Smart home technology keeps getting smarter and increasingly popular. Devices like smart thermostats, security cameras, and programmable locks are now found in many homes. But what about other devices, largely flying under the radar? Here are five new, but less familiar options:
1. Automated window shades
Opening and closing a window shade may not sound like a difficult task. However, when you multiply that small job by a dozen or more windows, every morning and every night, it starts to add up.
Automated window shades have been around for a long time, but most options require replacing each shade and adding a power outlet for a motor. For a more affordable solution, consider the Axis Gear(link is external), which lets you automate your existing shades with a small motorized device powered by a rechargeable solar battery and controlled via a smartphone app.
At this writing, the Gear is priced at $249 per window motor. Most homeowners can install them without professional assistance. In addition to streamlining a daily chore, buyers can save money on their heating/cooling bills. Motorized shades also provide security benefits, by creating the impression that someone is always home.
2. Smart glass
Even though motorized window shades are a great option, some people view them as completely “old school.” For a thoroughly modern approach, check out various suppliers of “smart glass,” which convert clear glass into frosted glass, or various color tints, with the push of a button (or using a preset schedule).
Instead of purchasing new windows with the technology built into the glass, consider adding a film coating to your existing windows. Suppliers include InvisiShade(link is external), Sonte(link is external), and Smart Tint(link is external), among many others.
This is a rapidly evolving product category, with countless applications for homes, offices, and all types of commercial buildings. It’s even showing up in personal vehicles. Because these products can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, they sometimes qualify for energy rebates(link is external).
3. Smart plumbing
Plumbing may not be as glamorous as smart glass, but if you’ve ever had water damage from leaking pipes or toilets, you know repair costs add up fast!
Many prevention systems use moisture sensors to detect leaks, emitting a beep if water is detected. Two new systems take an entirely different approach, by detecting leaks via your water supply line.
Check out Flo(link is external) ($499) and Phyn(link is external) ($850), which monitor your water usage and can alert you to any problems, helping conserve water and prevent serious damage. Both devices can shut off your main water supply, either automatically or on command (from your smart phone).
You’ll need to hire a plumber to install either device, adding to the cost. However, ask your homeowners’ insurance agent about discounts. Some insurers are substantially slashing homeowners’ premiums, which could quickly offset the cost of installing either system.
4. Smart bathrooms
Ready for pure indulgence in the bathroom? KOHLER Konnect(link is external) is making it possible with a new line of voice-activated bathroom (and kitchen) products.
Wake up and ask Alexa (or Siri, or Google) to warm up your toilet seat, or start the shower at your preferred temperature, or set the lighting on your vanity mirror to makeup mode. Kohler’s Numi Intelligent Toilet(link is external) also includes a heated bidet feature, built-in nightlight, foot warmer, touch-less flushing, and can even play your favorite music.
Kohler intends to create a virtually hands-free bathroom experience, keeping everything cleaner and customizing for individual preferences. Of course, Kohler isn’t the only company working on smarter bathrooms. For other options, check out Delta(link is external) and U by Moen(link is external).
5. Air quality
The air that we breathe affects the quality of our lives, yet most people don’t pay much attention to it. Enter Olfinity, a new system that accomplishes three distinctly different, but important air quality tasks: 1) monitoring and assessing air quality; 2) purifying and cleaning air pollution levels; and 3) diffusing up to five blends of aromatherapy essential oils.
Using all three products, homeowners can keep the air in their homes fresh and free of harmful particulates while elevating overall air quality. The system also includes a gateway, which lets users view detailed air quality reports and program aromatherapy sessions.
Olfinity expects to start shipping its product in September 2018. Prices haven’t been published, but industry experts expect the system to sell for roughly $1,200.