WIFI HIFI HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018: Tech Gifts for Smart Home Owners

Christine Persaud


Published: 11/19/2018 12:00:01 PM EST in Electronics

WIFI HIFI HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018: Tech Gifts for Smart Home Owners

Smart homes are becoming more common nowadays, and if homeowners don't go all in with a full-fledged home control system, they likely start small, maybe with a smart speaker or smart lighting, expanding their system slowly. Help them add new components with a smart and thoughtful gift.

Philips Hue Outdoor Lighting

Maybe they already have Philips Hue lighting inside. But what about the outside of the house? Philips Hue outdoor lighting lets you add coloured, mood, dimmable, and app-controlled lighting to outdoor spaces. The Calla Outdoor bollard can be used in a garden, or for path lighting, and includes both white and colour ambiance ranges. Like other Philips Hue lighting products, it can be remotely controlled through the app, and integrated with a third-party control system. Turn on the porch or backyard lights when you aren't home to make it look like someone is there, or set the perfect lighting for a backyard party or quiet night with a good book on your front porch. Set the lights on a schedule, so they turn on automatically before you arrive home from work each weekday, or turn off on their own at midnight. $170 for the base kit, $120 for add-ons.

Soliom Doorbell

This clever doorbell won't hog any more of the home's power because it actually runs exclusively off solar power - it doesn't have to be plugged in, or charged up. The wire-free device provides 1,080 HD videos and night vision through its 165-degree wide-angle lens, along with motion detection. Live stream footage through the mobile app, and make use of two-way talk capability. Weatherproof with an IP65 rating, it does not require any monthly fees, and comes with free cloud storage.

Weiser Kevo Touch-to-Open Smart Lock

Help them make their front door smart with this lock, which allows you to lock and unlock the door remotely through the mobile app, or even by using voice. With Weiser's patented advanced SmartKey security, you can share electronic keys (eKeys) with guests through the Kevo app, and view lock activity history. Use the Alexa skill along with an Alexa-enabled device and Kevo Plus (sold separately) to control it, and check if the door is locked, by voice. It works with third-party devices, including the Nest thermostat, Ring Video Doorbell, Honeywell Total Connect Comfort Wi-Fi thermostats, and SkyBell HD doorbell. IFTTT applets can trigger actions with other smart home devices. Get notifications on an Apple Watch when the door is locked or unlocked, or control it from an Android Wear device like the Moto360 smartwatch.

Bose Home Speaker 500

Instead of buying a smart speaker from Amazon or Google, a viable alternative is the Bose Home Speaker 500, which supports Alexa voice control, with other voice assistants to follow (presumably including Google), as well as AirPlay 2 support coming in early 2019. It uses the same proprietary mic technology found in Bose headsets and headphones, which helps you to hear commands better over louder listening levels. A custom-designed eight-microphone array is positioned for accurate near-field and far-field voice pickup. With both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built-in, it works on its own, or with Bose's new soundbars as a multi-room system. Alternative to the app and voice, use the function buttons on the top to control playback. $500

Marshall Voice Smart Speaker

Another alternative smart speaker option for smart home owners is the Marshall Voice, which features Amazon Alexa support, with Google Assistant support coming later this year. Schedule reminders, control smart home devices, and, of course, play music, all using your voice. Ideal for those who place emphasis on audio quality, it has a Class D amplifier, bass reflex cabinet system, and custom-tuned drivers. And those who like retro designs will appreciate the classic Marshall details, including a textured vinyl covering, salt and pepper fret, and the script logo. The Acton II Voice is available starting November 9 for US$299, and the Stanmore II Voice sells for US$399.

Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Ecosystem

If the person is a fan of Samsung products, maybe already owning devices like a Samsung TV, smart appliances, and/or Galaxy smartphone, they might be amenable to the idea of adopting Samsung's own smart home ecosystem. The new SmartThings app detects and pairs with compatible devices, and connects wirelessly with a wide range of smart devices, enabling them to work together within a smart home. In addition to working with a variety of Samsung products, like the new Galaxy Note9, Tab S4, Watch, Family Hub refrigerator, and FlexSystem laundry collection, Samsung SmartThings also works with a selection of compatible third-party products, including the Ring video doorbell and the ecobee smart thermostat. Once set up, all devices can be controlled within the single app."Automations" can be customized to match a consumer's routines. For instance, running the ‘good morning' scene turns on lights, turns off the air conditioner, and starts the coffee maker at a desired time. Compatible devices are easily detected by, and paired with, the SmartThings app, and it's simple to share profiles among all family members. Key Samsung SmartThings products will include the SmartThings Hub, which connects wirelessly with a wide range of smart devices and make them work together; SmartThings Wifi, a 2-in-1 Mesh Wi-Fi router that includes the functionality of the SmartThings Hub, allowing for connectivity among a home's devices; the SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor, which detects whether doors and windows are open or closed as well as monitors temperature and vibration, allowing the home to react using "automations" set up in the SmartThings app; the Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor, which keep tabs on the home and alerts when movement is detected; the SmartThings Water Leak Sensor, which advises if there's a leak and turns off connected devices based on moisture detection, like a dishwasher or washing machine; the SmartThings Outlet for controlling traditional lamps, electronics and small appliances; and the SmartThings Button for controlling connected devices at the touch of a button with three programmable triggers.

Amazon Echo Show

If they have an Amazon smart speaker already, like the Echo or Echo Dot, or have been contemplating getting one, the Echo Show is a neat option. Place one in the living room, in the bedroom, or home office. Unlike the other Echo devices, this one has a 10" HD display, that makes it more like a tablet than a speaker. But it also contains powerful speakers, along with a built-in home hub. Coming later this year, Echo Show will also have a two-way talk feature that works with Ring doorbell cameras: when the doorbell rings or motion is detected by the security camera, say "Alexa, answer the front door" and you can see and talk to whomever is there, without having to open the front door. Additionally, you can have Alexa play a chime and make an announcement when someone rings your Ring doorbell camera. You can also use Alexa Routines to play custom announcements when the front door camera detects movement or someone rings the doorbell. It has a 5MP camera that supports high-definition video calling. Use Drop In on supported Echo devices in the playroom, or check in on the living room to see if the dog is behaving. Coming soon is also support for Skype voice and video calling. Say, "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype" to reach Jimmy wherever he uses Skype. You can also use the Echo Show to order products from Amazon, including re-orders, and to build a shopping list before adding them to your cart and checking out. Ask "Alexa, where's my stuff" to get a status update on orders you've already placed. Furthermore, the Echo Show has a built-in web browser that can be opened by saying, "Alexa, open Silk" or "Alexa, open Firefox." Once open, you can use the on-screen keyboard to type a URL and visit your favourite website. And, like other browsers, you can bookmark your favourite websites for easy access. $300; add the matching stand for $40 that can be used to adjust the viewing and camera angles.

Nest Learning Thermostat

A perfect device to kick off a new smart home, or complement one that's already set up, is this learning thermostat, which works with almost every smart platform out there. Once you replace your old thermostat with this one, can you tap into it via the Nest app (or, as noted, a multitude of other apps), and remotely adjust the temperature. It also intelligently learns the temperatures you like, and builds a schedule around your typical usage to help you save money and energy overall. An auto-away feature means it turns off when you leave the house to further save energy. $329

Google Home Max

As a central device to your smart home, in addition to being a powerful dedicated speaker, the Google Home Max offers balanced bass and clear highs for your music listening pleasure. But it's core function is to serve as a smart speaker that can summon Google Assistant whenever you need it, and communicate with other smart devices in the home. Ask it to play tunes, add items to your calendar, check the weather or traffic, or simply ask questions, like how many ounces are in 500 grams as you make dinner. Grab one in chalk or charcoal finish. $499

Nanoleaf Aurora Light Panels

A unique way to add light and modern design to the home, these modular light panels are app-controlled, and work with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. The panels can be set to illuminate based on sunrise/sunset, your mood, or manually. Each panel is shaped as a triangle, and can be mounted on any flat surface using the included mounting tap. Create scenes in the app, set schedules, and then activate them at the push of a button, or even by voice. It also comes with a physical controller. A Rhythm module can be plugged into the panels to make the light react to music - perfect for parties and entertaining. They come in various packages, starting with a nine-panel package, up to 30. If they like it, they can expand with additional panels through expansion packs, and play with layouts. A 15-pack is $350, and a three-pack expansion is $70.

Ikea Smart Lighting

For families who love Ikea, adopting smart lighting from the furniture and household retail brand might mark the easiest and most comfortable entry into the smart home. Ikea smart lighting products can be controlled using the app, so you can remotely turn them on and off, dim, and change the warmth of their glow. There are a number of products in the line, including LED bulbs, panels, and doors for furniture, starting from $25 for the Tradfi dimming kit.

D-Link mydlink Wi-Fi Water Sensor

We all know someone who has had issues with water leaks, whether it's in the basement, or caused by faulty pipes in a bathroom, by a sink, or washing machine. Whatever the source or experience, water leak sensors can be lifesavers, helping you catch a leak before it becomes a flooded basement, and saving you tons of money in repairs. I use this one, placed by my basement drain to notify me if there's a back-up of water due a blockage in the pipes. Download the app, connect it via Wi-Fi, set up an account, then receive notifications on your phone any time water comes in contact with the sensor, which sits at the end of a long cord that you can place by a drain, under a sink, or next to the washing machine or toilet. It will also sound a loud alarm so if you're home, you can rush to check on things and shut the water off if needed. $60-$80, depending on the retailer and current sale pricing.

Want more gift ideas? Check out our other themed gift guides.





Article Tags:  holiday gift guide, gift guide, tech gift guide, wifi hifi gift guide, holiday gifts, home theatre, audio, video, smart home, connected home, smart tech, gift ideas

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