The connected home

As more technology becomes wireless, the dream of a connected, fully automated home is becoming a reality. Here’s how new products can save you time, energy and take the hassle out of chores.

Energy-efficient heating and lighting Security Home entertainment Hands-free home appliances
LIFX intelligent lightbulb

Your smartphone or tablet will become the remote control for many tasks using your home broadband (WiFi).

The new Philips hue lightbulb, for example, has a micro transmitter inside that connects to your WiFi network and allows you to use a smartphone or tablet app to control it, and up to 50 others. You can switch lights on or off from the sofa, or from wherever in the world you might be, and every bulb can glow in millions of different colours, which can be controlled by the app. You can also create rules – for example, to wake you up gently with the soft glow of a sunrise, to flash when you get an email from an important address, or to switch on when you’re at your front door.

Similarly, the LIFX intelligent lightbulb can be used on its own or with others, all controlled through your Apple or Android device and home WiFi. Using a low amount of power, the LIFX is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and can last for up to 25 years, saving you the hassle of replacing bulbs in hard-to-reach places.

The Nest Learning Thermostat also promises energy and financial savings. Not only can you control your heating from your smartphone at home or on the go, but this clever gadget learns your schedule over time and programmes itself. If you’re away from home, you can easily tell your heating system not to come on at the usual time, or switch it on a few hours before you get back so that you can return to a nice warm house.

The Netgear VueZone is a wireless security camera as small as a tennis ball, which can be linked with up to 15 others to create a motion-sensing security system accessible on a smartphone, tablet or computer. The Philips In.Sight wireless home monitor, meanwhile, also features noise detection and allows you to stream live video to your iPhone or iPad wherever you are.

Belkin WeMo

Baby monitors are becoming smarter too – the BT Smart Audio Baby Monitor sends sounds directly to your iPhone with a dedicated app and will send an alert if cry notifications are turned on. You can listen via up to three iPhones or iPads at the same time, wherever you are in the home. The Philips InSight wireless home monitor, meanwhile, also features noise detection and allows you to stream live video to your iPhone or iPad wherever you are.

If you’ve ever left the house and then wondered whether you left the iron on, the Belkin WeMo is perfect. This next-generation plug adaptor allows you to turn appliances on and off remotely. Offering a traditional timer function and a manual remote control, it is also ideal for setting a lamp to come on when you’re away from home.

Sonos

Many Smart TVs also work with apps, enabling you to control your TV with a smartphone or tablet, view up to date schedules and even mirror your tablet display to the TV using technology like DLNA and Miracast.

With a Sonos wireless speaker, you can connect to your wireless network and control the speaker from your smartphone, tablet or computer, playing tracks and playlists from your own collection of MP3s, an internet radio station or subscription service like Spotify. You can even link up to 32 speakers together to play simultaneously, or group them into rooms, so not everyone has to listen to the same thing.

Robomow

A robotic cleaner is one of the most common science fiction depictions of future home inventions, but the LG Hom-Bot range of vacuum cleaners are practical, powerful and completely automatic. Dual cameras snap the landscape of your home and the Hom-Bot navigates floors with ease, returning to a charge station when your room has been cleaned. A two-hour charge will give 100 minutes of cleaning time, and if it runs out of battery it will return to its base to charge and then pick up again where it left off. Also, low noise levels mean you can watch TV while it cleans, or you can programme it to do the vacuuming while you're at work.

WW9000

The same technology can also now be found in the garden, thanks to the Robomow robotic lawnmower. There are various models available depending on the size of your garden, all of which are more compact than their traditional equivalents. Using a smartphone to control the Robomow is easy, and this clever machine will even sense if it’s going to rain and delay a scheduled mowing session. Noise reduction technology also means your neighbours won’t even know your grass is being cut.

Smart technology is even infiltrating our large appliances too, with Samsung’s WW9000 washing machine making use of an app to start and stop washes and push notifications to your phone to let you know when your cycle has ended. More updates are expected from brands including Samsung, Panasonic and Miele that include novel features such as weather updates. Why? The theory is that your washing machine can let you know if it’s going to rain and therefore unlikely that you’ll be able to dry clothes outside a couple of hours later…