What if all the devices in your life could connect to the Internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, doors, door bells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It's not science fiction; it's the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's a key component of home automation and smart homes.
Home automation is exactly what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house—from window shades to pet feeders—with a simple push of a button (or a voice command). Some activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your whim, are simple and relatively inexpensive. Others, like advanced surveillance cameras, may require a more serious investment of time and money.
There are many smart home product categories, so you can control everything from lights and temperature to locks and security in your home. Here's a rundown of the best products we've tested for every room of the house.
Hubs & Controllers
The Echo is a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, Amazon's handy voice assistant. Alexa works with a number of smart home devices directly, as well as with If This Then That (IFTTT) to control plenty of others via "recipes" you can create yourself. It'll take some work, but you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house by the sound of your voice. If you already have a favorite speaker, the inexpensive Echo Dot can connect to it and add Alexa functionality.
Our current Editors' Choice for home automation hubs, the Samsung SmartThings Hub works with devices that use Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. That includes a good swath of the smart home spectrum, from Philips Hue lighting and the Netgear Arlo camera, to the forthcoming Google Home. You can get it as a standalone device, or as part of a $249 starter kit with monitors for temperature and motion. It's the most reliable, widely supported hub we've tested.
Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home
Don't like talking and prefer controlling things the old fashioned way: by pushing buttons? The Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home is the ultimate universal remote for a reason: it controls a lot more than just TV and stereo. The pricey unit connects with the included Harmony Home Hub to control other Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, or infrared devices in your house.
Read The Best Smart Home Automation Hubs for more options.
The Piper nv is an indoor-only surveillance camera you can watch remotely from an Android or iOS device, perfect for keeping an eye on the house, the pets, or even the baby. But it's a lot more than that. It's also a Z-Wave controller, capable of giving you household control over household gadgets no matter where you are. And the camera itself is excellent, with digital pan, tilt, and zoom functions, plus sharp night vision and two-way audio so you can speak to whoever is under your watch.
The Nest Cam Outdoor is essentially the same camera as its popular Indoor model, but with a weatherproof enclosure and power cord. Otherwise it's pretty much identical in features—it uses Wi-Fi to send a full-time video signal (up to 1080p) you can monitor via the Web or mobile apps. It also provides alerts for motion (in zones you set) or audio. Pay for the Nest Aware subscription and you'll get days of video stored online that turn into clips you can watch whenever you like.
Check out The Best Home Security Cameras for more.
The big names in door locks have smart home options, but they haven't pulled it off as well as upstart August. Its easy-to-install, Apple HomeKit-enabled Smart Lock mounts over your existing deadbolt switch to provide connectivity for your door. It speaks via Bluetooth to your smartphone, granting quick access to you or guests. The latest version integrates tightly with Apple devices, but still has support from other services like IFTTT.
See The Best Smart Locks for more.
Vivint used to be APX Alarm Security Solutions, but now has a cool name to go along with expanding beyond security into home automation. We gave four stars to the Vivint Sky, which includes subscription-based remote monitoring by pros that costs for $50 to $70 per month. If you want pro installation and an extra set of eyes, Vivint is an excellent choice. It can even be controlled with the Amazon Echo.
If you prefer a DIY approach to smartening up your home security, check out the SimpliSafe system. While it lacks a camera, it makes up for it with reasonable prices and monthly monitoring of a wide range of sensors. It comes in multiple different packages, or you can customize your own so you can get exactly what's right for your home.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has built-in Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature from phone, tablet, or PC. It's not cheap, but it will certainly look right at home in any smart house.
For more, see Nest Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Smart Home.
As nice as the Nest is, it's not ouronly
a stylish device you can control remotely. It's not dependent on just monitoring home temperature from one spot—it checks multiple sensors in multiple rooms.Want complete wireless supremacy over the lights in your home? The line delivers with bulbs that let you control not only the intensity of the light, but also the color. It can get pricey, to be sure, but the Hue ecosystem has been around long enough that it works with just about every other system out there, from Alexa, to IFTTT, to Siri (using the ). Not interested in colorful lights but still want that incredible granular control over an all-white bulb? Philips has the coming in at an almost bargain price, at least for smart bulbs.
Check out The Best Smart Light Bulbs for more connected lighting options.
If you're interested in sous vide cooking—where food sealed in plastic is immersed in a hot bath to cook to perfection—you need an immersion circulator to get started. The Joule from ChefSteps is small and sleek, only 11 inches high, and controlled entirely by a smartphone app. It'll heat water up to 208 degrees Fahrenheit—well over what most sous vide recipes require—and keep it there as long as you need.
When it comes to smoking ribs or other meats in the backyard, you've typically got two choices, charcoal or gas, and neither is perfect. It's possible that the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker is, since you control the temp remotely, using apps for iOS or Android. You just wait for the app to tell you when the food is ready. Inside there is 725 square inches of cooking space on four chrome racks that are easy to clean. Fill the smoker box with wood chips and it will work for nearly seven hours without a refill.
Check out The Best Gadgets for High-Tech Grilling for more.
The Perfect Bake Pro takes out the guess work and risk when baking. It's a baking scale connected to an app to help newbies (and seasoned bakers alike) get everything just right when it comes to kitchen chemistry. Just follow the app as the scale measures everything you add. As long as you can tell salt from sugar, you're probably going to be just fine.Serious vacuuming of the whole floor of a house requires a serious robot. Neato's will do two cleanings a day on a schedule, or you can push the button whenever you want it to start. It works on wood, tile, carpet and, vinyl, and has a laser-guided navigation system that can't . Its U-shape design means it can get into tight corners and against walls in a way circular robots can't.
Read The Best Robot Vacuums for more.A vacuuming robot isn't enough these days. Don't you want your floors mopped clean as well? iRobot's relatively inexpensive will do exactly that. It's small, quiet, and perfect for apartment dwellers without a lot of floor space or time to clean it when they get home. It sprays a jet of water to clean deep, and can even do damp sweeping, like a Swiffer.
Check out The Best Robot Vacuums for more.
Extending your smart home into making you healthier just makes good sense. For tracking fat, BMI, water, muscle mass, bone composition, and even pregnancy, look no further than the QardioBase Smart Scale. It shares the info it reads with a smartphone app for your easy access. Plus, it just looks great.
See The Best Smart Bathroom Scales for more.
The second-gen Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller gives you control over eight or 16 zones depending on the unit you get, with a master valve terminal for systems that have one. It won't water the lawn if it's raining, and you can turn it on and off remotely with your phone. Plus, it integrates with lots of other services and devices like Amazon's Alexa, IFTTT, and Nest products.
Robot lawn mowers don't come cheap, but they definitely come in handy. Check out the Robomow RS622 or one of its siblings for different sized lawns. This model is good for handling up to 23,000 square feet—once you go through the process of setting up a perimeter to let the mower go on its automated cutting pattern. Its dual two-season cutting blades spin at 4,000 rpm, mulching grass back into the soil so there's no need for cleaning up or dumping bags of grass.