The Internet of Things is a term you've probably heard before, and it's certainly a term that describes the way technology is advancing so much that things that were never considered 'smart' before are beginning to connect to the internet to potentially enable a whole new way of living. Over the past few years, we've seen an influx of new gadgets that can help you make your home smart, from thermostats and light bulbs to switches and door locks. Here, we talk you through how you can make your home a smart home and start living in the future today.
In this article, we talk about smart objects that you can buy and use today, but before long our fridges and freezers will be smart, able to order food and other supplies as you need them, and even that's just the beginning. The aim of the game is efficiency: maximum comfort for minimal cost to you – and the environment.
How to make your home a smart home: Lighting
Installing smart lighting is a simple first step on your way to a smart home. Smart lighting can be pretty cool. Some of the bulbs we've tested allow you to set mood lighting for the different rooms in your house, control your lighting from afar from your phone or tablet, and schedule them to turn on and off at pre-set times. You can even use them as an alarm, gently waking you up in the morning. One of the smart bulbs we've tried can even blast out tunes from your ceiling.
If you're interested in adding smart lighting to your home, see our round-up of 10 best smart lightbulbs.
How to make your home a smart home: Heating
You can also turn your home into a smart home by investing in a smart thermostat or smart heating system. You've probably seen the adverts for Hive with its quirky song about how great it is to control your heating from a laptop, smartphone or tablet. And yes, it is a cool thing to be able to do. But more than that, smart heating is likely to be a key part of every home going forward. As fuel costs rise and supplies run dry the ability to heat our homes in an efficient way will stop being a nice bonus, and become an essential part of every home's economics.
Smart thermostats and smart home heating systems became readily available to almost all homes. If you have a boiler and central heating you will likely be able to fit one of the systems on the market. To find out about the best smart thermostats available, visit our best smart heating systems article.
How to make your home a smart home: Cleaning
You may have already heard of robot vacuum cleaners, which pair with your Android or iOS device via an app and then take it upon themselves to vacuum the house while you get on with other things, intelligently avoiding furniture and other obstacles. Smart vacuum cleaners are undeniably cool, but out of many people's budget. Also see: Best robot vacuum cleaners
The good news is right now GearBest has a sale on Chuwi iLife robot vacuum cleaners, with the iLife V7 reduced from £248 to £106, the V5 from £101 to £71, and the V3 from £296 to just £74. (Read our advice on buying grey-market tech.)
How to make your home a smart home: Switches
Just as smart thermostats are muscling in on old boiler timers, today's smart switches are having a good go at yesterday's twiddly timer switches. A smart switch is basically a switch that you plug into a power socket and then plug another device's plug into so you can control it via an app on your smartphone or tablet. With the best smart switches, you can set schedules, monitor energy usage on electronic devices and find out which devices are used most often and when. Armed with such data you can start saving on your home's domestic electricity usage.
Find out more about Smart Switches in our best smart switches round-up.
How to make your home a smart home: Smart doorbell
Yes, you read that right. Next on the list is the smart doorbell. Combine it with a security camera and you've yourself a clever entrance system for your home.
In the past, video-enabled entrance systems required a lot of money and expertise to install and maintain. They were the preserve of swanky apartment complexes or spit-drenched local authority housing tower blocks, often in a state of disrepair. But now everyone with a smartphone can have a smart security camera and entrance system.
Find out how to set up a security camera and video entry system with a smart doorbell here. Also check out our review of the Piper nv home security and automation system.
How to make your home a smart home: USB power sockets
These aren't necessarily smart in the same way as the other gadgets in this article – they're not connected to the internet – but they do make life easier. We're talking about wall plates with both power sockets and USB slots. With a daily need for charging, smartphones and tablets end up causing more USB and Lightning cable mess than old-fashioned rotary dial phones with their curly cords. Wall power sockets in every room of the house are being taken over with plugs for USB cables, meaning you need to disconnect the lamp just to charge your smartphone or tablet.
But with wall plates that include both 3-pin power sockets and USB slots, that's a thing of the past. There are now a few companies selling such wall plates. We've reviewed the Group Gear USB charging plate and the USB wall charging flat plate.
How to make your home a smart home: smartphone controlled home cinema system
Yes, you read that right - an accessory that can control every device in your home cinema system, from speakers to DVD players to Freeview boxes to the Apple TV. In fact, the Logitech Harmony smart control can control up to 225,000 devices and if you find one that it can't control, you can program it in yourself using the remote. You can access Harmony via your iPhone or Android, or via PC or Mac from anywhere in the world, not just from your front room. You can set activities, which are a set list of actions for the Harmony to follow to make your life a little easier, for example: turn TV on, turn Freeview box on, turn speaker on, change Freeview channel to 28 and then turn up speakers.
If it interests you (and why shouldn't it?) check out our full review of the Logitech Harmony smart remote here.