What are the best smart home gadgets available now and in the future? – This is Money

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What are the best smart home gadgets available now and in the future? – This is Money

Smart home technology has become increasingly popular in the latter half of the last decade and the 2020s could see it become even more mainstream.  

Many of the products are designed with the promise to make life easier and can help increase the security of a home with the likes of smart locks, doorbells and cameras becoming increasingly popular.

Smart technology developers also claim it can help people save money. For example, British Gas says that its Hive smart thermostat could save users up to £120 a year on energy bills. 

Technology is expected to play an even bigger part in home security in 2020 with more residential properties equipping themselves with solutions that can be accessed remotely via mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops. 

Security: Smart home technology is set to become even more advanced in the next decade

Dr Steffan George, managing director of the Master Locksmiths Association, said: ‘The trend for creating smart homes will continue into 2020 with people integrating more technology into managing their homes.

‘Heating, entertainment systems, appliances and security can all be smart enabled and controlled via mobile devices. 

‘Smart, wireless home security systems are becoming increasingly common as prices drop and technology improves.’ 

With new gadgets hitting the market at speed, This is Money, with help from technology experts, have taken a look at smart home trends of the past decade and what trends are likely to crop up in the next ten years.

What is smart technology used for?

Smart home technology can be useful for a number of reasons and no longer viewed as something from a sci-fi movie or too expensive for a typical household. 

While it can help people manage the security of their home better or even just find it easier to do everyday tasks, such as turning on and off the lights, the implications of how it can be used go even further. 

It can help the most vulnerable in society, such as the elderly or the disabled, retain their independence.  

Anna Moss, retail manager at Cornwall Insight, said: ‘One example of a personalised service that is available is a series of sensors used in the home of an elderly person to provide better independence. 

‘If they miss their typical trigger points, for example, a morning cup of tea, it is flagged to a carer or family member. 

‘If they miss several usual timings in one day, for example, lunch and dinner or turning evening lights on, a more serious alert is sent out to check in with the person.’ 

This suggests that smart security is not reserved for just the young in society but also older generations who may be relying on the technology to help them. 

Ring doorbells are some of the most popular smart home technology products available

Devices that have become popular

There is a wide range of smart tech products on the market but some are more popular than others.  

This is Money has listed some of the most familiar devices below:  

1. Smart doorbell: One of the most popular smart home tech devices is the smart doorbell, which was made popular by Ring.

The doorbells come with a camera attached which enables users to see who is at their door before they answer it. 

The devices also come with access to an app which allows them to see who is at the door even when they are out.

The app also means users can answer the door when they are away from home and many come with speakers attached letting people speak to the person who has rung the bell.

2. Smart doorlock: Another popular product is the smart door lock which enables owners to unlock and lock their front door remotely. 

Some locks are programmed to open when the owner is a certain distance away from the front door whilst others can be operated by a keypad or fob.

However, those interested in getting one should do their research first as not all doors will support the technology and could even do damage if not properly installed.

You might also need to notify your insurer.  

Clever: Smart thermostats help users control the temperature of their house via an app

3. Smart thermostats: Smart thermostats are another gadget that have become increasingly common in households across the country.

The devices can help users save money by learning habits and automatically adjust to the preferred temperature at certain points of the day.  

Many suppliers and even new boilers may come with one of the devices for ‘free’ – but need to be hooked up by a professional.  

4. Smart lightbulbs: Smart lightbulbs are another invention gaining in popularity. The bulbs can be voice activated and controlled via an app.

This is useful for families going on holiday who want to leave some lights on in the evening to make it look like they are home.

Philips Hue lightbulbs are a make that come in different colours and can be set to come on gradually in the mornings to wake someone up naturally.

5. Smart alarms: Smart alarms allow users to get real-time notifications to their smartphone or tablet when someone enters a room, opens a window or sets off the siren. 

They can be wired into the mains with a battery back-up that lasts for 24 hours should it fail for any reason, while many also come in a battery form as well, for those who do not want to connect to the mains.  

What about smart security? 

One of the main concerns customers have about having smart technology installed is that could leave them vulnerable to hacking.

The fear of having data stolen is an obstacle to the market with a quarter of people saying privacy concerns are one reason for not getting a smart device, according to a study by Pricewaterhousecooper. 

However, Action Fraud revealed that very few cases of this happening have actually been reported to them.

For those who already have smart tech and want to ensure that they can stay safe, they can follow this guide on how to stay secure.  

Another issue that has prevented some people from updating their homes is that many of the gadgets are made by different providers and therefore, don’t communicate with one another.  

In the future, a connected home means most things can be controlled by an app on a phone 

As they are each running their own software, they cannot ‘talk’ to one another meaning customers with many gadgets rely on lots of different apps to control their home, rather than just one which can control everything. 

However, Google, Amazon and Apple have recently announced they have all teamed up to make it easier for their products to be used together.  

Dr Steffan George added: ‘Issues with the security of the technology itself will be a major theme for 2020 with encryption becoming a huge focus. 

When people invest in technology, especially security technology, they want to know it is not having the reverse effect and compromising their safety.

‘Consumers are increasingly concerned about the security of the actual technology they are using.

‘Many are reluctant to introduce Smart technology into their homes to avoid compromising security. 

‘Fears that Alexa, Google Home and other smart devices are listening in and recording conversations and data are fuelling concerns as well as the risks of mobile apps being interfered with and mobile signals intercepted and used illicitly.’

‘When people invest in technology, especially security technology, they want to know it is not having the reverse effect and compromising their safety.

‘Wireless signals and routers can be hacked, keyless cars for instance are an easy target with devices that pick up the signal from key fobs allowing cars to be driven off in minutes. 

‘Unlike a traditional, mechanical lock where only one property is affected if the key is copied or compromised, in the case of smart locks if a bypass/hack or vulnerability of a particular smart lock is discovered then every property with this type of lock is vulnerable.’

Trends for the future

In the coming decade, there is only going to be more products with the word ‘smart’ attached entering the market, potentially forever changing the way we run a home. 

One of the main features that is predicted to become a mainstay over the next few years is artificial intelligence (AI). 

Although this is already something that most people are aware of, most of the current AI commonplace in a home is voice activated.

But in the future, the next evolution will be of machine learning, where AI enables the technology to automatically learn and improve based on its experience as well as the data it collects and analyses.

This could lead to devices making decisions without human permission.  

Future: Smart door locks can be opened by phones, fobs or even fingerprint recognition

Moss said: ‘The technology in the energy market is evolving, and we are likely to see AI come into its own. 

‘The ability to allow each item of tech to link up to each other to provide one connected home will enable the customers to personalise their tech and services.’ 

Once reserved for James Bond movies, fingerprint door locks and facial recognition software is also now becoming the norm in the smart security sector – and is set to become even more popular in the future. 

George said: ‘A fingerprint door lock works by recognising the unique fingerprints of a select group of authorised personnel or residents and using them to unlock doors and provide access to a property.

‘The cost of this technology used to be prohibitively expensive which limited its application, but now fingerprint locks are widely available and are more accessible. 

‘The MLA recommends installing a hybrid system that incorporates a traditional mechanical lock alongside a biometric one to provide the best of both worlds and to ensure that the biometric system can be bypassed, and the door still used when and if the power goes down.’

Another trend that is likely to become more popular is the smart kitchen including smart fridges which are one of the newest fads.

Many come with cameras inside of the fridge, allowing owners to see in at any time, which is to help users with their food shop as they are able to see what they need to buy at any given moment.

Some of the new fridges also have inbuilt TV screens where customers can watch shows or listen to the radio.  

Despite the advances made, some experts believe that the technology currently used is still in its primary stages.

Moss added: ‘The connected/smart market is currently focused on smart home entertainment and wearable technology; these are typically sold as a one-off stand-alone purchase.

‘It is early days for the connected home, and we are only starting to see elements of the technology that will be in customers’ homes in the next decade. 

‘However, at the moment, the available technology is hard to integrate and lacks the automation that is likely to come in the following years.’

Having smart technology could also help reduce your insurance premiums in the future as your home is likely to be more protected.  

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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