Safe as houses and smart too

  • 18/01/2018
Some devices, such as the Nest Cam IQ, are so smart they can learn the difference between family and strangers.
Some devices, such as the Nest Cam IQ, are so smart they can learn the difference between family and strangers. Photo credit: Supplied

There was once a time not so long ago when smart gadgets and automated homes were reserved for geeks and those who understood that confusing term, 'Internet of Things'. That's definitely not the case anymore.

Nowadays, we're a lot more comfortable with using internet connected devices to make our homes safer, more secure and whole lot more convenient, controlling them via an app or voice activated digital assistant such as Google Home.

There are the lights that go on as we arrive home, the speaker that plays our favourite music, the smart CrockPot with Wemo that allows us to adjust it with an app, there's even for those who can afford it, a Samsung fridge that works out what we need from the supermarket.

"The convenience of it all is the best", says Simon West, a smart device fan.  "I love being able to wake in the morning and the coffee is brewing and the lights are slowing turning on."

By far the most mainstream smart home devices are those that keep us safe and secure and allow us to see our home away from home. That's particularly important in January, the most common time for break-ins in NZ.

Internet-connected cameras allow us to see what's happening at all times.
Internet-connected cameras allow us to see what's happening at all times. Photo credit: Supplied

Many of today's internet-connected cameras can look for motion and listen for sounds and see and record at night, showing us live video no matter where we are 24/7and sending alerts to our phones if something is up. Others allow us to switch off the alarm remotely.  

The more advanced ones are equipped with a speaker and microphone for two-way conversations. This isn't just useful for break-ins, it's also helpful if we're trying to reassure our pets while we're at work or warn those teenagers away from the fridge.

One popular global brand that's arrived in New Zealand is Nest, part of the Google family. It's been made readily available through its partnership with Meridian Energy, which is committed to helping Kiwis find innovative solutions to create safer, smarter, more optimised homes.

Nest Protect is a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm which has an alarm that can be turned off via an app.
Nest Protect is a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm which has an alarm that can be turned off via an app. Photo credit: Supplied

One of its cameras is so advanced, it's employed facial recognition technology so familiar faces can be separated from strangers.

One user told Newshub that their camera "figured out what the dog looked like and stopped sending messages when he walked through the kitchen".

Another useful device is Nest Protect, a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm which also uses the photoelectric sensors. Photo electric smoke alarms are recommended by the NZ Fire Service as they give up to 10 years of smoke detection without battery replacements.  Nest Protect has a friendly human voice that gives an early warning and an alarm that can also be silenced via the app, if it's only the toast that's burnt.

"It's the peace of mind" says Simon. "I can be at work, at the pub, or even overseas and know instantly if something has happened at home."

Even our fridges can be super smart nowadays, helping us plan our supermarket trips.
Even our fridges can be super smart nowadays, helping us plan our supermarket trips. Photo credit: Supplied

WiFi connected light bulbs are another good example of smart home devices that can make our lives easier and allow us to control light and energy use. GPS data can be added in so they can be controlled just as we're arriving home.  Bulbs can be dimmed,  have their colurs changed, and even automated on a simple timer or with other triggers like turning on when the sun goes down.  

Some smart light bulbs, such the Philips Hue range, will soon be able to react to what we're watching and listening to as well.

Philips has unveiled Hue Entertainment which synchronizes your lights with your movies and other content.
Philips has unveiled Hue Entertainment which synchronizes your lights with your movies and other content.

As this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show) revealed with a whole swathe of new devices hitting the market, many more of us will enjoy the ability to make our homes smarter with a few taps of a phone or a voice command to our digital assistant.

The key is to always buy trusted brands, to make sure we're as safe and secure as possible.

This story was created for Meridian Energy who is committed to delivering innovative solutions for more energy efficient, sustainable, and automated homes that take care of the people inside them.