Smart homes, and the internet of things, still seen a little sci-fi. But, as we found out in the IFA Electronics Show, connecting your lamps, televisions, fridges and more to your smartphone so you can control them is very real.
First, the internet of things. It’s a phrase that’s been doing the rounds for a while now. In short, it means connecting your electronic devices to one another, and the internet, so you can control them from your phone or computer from anywhere.
There are two main ways of creating a smart home, or connecting your devices to the internet. The first is to get purpose built devices that connect to the internet themselves. The second is to buy small adaptors or plugs and connect them to appliances.
Both have advantages. With purpose made appliances, you get a fantastic amount of features. But if you just add adaptors or plugs, you can keep your favourite lamp, and save a bit of cash.
LG is one of the companies building spectacular devices that come preinstalled with everything they need to connect to your smartphone through LG’s clever LG HomeChat app. Using the app all you need to do is send messages to appliances to tell them what to do.
On display we saw HomBot, a robot vacuum. It actually has a camera built in and using LG’s app you can use it as a webcam to check on your house. There was a also a Smart Refrigerator with a tablet-like touchscreen on the front. Control power consumption and activate a child lock, from the screen or on your phone. It can also display reminders and photos. And inside was a camera, so if you couldn’t remember whether you had milk, just ask the Smart Refrigerator and it’ll send you a photo.
The LG HomeChat app can connect to all of LG’s appliances, which also include washing machines, ovens and of course TVs. And because of these devices are purpose made for a smart home, if you get a text and are watching the TV, the tele will let you. As will the fridge. Or when your dinner’s finished cooking in the oven, all your appliances will let you know.
If you don’t want to go all the way just yet with a smart home and kit it out with brand new stuff, try plugs and adaptors. You’ll lose some functions and features, but save money.
DigitalSTROM has a little adaptor called the relay block. It looks like a LEGO® brick. It can be implanted into practically anything, letting you control it from the DigitalSTROM app. Different coloured blocks tell the app what type of device is connected. And the little blocks are clever, having a teeny computer inside.
This little computer lets DigitalSTROM do things like fire up playlists on your music player, chnge channels on TVs, set programmes on the washing machine or input cooking instructions to an oven. You can also setup the app to have presets, like Wake Up, which opens the curtains, puts the radio on and whatever you want.
To get this all setup though you need a professional installation from DigitalSTROM. We were told that to fully kit out a four bedroom house would cost about 3,500 euros.
Alternatively, there’s EWA home. For this way, all you need is a plug. Just plug in your appliance, whether it’s a games console or a light, tell the app what it is, and you’re ready to go. Controlling devices is more limited, with no advanced settings like controlling temperaturs in ovens, but it’s fast and simple to install yourself. And a single plug is just 80 euros, with the price dropping the more you buy.