“Alexa, show me the weather forecast”. No matter whether you’ve said a sentence like this yourself know of voice-controlled assistants from film, TV, and co but wouldn’t have one yourself, smart home systems are very much here to stay.
Personally, I like to try and get my phone to react to “Hey Google”. It’s very handy when you’re cooking and want to set a timer while still mixing things with your hands, but sadly my personal assistant steadfastly ignores me half the time.
And while playing games with your own little artificial intelligence – think HAL 9000’s little, much more helpful (and far less murderous) sibling – is fun, these clever systems can do much, much more.
I know it’s hard to start, what with so much choice available out there, so here are six solutions that have caught my eye recently.
Spoiler: one of them is based on actual NASA research. Yeah, I know – that was my face, too.
Smart home ideas for your kitchen
We’ve all heard of intelligent fridges featuring, among a host of other features, cameras so you can see which ingredients you have, right?
In fact, in the future the appliance might not only what you need to pick up for dinner, it might also upload your shopping list into the cloud and communicate with your car so it can find the best route to the nearest supermarket that has what you need.
But there are equally clever ideas already out there – these two, for example.
Imagine the setting: you’re sitting down watching TV or a film while your dinner is roasting away in the oven. When does the timer ring? The most interesting or tense moment, of course
You’d normally have to get up and check, now, but thanks to Miele‘s clever Generation 7000 VitroLine H7860BP oven, shown here in Graphite Grey, that could be a thing of the past. Not only can it be controlled using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, you can also programme it via your phone.
And, crucially, a HD camera in the oven’s cavity links directly to your device, too – so you can check on dinner from the comfort of your sofa using the FoodView feature.
I promised you a space-age design, didn’t I? This little thing might look like a high-tech hamster wheel, but it’s something entirely different altogether: a tabletop allotment.
Inspired by Nasa, Australian company Bace‘s Rotofarm system rotates a full 360 degrees every 46 minutes, which eliminates the force of gravity. Why, I hear you ask? To make your plants grow faster.Featuring LED lighting, Rotofarm is a hydroponic system which means it uses no soil but a mineral solution to grow your produce. Priced around £239.05 (AUS $450), the little farm can keep a constant fresh supply of leafy greens, herbs, microgreens and sprouts or even edible flowers all year. A little step for mankind, a zero-gravity adventure for your salad.
Do you know which kitchen style matches your personality?
I suspect the answer is no, but German kitchen company Häfele has a solution: a planning tool. The whole process involves a few simple steps, including telling the software what kind of room you’re working with, but you’ll end the adventure with a kitchen design that suits you.
Don’t know where to start with your renovation project? This one might be a good first step.
Intelligent ideas for your bedroom
The smart home revolution really encompasses every room. Lighting you can control wherever you are? Sorted. A coffee machine you can start while still half asleep in bed? We’ve got you covered.
Or how about a thermostat you can programme from your phone, so you’ll never again have to wrap yourself in your duvet on the way to the shower because your bedroom is so cold.
But it pays off to think small, too – after all, plenty of little changes can still make a big difference.
This compact wireless lamp is a real trooper – simply recharge it and you can take it everywhere. I think it’s a handy bedroom companion, especially if you and your partner operate on different schedule or you like to read a bit while they conk out as soon as their head hits the pillow. Bonus: one charge lasts up to 100 hours. That’s a lot of chapters. The ONE cordless LED table lamp costs £129 and is available from Lime Lace.
Smart home in the bathroom
A bathroom is what it is, right? A basin or maybe a double vanity, toilet, shower or bath (or both), and storage. Some are family friendly, others are distinct adults-only spaces.
It doesn’t seem like there’s much space for clever innovations – I certainly didn’t think there’d be much beyond Bluetooth speakers built into a mirror.
And yet here I am, fully admitting that I was wrong. As it turns out, there are quite a few intelligent designs out there.
A few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have come in contact with a shower toilet – unless you’ve been to Japan, where plenty of hotels and more than 70% of households have one. That’s according to the Japanese Cabinet Office – in fact, shower toilets are so popular that they, grouped together with bidet seats, are used as a measure of national prosperity. The more households have one, the better Japan is doing, essentially.
But now they’re growing more popular across the world, which means more and more brands are releasing their own smart home version of the humble loo. Grohe‘s Sensia Arena, £3168.11, does not only offer unlimited warm water that’s kind to delicate skin, you can save your favourite settings.
All you need to do is download the corresponding app and hey presto. And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s compatible with every single smart Sensia toilet on the planet – so you’ll have a little slice (or, well, spritz) of home wherever you go.
Look at this image. What do you think is the smart component? Well, if you like a good long soak I’ve got some good news – it’s the bath. Yes, really, there’s a way of making the humble bathtub into a really smart feature.
This one is the Essence Ceramics freestanding bath from Grohe, £6418, is so clever it doesn’t need an overflow. How, I hear you ask? Well, it has an integrated sensor which measures the weight of the water. As soon as it exceeds the overflow level, an automatic electronic control unlocks the drain to bring the water down to a safer height.
So, which one will you go for? We’ll all be talking to our homes each day before long…
You may also enjoy: All you need to know about built-in appliances
Featured image: Bace’s Rotofarm system, £239.05 (AUS $450).