11 Gadgets Making Homes Even Smarter

Your clients will turn to you for information on the latest smart-home devices, so here are a few you should know about now.

January 31, 2018

If your clients wanted to make their homes smarter, would you know how to guide them? You’d better have a few suggestions, as 42 percent of consumers say they want their real estate agent to know how staging a property with smart-home products could affect the sale, according to a recent Coldwell Banker survey unveiled at CES 2018.

First, you should know which smart features are most in demand. According to Coldwell Banker’s survey, buyers are more interested in products that perform a practical function in the home rather than those that are purely for entertainment. Buyers say they prefer a home to already have the following devices installed:

  • Smart thermostat: 77 percent
  • Smart fire detector: 75 percent
  • Smart carbon monoxide detector: 70 percent
  • Smart camera: 66 percent
  • Smart lock: 63 percent
  • Smart lighting system: 63 percent

The latest evolution in smart-home tech is centered around voice control, which enables users to perform tasks by simply speaking commands, such as “turn on the lights.” Companies such as Kohler, Samsung, and LG prominently featured voice-control devices at CES 2018. Kohler Konnect, for example, lets users operate bathroom features, such as the showerhead and toilet, with Amazon’s Alexa. You could tell the mirror to display weather and traffic updates, or command the toilet to open the lid or play your favorite music.

LG and Samsung’s SmartThings platform showed how voice-control products can be used to operate a home’s appliances. Samsung and third-party connected devices can even display a video feed of who’s at the front door on a television screen or refrigerator door. Here are the buzzworthy products that debuted at CES 2018.

High-tech neighborhood watch: Using a series of outdoor cameras posted along a street, the new Streety app from Vivint allows neighbors to request and share footage with each other. Footage can be shared only with those who live within a 300-yard radius of you. Neighbors who don’t use Vivint cameras but have other video monitoring services also can upload and share video clips on the app. However, Vivint cameras can also provide users with live feeds. Price: The Home Security package from Vivint starts at $53.99 per month; available in March

A robot that folds laundry: The Laundroid from Seven Dreamers is an automated laundry-folding robot and wardrobe management system that uses artificial intelligence to sort clothes. Toss the clothes into the device’s bottom drawer, and it’ll neatly fold them—and then sort them by family member. The Laundroid app allows you to create an online closet, itemize every piece of clothing, and designate which family member gets which clothes. Price: $16,000 on pre-orders through the end of 2018 (but the cost may come down to $2,000 if it becomes mass-produced)

A smarter fridge: LG’s new InstaView ThinQ smart refrigerator features a 29-inch touchscreen on the outside door that becomes transparent if you knock on it twice. You can also use the touchscreen to manage your food and get automatic reminders when items are running low. It features Amazon’s Alexa for voice control. Samsung’s Family Hub smart refrigerator is similar in appearance and offers support for Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant, so it can also handle voice commands. It can connect to other third-party devices for a connected smart home, too. Price: TBD; available in spring

An interactive mirror: Add voice control to your bathroom mirror. Kohler’s Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror features a built-in Alexa and has a dual microphone so you can give voice commands, such as asking the mirror for weather or news updates. A motion-activated wayfinding nightlight is embedded in the mirror for when it’s dark, as well as LED lights for makeup application and other grooming needs. The mirror can also communicate with other products connected by the home’s Wi-Fi network. Price: TBD, available in March

Tabletop smart screen: The Lenovo Smart Display features Google Assistant for voice control and boasts a touchscreen tablet. You can speak to it using the command “OK, Google” and set a routine to have it turn on your lights, brew your coffee, or read your daily schedule to you. You can also use it to make video calls or watch the morning news. To address privacy, Lenovo has added a mute to the speaker and a flip to cover the camera when needed. The displays are available in 10.1-inch and 8-inch screens. Price: $249 for 10.1-inch screen; $199 for 8-inch screen; available in summer

A voice assistant in your ceiling: GE’s Smart Ceiling Fixture will let you issue voice commands from anywhere in a home. You can tell it to add an item to your calendar or stream music. The large disk has a speaker in the middle. It also lets out enough light to illuminate a room. Flush-mounted or recessed lighting options will be available later in the year. Price: TBD

A smart light for security: Maximus is a floodlight that includes a Wi-Fi camera and two-way speaker, so you can prevent break-ins by monitoring activity outside the home. Maximus can detect movement within a 70-foot range in the front or back of the home. It’ll send alerts to your smartphone, and you can then opt to sound a siren, view live video, or speak to those within range. You can also call police directly from the app. Price: $249

Your house robot buddy: Social companion robots may soon be entering more households. Buddy from Blue Frog Robotics is a fully mobile robot who can hear and speak, as well as react to his environment with a range of expressions. The Google Assistant voice-controlled robot—which has a tablet for a face—can interact with smart-home devices, monitor a home’s security, be an information source, or even tutor your kids. Price: About $1,500; available in September

A ring of control: Talon is a smart ring that allows you to take control of several smart-home features with subtle hand motions. The rechargeable ring is worn on your index finger and features two buttons, which you click with your thumb. You can program up to six inputs for motion control—for example, wave to turn your lights on or off. Price: $129

 

 

Spot water disasters early: Detect even the smallest leaks with Flo, a smart plumbing monitoring system that installs onto a home’s main supply line. Beyond being a leak detector, Flo also monitors key characteristics of a home’s plumbing, such as water pressure, flow rate, and temperature. That can help detect abnormalities to avoid problems, such as from bursting pipes. It will automatically shut off the water supply when any irregularities are detected and send urgent text alerts to users. Price: $500; available in February

 

Radon detection: Most homes have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but how about one for radon? The Wave Plus by AirThings is a connected battery-operated indoor air quality monitor for radon. It reveals dangerous levels of radon, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds in a space. Users can view a dashboard from a mobile app to monitor levels of each and see the home’s temperature, air pressure, and humidity levels. Price: $269; available in the second quarter of 2018