits and schedule every time you use it. The device self-adjusts so it doesn’t waste energy when it knows you're gone and gives you comfortable temperatures when you’re around. It also connects to your smartphone, allowing you to adjust the temperature using an app. Available from Nest for $249.
Nest takes a similar approach to smoke alarms with the Nest Protect. Rather than giving you indecipherable beeps, the Protect gives users clear messages about what it detects, such as “Heads up. There’s smoke in the dining room,” if it senses a small amount of smoke or “Emergency. There’s smoke in the living room,” if there’s a dangerous situation at hand. Even if you’re not home, the Protect can keep you in the loop by sending notifications to your phone. Available from Nest for $99.
4. Dropcam Pro
Dropcam Pro is an Internet-connected video camera that can double as a low-cost home security system, a baby monitor or a way to keep an eye on your pets. The camera is set up by plugging into an electrical source then connecting to your home Wi-Fi network so it can send continuous video footage to a cloud storage system. This allows users to view a video feed whenever they want and wherever they may be. Dropcam Pro sends notifications to your phone if it detects any sound or motion so that you can tune in. Available from Dropcam for $199.
5. H2OVibe Rain Showerhead Jet with Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
If you know someone who loves to sing, give them a shower speaker. One good choice is this one from H2OVibe, which replaces your typical shower head with one that includes a speaker.
The shower head installs easily and draws music from your devices using Bluetooth so you get sprinkled with water and your favorite jams at the same time. If you hook it up to a smartphone, you can use the speaker to answer any calls you receive. Remove the speaker, which attaches to the shower head magnetically, and use a USB cord to charge it. Available from Amazon.com for $49.95.