The last twelve months have been fascinating for fans of smart home technology. Seemingly everyday, a company thinks of a new way to spin a simple household item into the latest smart device for your living room or kitchen, or they develop an entirely new product you didn’t know you needed on your coffee table. The scope of home tech this year was wide and varied, with great new products and stellar updates coming from nearly every corner of the home.
The biggest name to enter the fray was undoubtedly Google, who came out swinging this fall with Google WiFi, Chromecast Ultra and Google Home. Mountain View wasn’t the only company to make waves in 2016, though. There were great contributions from standard bearers like Samsung and Roku, as well as smaller outfits like Nanoleaf. No matter which way you slice it, it was a great year for smart home gadgets.
Here are the year’s 10 best:
10) Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator
Refrigerators don’t have to be boring. In fact, Samsung believes your refrigerator should be one of the best pieces of tech in your house, and the company has delivered a product with the potential to make good on that idea with the Family Hub Refrigerator. The biggest caveat, and it is a massive caveat, to the machine is its price. With a suggested retail mark near $6,000 (though you can find it at various retailers for much less) this is not the kitchen appliance for most people. But for those who have the budget, it is the absolute best you can get. The star of the show is the enormous, 21.5-inch touchscreen that works as an entertainment system, but also a way to keep on top of your groceries. Thanks to an array of cameras inside the you can see if you really need to buy milk even while away from home. It’s not the fridge for everyone. It’s not even for most people. But it is the most fully featured fridge of the year.
9) Nanoleaf Aurora
Smart lights have been one of the most successful home gadgets for years thanks to their blend of practicality and relative affordability. Nanoleaf takes the smart light idea and injects a serious dose of cool into it with its modular panel system, Aurora. The lights work both as a way to brighten your home and add a distinctive art feature to your wall. You can rearrange them into various shapes, adding and subtracting as you see fit (the system supports up to 30 modules), to make Aurora work for you and your home. Add in a sleek app to manage it all, plus the ability to control them through Siri voice commands for iOS users, and the Aurora by Nanoleaf is one of the most interesting new products of 2016.
8) Joule by ChefSteps
Sous-vide has grown in popularity over the last year, offering a nice alternative to grilling and other traditional forms of cooking. There have been numerous kitchen gadgets accompanying the new method’s rise, and the Joule is the best. It’s strips away nearly everything, relegating most controls to an app on your smartphone, making it incredibly easy to use. It’s even compatible with Alexa, so you can use your voice to control it, a fantastic feature for any gadget in your kitchen. If you’re looking to get into sous-vide, buy the Joule.
7) SkyBell HD WiFi Video Doorbell
As with a lot of smart home tech, choosing a connected doorbell can feel preposterous and impossible. There are numerous options, and if you don’t quite know what you’re looking for, choosing the right one can feel like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. Thankfully, 2016 gave us a clear frontrunner with Skybell’s HD video doorbell. It’s the follow-up to last year’s excellent version, which made our list of best home gadgets for 2015. The latest effort separates itself from the pack with its crystal clear 1080P resolution, on-demand clip recording, free video storage and third party integrations like IFTTT and Amazon’s Alexa.
6) Nest Cam Outdoor
In-home security cameras have been around for years now and one of the most popular options has long been Dropcam, which was acquired by Nest in 2014 and became Nest Cam. The outdoor version continues the camera’s track record of excellence, with crisp 1080P recording, a wide-angle glass lens, three hours of free cloud storage and nice integration with Nest’s suite of products. As with any Nest product, in order to get the most out of it you need to sign up for a monthly service, but if you’re looking to beef up your home security, the company’s outdoor cam should be on your checklist.
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SOURCE: Paste Magazine, Eric Walters