Our resident experts take a look at the year’s best smart home products, and go over some of the major talking points of 2014.
2014 has been an interesting year for smart homes. We’ve seen some of the world largest companies, including Samsung, Xiaomi and Google, spend millions of pounds on smart home research and the acquisition of relevant startups. Yet at the same time, it remains a market that is relatively untouched and even unheard of outside of business and technology circles. Investments have been fueled, in part, by industry analysts putting astronomical valuations on the potential global market for smart home products. But will the profits ever live up to the hype?
We think they will, thanks to a number of high performing products and the involvement of some household names, not to mention the ‘Apple effect.’ We take a look at some of the products that have done the most when it comes to raising consumer awareness of the smart home in 2014.
Nest Labs did well in 2014, but it wasn’t all plain sailing
First the good: smart thermostats were king of smart home sales in the first three quarters of 2014 at least and it’s fair to say that a generous portion of the credit should go to Nest’s Labs Learning Thermostat. Not only that, but the company debuted its first national tv ads with nary a mention of Google as the parent company, which played an important role in raising consumer awareness of the smart home market.
But it didn’t all go according to plan for the Google owned startup. The Nest Protect Smoke detector suffered a minor setback this year when it became apparent that its gesture recognition feature contained a safety risk. According to Nest Labs, the gesture system could end up unexpectedly delaying the alarm in some very rare circumstances.This lead to them pulling the product from shelves, disabling the feature and dropping the price.
The Phillips Hue Connected Bulb brought smart lighting to the masses
Smart lights took the end of 2014 by storm and if there’s one product that’s become synonymous with smart lighting on the highstreet, it’s the Phillips Hue Lux. It offers all the usual features of smart lighting: remote control, timers, moods and so on, yet uniquely it is very easy to self-install on existing fittings and comes in at under £100.
While dim bulbs and some unresponsiveness means that the product can’t compete with the high end smart lighting system – it’s not meant to. Instead, Phillips Hue Lux offers a bit of fun that allows a homeowner to dip a big toe into the world of smart homes.
Home security set to be an important trend
If there’s one thing that smart devices manufacturers learned from customer feedback in 2014, it’s that there’s a near universal demand for gadgets that keep the home safe. Whether that’s preventing an accident through a smoke and carbon monoxide monitor, or beefing up security to keep the bad guys out of the home, people across all demographics recognise the value of additional safety in their home. There are two stand out products in this category.
The first is the Kwikset Kevo powered by UniKey. There’s no denying it: unlocking your front door by touching the lock with your fingertip feels magical. It also has the standard functionality that we’ve come to expect from smart locks, including assigning guest keys temporarily, monitoring access remotely, and also, refreshingly, the lock can be opened reliably with an old-fashioned key in the event of technical difficulties.
The second is the DropCam Pro, which is simply the best camera in its price range. This security camera shoots in continuous high definition and comes with a powerful zoom feature, not to mention brilliant night vision. The two way audio is a nice touch, though the speakers and microphone don’t live up to the same high standards as the visual capabilities. Nonetheless, Google’s high profile purchase of Dropcam earlier in the year has done nothing to stifle the company’s excellent work.
For everyone interested in the world of the smart home, 2015 promises to be just as exciting as last year. If you are interested in smart home installation in the London area, or simply want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, be sure to check out our newsletter.