It’s never been easier to transform your home environment into a smart home environment. With so many of us locked down or working from home, it’s also a more highly desirable state of affairs, because if you’re going to spend even more of your time within your own domicile, it may as well be as nice as possible.
Where once setting up a smart home with hands-free devices mandated a visit from your local electrician and complex internal wiring, most smart home devices these days operate wirelessly and with the use of smart digital assistants from Amazon, Google or Apple, and frequently all three. It’s well worth checking the specifications for each gadget to ensure that it meets the digital assistant that you use, however.
For Apple users, that’s Siri, but what you want to look for specifically is compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit standard. It’s a little simpler for the other digital assistants, with direct mention of either Alexa or Google Assistant in the specifications a clear indication of compatibility.
Once you’re sorted on your choice of assistant, it’s time to get smart with a selection of hands-free gadgets.
Smart speaker: Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen, $39, normally $59.99
Many smart home gadgets run via their own smartphone apps, but – even if I’m just being a little pedantic – that’s not truly hands-free, because you’ve got to locate your phone, unlock it, open up the app, wait for it to find the gadget and then tap its onscreen commands to get it to do what you want.
A lot of current smart home devices become true hands-free gadgets once you hook up a smart home speaker. There’s a wide range to choose from covering the primary smart assistant software, but if you’re looking for a low-cost entry-level model, consider this one.
It’s small so it won’t be terribly noticeable in your home’s décor system, but it’s an easy way to add voice commands to most of your gadgets, or even full routines that kick in every time you invoke Alexa.
Mention smart homes to anyone and they’ll probably think of smart lighting first and foremost. Philips isn’t the only brand on the block, but it’s a brand with a strong reputation and a truly massive line-up of available light types and fixtures to build from. The first step is a starter pack that includes the Philips Hue Hub, which acts as the brains of the whole operation.
Video Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell, $125
A video doorbell is another easy to use hands-free gadget that has applications both for when you’re out of the house but a courier or door knocker shows up and for when you’re home if there’s a delivery that you want to manage in a contact-free way.
Ring’s recent lineup of smart video doorbells starts with this very affordable entry-level model. You do miss out on a removable battery with this model, but you get improved motion detection and easy Alexa compatibility, which is no surprise given Ring’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon these days.
Robot Vacuum cleaners are a well-established smart device category, but to make it a truly hands-free gadget you’ll need a model that supports voice activation. It supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to start its home cleaning duties, which also extend to home mopping with very good results. It’s even smart enough to dodge carpet when it’s busy mopping your polished floors.
There’s something very cool about a door lock that secures itself and unlocks when it senses your phone approaching – or in other words, when you return home, no key required. The Nuki Smart Lock also promises to be easy to install and uninstall, so it’s a smart choice if you’re renting your property too.
While the only thing you’ll have to actually do in a hands-on manner is to prepare your ingredients – at least until the boffins perfect that robot butler I’ve been waiting on for years now – this guy allows you to go hands-off in terms of your sous vide cooking with a direct Bluetooth connection to your smartphone.