A new day is dawning for those of you who've dreamed of being both more efficient and lazier with your household gadgets and appliances.
The barriers to entry for the "connected home" fall as the IoT (Internet of Things) vision comes to life. Network bandwidth is widely available, and traditional home appliances are being rebuilt to connect to the Internet via WiFi and other wireless protocols. Smartphones and tablets double as remote controls for appliances ranging from light bulbs to thermostats to speakers.
You're forgiven if you think this seems a bit highbrow. Are these smart appliances really necessary? The answer is no, and they're probably not even affordable for most folks (although some are cheaper than their traditional alternatives). Sure, it's easier just to vacuum the damn rug yourself with a Dirt Devil than to buy and program a robot to do it. And there's no good reason to replace the old Kenmore with Samsung's latest $3,000, WiFi-enabled refrigerator.
But smart home appliances will only get more intuitive and affordable. Things that seemed ridiculous five years ago, like owning a 70-inch HD TV or tapping your iPhone to fill your house instantly with music, are now feasible as technology improves, prices drop, and your current equipment starts to cough dust.
For better or worse, we're a society that loves its portable gadgets and the information they contain. As shown by the enthusiasm for smartphones, activity trackers, and wearable technology, we like having data at our fingertips, and we like making better predictions and decisions. Your home appliances generate a lot of data.
While this slideshow looks at individual appliances and their WiFi capabilities, service providers like AT&T (Digital Life), Verizon (Home Monitoring & Control), and Comcast (Xfinity Home) are seizing the moment with smart home packages that include the appliances and corresponding mobile apps to manage home security, temperature, and lights. Samsung has also created a connected home ecosystem with its new "Smart Home" service. As with any technology movement, it'll be a battle of the best ecosystem.
But don't feel you have to buy up AT&T equipment and commit to monthly fees. You don't have to assemble a connected home in one fell swoop. For now, see what aging appliances in your humble abode can be replaced with a smart appliance that will produce some helpful data, allow remote access via smartphone apps, send you alerts, and make your home life just a little easier.
Read on for a list of standout smart home devices available now.