We're back with the WiFi HiFi holiday gift guides! Each week, we'll release new themed gift guides, chocked-full of great tech gift ideas for different people on your list. This week, we're looking at great gifts for the smart home.
SnapAV Neeo Remote for Control4
This smart remote combines function buttons with a touchscreen, along with voice capability for controlling smart devices in the home. Sleek in design, available in either silver or black and shipping with a charging station, its battery can last for up to five days. Swipe right to see video sources, add favourite channels to one-touch icons, or use the on-screen keypad to manually type in your desired channel. Because of the touch screen, the bottom portion of the remote has only a few necessary buttons: power, mute, volume, and home, which will simplify use for those who aren't tech-savvy. It works with the new Control4 OS 3, which allows for compatibility and seamless connection with thousands of smart devices from other brands. $783
Ring Third-Generation Stick Up Cam
The third-generation Stick Up Cam from Ring is a great way to get someone new to the game started with a smart home. As one of the company's most affordable and versatile cameras at just $130, it can be placed either indoors or out and offers multiple power options. It features 1,080 HD video, motion detection, night vision, two-way talk, a wide viewing angle, and can be plugged in or battery-operated for the aforementioned price, or there's a solar-powered version for $149. Use the Linked Devices feature to connect it to other Ring devices in the home once the gift recipient is comfortable with expanding his system. A new Modes feature in the app will allow you to select from three different options: Home for monitoring just outside, Awa for monitoring the home inside and out, and Disarmed to disable everything.
Bosma Sentry Modular Smart Video Doorbell
What's particularly neat about this video doorbell is that it's modular so you can add features to the camera as desired, basedon your needs. Four add-on options include a PIR + floodlight module, a fingerprint module, a gateway module or a weather sensor module. Sentry's artificial intelligence software offers facial recognition, package detection and active theft prevention. The basic kit includes the smart doorbell and a smart video camera that features two-way audio, sound and motion detection, infrared and colour night vision, the ability to leave voice messages, and AI security features. It needs to be hardwired to an existing doorbell system to provide a ring notification instantly, both aloud and to a mobile phone to notify that someone is at the door. It can instantly detect motion or sound on a doorstep, whether a visitor rings the doorbell or not, and will send an alert to the connected smartphone immediately. If local or cloud storage is enabled, Sentry will also record a short video of the event, which can be later played back from the app. The basic version also includes an AI feature with facial recognition to notify when someone is at the door, allowing easy detection of a stranger. Sentry's package detection sends custom notifications directly to the smartphone whenever a package is dropped off, as long as the package is placed in-sight. Another feat feature is the use of heuristics to determine if someone is stealing a package - an automatic trigger can be set-up so a siren goes off, or a voice message alarm can be activated, so it prevents porch pirates from stealing packages. The PIR sensor only detects motion from heat sources like people and animals so users won't get false motion alarms from a car passing by or other unimportant movements. The LED module illuminates and identifies the scene being recorded, which is ideal for nighttime video and recording. The fingerprint module works as biometric access for the BOSMA Aegis smart door lock - it can be unlocked with just a fingerprint rather than a phone. The fingerprint module's smart lock connectivity enables remote unlocking, remote setting changes (including family or guest access permissions) and more. And the internal gateway module works with peripheral sensors that don't have WiFi connectivity, and include a door sensor, which detects and notifies when a door or window in the home opens, and a simple button that, when pressed, sends a notification and can be used in case of an emergency. With the weather module, Sentry can also sense, measure, and report temperature and humidity, right from the home screen of the smartphone app.
Amazon Echo Show 5 Smart Display
The Echo Show 5 has a 5.5" display, HD camera, and built-in camera shutter so you can close it when you don't need it and open it when you do. Use it as you would any Alexa-enabled smart speaker with the added ability of being able to watch videos, like morning news clips or how-tos in the kitchen, see live footage from a connected and compatible security camera, or make video calls. Use it for two-way talk as well with compatible Ring doorbell cameras. Add personal photos for the clock face or play a slideshow of photos so it functions as a digital photo frame as well. Charcoal or sandstone, $100. A magnetic standing for tilling the device to adjust the viewing and camera angle is $30. Amazon.ca
Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt
The Zigbee-certified Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt, available as part of the Amazon Key Smart Lock Kit, lets you lock the door while away using the Amazon Key app and Amazon Cloud Cam. Receive real-time notifications, live streams, and recorded clips, and manage the Deadbolt through the Amazon Alexa app when synched to an Amazon Echo Plus or Echo Show. Create a guest profile on the Amazon Key App to schedule access for guests, who can come and go using a secure keypad code. You'll be notified anytime your door is locked or unlocked. With the Amazon Cloud Cam, use two-way talk to check in with whoever is entering your home, and watch motion clips later in the Key App. Ask Alexa to lock or check the status of your door. US$199, US$269 as part of an Amazon Key Smart Lock Kit with an Amazon Cloud Cam. Schlage.com
This hardware and app is a great way to motorize any existing window shades. The product consists of a motor-driven gear (hence the name) that opens to insert the traditional loop chain used to manually control most window blinds. The motor is then controlled via an Android or iOS app on a smartphone via Bluetooth, or by the push of buttons on the unit itself. It's powered by a discreet accompanying solar panel that secures to the window, ensuring that any blind, regardless of position, will have appropriate power to operate the Axis GEAR. An integrated battery pack, using standard AA batteries, can also be used to charge the GEAR for cloudy days. MSRP $349. Helloaxis.com
Ring Smart Lighting
New to Canada, Ring's line of smart lighting products includes a motion sensor, spotlight, floodlight, bridge, and more. There are seven products in total, ranging from battery-powered, motion-sensing landscape lights and spotlights to an AC-powered, motion-sensing floodlight. All lighting is designed to be an easy-to-install network of outdoor, motion-sensing lights that work together to illuminate the dark areas around the home. When they detect motion, the Smart Lights turn on, trigger one another, and can send notifications via the Ring app on your mobile device. They can also integrate with Ring Doorbells and Cams so that when one camera or Smart Light detects movement on your property, the other Smart Lights turn on and all cameras begin recording. $35-$100. Additional Smart Lights with a range of power options, including solar power, will become available in the future. Ring.com
Keyport Omnifob All-in-One IoT Smart Remote
This smart remote can attach to your keychain and be used to control a multitude of smart devices, like locks, garage doors, home security, smart lights, and smart plugs. The finger-sized fob attaches to any conventional keychain and is compatible with all of Keyport's modular access devices, including the Slide 3.0, Pivot, and Anywhere Pocket Clip. With one-handed operation, you can control compatible devices including Nexx Garage garage doors, Samsung SmartThing devices, and Yonomi, as well as MoboKey vehicle access products. Scene support allows it to control multiple devices with the click of a button. A panic button can send a preset message to designated recipients along with GPS coordinates as long as your phone is within Bluetooth range. It also comes equipped with a built-in Bluetooth locator powered by Chipolo. Starts at US$65. Mykeyport.com
Roku Express Streaming Player
For the person on your list who is just getting on board with streaming TV, wants to stream in a separate room, or has a cottage where they could use a streaming player, this one is a good option. Smaller than its predecessor, it connects to a TV and is fully powered by most TVs so you don't need to plug it into an AC outlet. Once connected, enjoy HD streaming from compatible services with the appropriate subscription. It comes with a handy remote that has shortcut buttons for the most popular streaming services, along with a high-speed HDMI cable and power cord. $40 Roku.com
Arlo Ultra Security Camera Systems
Now with support for Apple HomeKit when paired with the Arlo SmartHub, HomeKit compatibility allows you to use iPhones and iPads to access certain functions of the cameras in the HomeKit ecosystem using the Apple Home app and Siri voice commands. With HomeKit, securely control smart home products via the Apple Home app and Siri on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac. All current Arlo Ultra security cameras that are paired with the Arlo SmartHub (VMB5000) will now be able to receive notifications on the Apple Home app when motion is detected. iOS users can also use Siri to quickly activate a HD livestream onto their iPhone or iPad hands-free. With HomeKit, Arlo Ultra users can also set up automations to control other HomeKit-enabled smart home devices. For example, you can set up an automation to trigger HomeKit-enabled lights to turn on at certain times when motion is detected by an Arlo Ultra camera. Featuring advanced 4K HDR video quality with colour night vision, wire-free setup, a 180-degree diagonal field-of-view, an integrated spotlight, and two-way audio with advanced noise cancelation, Ultra starts at US$400 for the one-camera system. It includes a one-year subscription to Arlo Smart Premier, Arlo's AI and computer vision powered service that delivers 30-day rolling storage of cloud recordings and personalized detection of people, vehicles, packages, and more.
TP-Link Archer AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router
This new router (MSRP $400) is based on Broadcom's next-generation 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) chipset. It's designed to deliver up to 1,148Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, and 4,804Mbps on the 5GHz band. The CPU is a 64-bit quad-core model, running at 1.8GHz. OFDMA technology (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access) optimizes bandwidth by allowing simultaneous up-link and down-link transmissions from multiple users. This allows a single frequency to carry more data packets. This is combined with 8x8 MU-MIMO, which doubles spatial streams compared to 802.11ac 4x4 MU-MIMO. The result is a more efficient utilization of the available bandwidth. The AX6000 also includes a 2.5 gigabit WAN port, and 8 gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. It's also got 2 USB 3.0 ports, one Type C and one Type A. All TP-Link AX routers include TP-Link HomeCare to guard against advanced cyber threats, assist in password protection and provide parental controls. Easy setup is provided by TP-Link's Tether mobile app, available for Android and iOS.
Amazon Fire TV Cube Media Streaming Player
This media streaming player includes Alexa voice control and features far-field voice control built directly into the device. Choose from tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes including favourites from Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Crave, CTV, and others. You can stream live news, sports, and shows in 4K Ultra HD, HDR, HDR10+, or Dolby Vision, and access websites such as Facebook and Reddit with browsers like Silk and Firefox. Using voice control, you can give commands like "Alexa, play Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" and your compatible TV will turn on, open Prime Video, and pick up playback where you left off. Featuring a hexa-core processor, Fire TV Cube delivers instant access to Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content at up to 60 fps, as well as Dolby Atmos audio, with compatible equipment. In addition, Fire TV Cube comes with Local Voice Control, a new on-device processing feature that lets you more quickly execute some of the most frequent voice commands including "Alexa, scroll right," "Alexa, go home," "Alexa, select number one," and more. This feature is available in English only at launch.
Far-field voice recognition is available through eight microphones and advanced beamforming technology that combines signals from the individual microphones to suppress noise, reverberation, content currently playing, and competing speech to make sure Alexa clearly hears your request when placed next to your TV. When combined with the new processor, you can easily search and navigate content or switch inputs. In addition, from across the room, say, "Alexa, play Stranger Things on Netflix," and Alexa will respond to your request. Fire TV Cube uses multi-directional infrared technology, cloud-based protocols, and HDMI CEC, that when combined with Alexa, let you control your compatible TV, soundbar, and AV receiver, as well as other smart home devices. With the built-in speaker, Fire TV Cube lets you dim the lights, check the weather, listen to the news, play music, and more, even with the TV off. A number of popular Alexa features including support for Multi-Room Music, Alexa Communication, Follow-Up Mode, Alexa Voice Browsing, and more. In addition, because the Alexa service is always getting smarter with new features, device control capabilities, and hands-free voice functionality added regularly. $150
Google Nest Hub Smart Display
The Nest Hub has Google Assistant built-in so you can use your voice to search, access YouTube, Google Photos, Calendar, Maps, and more on Nest Hub's display. Control over a thousand devices from popular brands using the Google Home app. With home view, see and control all of your compatible devices in one place, by touch or voice. That includes smart lights, thermostats, TVs, cameras, Chromecast and more. It also functions as a digital photo frame that automatically refreshes the photos that are displayed and features your best shots. With live albums, a new feature from Google Photos, you can relive recent memories with family and friends, even while Nest Hub is not in use. To search for a specific photo, say "Hey Google, show my pictures from the Grand Canyon." Place it in the kitchen and use your voice to browse recipes from top names like the Food Network, Ricardo, and Kraft Canada. Then use the screen to access step-by-step recipes and how-to videos. For example, say "Hey Google, show me how to dice an onion" to pause your video and call up a relevant instructional video. You can also use it to set timer and get measurement conversions, hands-free. In the bedroom, use it to control Routines. Say "Hey Google, good morning" for a personalized, visual overview of your family's activities from Google Calendar, your commute from Google Maps, your latest reminders, the weather forecast, and more. With Voice Match, up to six people in the home can get their own personalized Routine. And you can also get easy how-to help from YouTube videos by asking things like "Hey Google, how do you make cold-brew coffee?" When you're ready for bed, just say, "Hey Google, good night" to set an alarm, turn off compatible lights and TVs, lock the front door (with a supported lock), and fall asleep to soothing music. Enjoy free music from Spotify and YouTube Music. Nest Hub has a full-range speaker. The Nest Hub has a 7" screen that looks like a floating display. It fits on surfaces like a kitchen counter, shelf, or bedroom night table, but it big enough so you can fully enjoy photos from across the room. It has soft rounded corners, and comes in four colour options: Chalk, Charcoal, Aqua, and Sand. At the top of the device is an Ambient EQ light sensor that allows the screen to automatically adjust to match the lighting in the room, so there's no glowing screen. When it's time for bed, Hub knows to dim the screen so you can get a good night's sleep. $169
Sevenhugs Smart Remote X
Compatible with thousands of infrared, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth-enabled devices, this remote uses an intuitive touchscreen and an adaptive, patented UI to navigate several devices with a swipe, set up multiple remotes, and configure new devices. Personalize custom user interfaces using the Smart Remote app for iOS and Android. Also use the app to configure TV and Home scenes for control of multiple AV and smart home devices with a single tap. Control up to 80 devices with one remote, including up to 20 infrared devices. There are options for one-touch automation with TV and home scenes, fully customizable control screens, and infrared learning. With Contextual Awareness, use Point Mode to display the right controls for any device by simply pointing at it. Using a precise indoor-positioning system, it knows where every device in a room is physically located. Black or white, US$300. Sevenhugs.com