Smart Home Devices.jpgSmart TVs are now the dominant TV, but what about Smart home products? They are not far behind in becoming just as pervasive in most homes. Smart home gizmos are usually technologies that are linked to our mobile devices and that add a lot of convenience to our lives. Most of us cannot live for an hour, let alone a day, without doing some activity on our Smartphone. But Smartphones have a lot more capability than what we use them for, and Smart Home products tap into that underutilized capacity. They also make great gifts, so here are my top picks that will delight just about anyone.

Another reason Smart products make great gifts, is that they are generally very easy to set up so you don’t need to be a greatly skilled DIY expert to install them. Not that being a dedicated DIYer is a bad thing, because it can save you a lot of money plus it is very satisfying to complete DIY projects. The nice thing about Smart home products is they can do the same – save money and be very satisfying to set up – but without the need for any special expertise. Simple. My favorite Smart Home gifts below are all a great way to enhance a living space and add value to people’s homes.

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Home Security

I used to think that a home surveillance system had to be professionally installed and monitored, so many years ago that’s exactly what I did. I paid monthly monitoring fees for a long time until I accidentally discovered that their “monitoring” was very suspect. When I disconnected my home phone to rely solely on my cell phone, it later dawned on me that my monitored system was dependent the disconnected home phone line. Interestingly, my disconnecting it never triggered an alarm and they simply continued to charge me monthly monitoring even though it was no longer possible.

Q-See 8 Camera Security System.jpgNeedless to say, I rid myself of my so-called monitored alarm system and went with an Internet-based surveillance system. I really like it because I can view the entire perimeter of my home whenever I want from wherever I am, particularly when not at home. It is self-monitoring because I can set alarms to email or text me whenever there is any suspicious activity. I can then immediately view my cameras or look at recent history, and decide if I need to contact the police. It is all very economical, easy to set up, and with no monthly fees.

An added benefit of this system is having a video of all activity so if you do have to pursue criminal charges you have a very good case. I also like just being able to see who is knocking at my front door before I decide to get up and answer it.

There are a few of these smarter security surveillance systems that would make a great gift because they can provide a lot of peace of mind, plus they come with lots of excellent features. Have a look at the Lorex 2 or 4 Camera Wireless Surveillance System, the Q-See Advanced 8-Channel 8 Camera System, or design your own system with the DLink Network Video Recorder. It doesn’t matter if you have a house or condo, you can find the best system to make you secure.

Weiser Kevo Bluetooth Deadbolt.jpgSmart Entrances

The convenience of keyless entry has taken off in new cars in a big way, but less so for the home and I am not sure why because it is a great convenience. I recently installed a keyless lock in my home and wish I had done it years sooner. I no longer worry about losing house keys or figuring out where I put them. If I have guests or relatives that came to visit and I don’t happen to be home, I can still let them in the house rather than make them wait outside.

When on vacation I usually get one of my long-time neighbours to come in and water my plants or check on the house. I no longer need to give them a key. I can give them a code for the lock that lets them in and when I am back I can disable their guest code. I love leaving my home keyless, as I no longer worry about ever being locked out of my own home. It won’t happen. For parents of small children it is ideal as well.

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There are several types to choose from. I like the Weiser Kevo Bluetooth Deadbolt, which opens the door with by waving your Smartphone next to it. You can even send an electronic key to someone else so they can let themselves in with their Smartphone. If you don’t even want to use a Smartphone you can also use electronic keypad locks that you uses a numeric code to open the door.

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Smart Thermostats

Another great home innovation are smart thermostats. I am not talking about programmable thermostats that you punch in a schedule. Programmable are good, but smart ones take it to a new level. They are all WiFi capable and connected to the Internet so you can communicate with them from anywhere. Smart thermostats like the Nest will actually learn your schedule and what temperature you like as you adjust it over time, then it automatically follow that pattern. It also senses when you are away so you no longer have to turn it down to save money; it does that for you.

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Another nice gift is the Honeywell Lyric, which you can control using your smartphone or tablet while lying on the couch. It can also notify your mobile device if your home for whatever reason experiences extreme temperature changes, regardless of where you are. You can control it from anywhere so you can manually turn the heat back on minutes before you get home so you can come back to a warm house.

Smart Lighting

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Giving lighting may seem like a pretty dull gift, but smart lighting isn’t dull at all. I think it makes an excellent gift because despite how innovative and useful smart lighting is, it is not something that many people think of buying for themselves. The way smart lighting works is it has a smart hub that connects to your home network using WiFi or Ethernet, and then simply screw in the smart bulbs or plug in the smart light fixtures. You can now control the lighting using your Smartphone or tablet by downloading their free app.

Belkin Webmo Lighting Kit.jpegThe great thing is that you can set timers or alarms with the smart lighting so it comes on and off when you aren’t home. You can also have it gradually come on in the morning when you need to wake up. Some smart lighting like Phillips HUE is able to change the ambience of the room by changing the colour and intensity of the lighting. You can even use other apps to have the lighting change based on the music you are playing, or use IFTTT (if this then that) to change colour when you get an email from someone special, or any other event you want to define.

Webmo is another smart lighting system that makes a great gift. It doesn’t have the colour options in the HUE system, but it does have the other features I mentioned. The Smart lighting is LED so even though it costs a bit more than normal lighting, it will last years longer and save a lot in energy cost so it can pay for itself.

So if you are stuck with what to buy for someone this Holiday Season, consider Smart home gifts. They are an excellent way to help your family and friends more fully utilize the capabilities of their Smartphone, while providing some excellent conveniences that can make their homes more secure and comfortable.

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I love to try new technologies and I have a practical approach to techie stuff - it has to be easy to use and make my life better. I have my house fully wired, with a surround sound system in my family room for music and TV viewing, but also drive music throughout the house as well as outdoors. I Internet stream content on all my devices at home, which provides a huge variety of entertainment to enjoy.