Move over George Jetson. The 21st century is here, and the name of the game is “automation.” While most of yesteryear’s futurists were busy predicting flying cars (we’re still waiting), modern scientists of all stripes were getting busy figuring out how to make more practical technology a reality. Thus, home automation was born. By combining some new tech with some older methods, home automation methods are making lives easier in almost every way imaginable. Better still: they’re getting less expensive and smarter every year.
Whether you want your floors cleaned while downing your third cup of coffee in the office, or just want to have a few solutions in place for when you forget — yet again — to turn the lights out, these eight technologies will make your life easier within minutes of setting them up.
1) Neato robot vacuum
Admit it. You don’t actually like vacuuming your floors. It’s time-consuming, sometimes annoying, and it seems like an almost endless task. Then there’s the timing. If you wait too long, your floors look horrible. That’s if you can actually find the time to actually vacuum. Thankfully, there are robot vacuums like the Neato to your rescue!
This robot vacuum was designed to minimize how much of the vacuuming process you have to take on yourself. Using laser navigation and a full suite of sensors, Neato robot vacuums easily navigates your home, avoiding obstacles while pinpointing the dirty spots on your floor. The Neato Botvac Connected allows you to schedule when your robot vacuum moves from its charging base and across your carpeted and uncarpeted surfaces. Depending on which version of the Neato robot you purchase, you can also connect to your device with a mobile app, allowing you to schedule, or even remotely control your robot vacuum. With a Wi-Fi connection, your Neato robot vacuum can even be issued commands with the Amazon Alexa smart home device.
There are a number of robot vacuums on the market. However, the Neato robot vacuum is the only one you’ll find that can connect to your smart home, while also providing advanced navigation and easy corner and baseboard cleaning.
2) Amazon Echo or Echo Dot
Speaking of Amazon Alexa, if you want to control your Neato robot vacuum with Alexa, you’re going to need a device running on Alexa. The Amazon Echo, Tap and Dot are must-have devices for home and office automation. These devices are powered by Amazon’s Alexa, a smart device software designed to power all aspects of your smart home. Using a Wi-Fi connection and Bluetooth technology, the Amazon smart home devices can help you connect to any device sharing those connections.
Although not all connected devices can be controlled by Amazon’s smart home devices as of yet, a growing number of them can, including the Neato robot. For the Neato robot, once it’s synced up with your Amazon Echo, Tap or Dot, all you need to do is say “Alexa, ask Neato to start cleaning.” This way, you can clean on demand, without having to worry about scheduling.
Of course, this device is more than just a scheduler for your Neato robot. It can also control your lights, television, music, thermostat, garage doors and more, or you can access services with simple voice commands, such as hailing an Uber, ordering flowers, getting news and weather updates, or even ordering a Dominos pizza. Much of this automation requires a few of the next items on our list.
3) TP-LINK Smart Plug
A perfect solution to turn almost everything in your house into a smart device, the TP-LINK Smart Plug was designed with the smart home in mind. The everyday life hacks on our list mostly involve home automation. Some of that is impossible if you don’t have a smart plug. Wi-Fi connected and coming in with its own app, the TP-Link Smart Plug can even connect to your Amazon Echo, letting you control your smart devices or other devices more easily.
The TP-LINK Smart Plug allows you to turn devices on or off from a distance. Afraid you left the iron on? You can schedule your smart plug to turn off after a certain amount of time, or you can turn it off remotely using the app. You can also monitor your energy usage through the smart plug, a perfect way to help you save on your energy bills.
The included app will let you know when the plug is on or off. You can also turn it on or off remotely. Scheduling allows you to fend off burglars as well. With the scheduling, you can have lights turn on and off at regular intervals, causing anyone scoping out the place to think that someone might be home. As lights are one of the easiest and most common deterrents for burglars, this one is a no-brainer.
If you’re looking to make your life easier, put this one on your list. You won’t regret it.
4) Samsung SmartThings Hub
Want to get in on all of that awesome Alexa automation action? You’re probably going to need to get yourself a smart home hub. While Alexa works directly with Wi-Fi connected devices that are designed to already work with it, not all devices are integrated with Alexa just yet. If you want to get full Alexa integration with all of your smart home devices, you’re going to need a smart home hub.
Acting as a middleman of sorts, the smart home hub connects to your other smart devices. Think of it as a “one ring to rule them all”. Smart hubs, such as the Samsung SmartThings Hub act somewhat like an app for your phone. Whereas many smart home devices utilize their own apps, the smart home hub allows you to connect your devices to the smart hub, which is then able to control all of them. The Samsung device, in particular, has been well-rated and uses multiple technologies to communicate hundreds of devices — which it can do all at the same time.
This may seem like you’re inviting an egomaniac of a device into your home, but trust us, it’s worth the effort to make your life easier. A smart hub streamlines the process, so you don’t have to make individual requests to each smart home device using its own individual application. Connect them all to your smart hub and control them all from your smart hub. Just be sure to avoid any hubs named Hal.
5) Firebox Smarter Coffee
Everyday life hacks should always include coffee somehow. Consider you’re (hopefully) in the process of setting up your smart home and automation methods, you might as well add a smart coffee maker to the mix. Yes, we know, you’re completely connected at the hip to your Keurig, which you bought because, well, you wanted to make your life easier. The Firebox Smarter Coffee machine takes that just one step further, using what is likely some form of witchcraft to make your coffee brewing process even less time-intensive.
As a smart device, the Firebox Smarter Coffee machine comes with its own app that allows you to grind and brew coffee from pretty much anywhere. It connects to your Wi-Fi, so as long as you have your application, you can tell it to brew — even if you’re on a return flight from Hong Kong and it’s sitting back at home in the good ‘ol US of A.
The Firebox Smarter Coffee allows you to brew a single cup or 12, as well as adjust the brew strength. And of course, you can start that process with your smart hub if you’ve purchased one, all with the touch of a button that’s nowhere near your actual coffee machine. Firebox also notes that their Smarter Coffee machine “won’t charge you $5 per cup and spell your name wrong.” Burn! (The competitors, not the coffee).
6) Pantelligent Smart Pan
Most professional chefs will tell you that heat is an ingredient. Perhaps the most important one, in fact. For many people, it’s also the one ingredient that’s the most difficult to get correct. While it’s hard to imagine a pan that that will do all of the cooking for you, the Pantelligent Smart Pan will take out a lot of the guesswork with the all-important heating element.
This smart pan has a heat sensor and an included application that will help you better regulate the temperature for your cooked foods. It will tell you when you need to turn the heat up or down, and depending on your recipes, will even tell you when you need to stir or flip whatever’s in your pan.
Combine the Pantelligent Smart Pan with a smart socket device, and you can even set this pan to its Autopilot mode, which will regulate the temperature for you. All you need to do at that point is to make sure you remember to stir and take it off the heat (don’t worry, the app will remind you). The Pantelligent Smart Pan has received rave reviews from media outlets. For those that aren’t so keen in the kitchen, this is one smart device that can turn your cooking skills up a notch.
7) Nest Learning Thermostat
You’ve probably already heard about the Nest Learning Thermostat. The first generation hit the market in 2011, making waves with the device’s Wi-Fi connectivity and its ability to “learn” your temperature adjusting habits. The Nest can make your life easier by adjusting the temperature automatically at different times of the day, based on how you regularly adjust it.
Do you find yourself turning the heat down when no one is home? The next will do that automatically after you’ve done it for a few days. Perhaps you like to turn the heat up at night? Do that for a few days and the Nest will accommodate you, no questions asked. The newest generation of the nest includes an app that allows you to adjust multiple settings, including the humidity level.
You can combine the Nest with a smart home hub to streamline the process as well. Depending on what other smart devices you buy, your Nest can play nice with smart locks, lights, and other products. The Nest can even help work as a smoke and carbon monoxide signal with the right partner devices. If you want to make your life easier while saving on your energy bills, the Nest is one home life hack you’re going to want.
8) Chipolo Plus
Let’s drop all pretense here: We humans are a forgetful bunch. It’s only getting worse as we simply own more stuff. Lost keys. Misplaced phones. Fitbit trackers that fell off who knows where. It happens to the best of us. And with our devices getting smaller and smaller, it’s also becoming increasingly more difficult to locate the things that have seemed to wander off all by themselves. Enter the Chipolo Plus.
The Chipolo Plus is a Bluetooth key finder with an almost annoyingly loud ring. With long battery life and no need to recharge, you can stick a Chipolo on almost anything: keychains, inside of wallets or purses, inside of your favorite pair of pants. You can sync each Chipolo to your phone with a label of what it’s connected to. If you lose it that item, simply load up the app. The Chipolo will make a 100-decibel tone when your phone gets near it.
But wait. What if it’s your phone that’s lost? Don’t worry. Just bring your Chipolo you’ve assigned to your phone with you. Pressing the Chipolo twice will make your phone ring.
Chipolo will also let you know where you last had something, making the process of actually finding it much easier. This may not be a home automation solution but just face it. You know you need this.