April 20, 2017

Raising your apartment’s IQ could be the “smartest” move you make this year, but how - and where - to get started? Fortunately, not all smart technology entails demolishing walls and taking out floorboards. There is a lot of smart tech out there that only needs a free spot on your coffee table in the living room. Even better, if you leave your current apartment, you can easily pack all this equipment up and take it with you to your next place.

Here are five smart gadgets to help you ride the home automation wave in style:

1. Robot vacuum:

Robot vacuums have been around for awhile - you’ve probably seen at least one Roomba video on YouTube. However, while older versions of the Roomba needed to have a set schedule to work with, modern models are far more efficient. Firstly, contemporary smart vacuums can be controlled with a smartphone app, such as the Roomba 980 and the Neato Botvac. Additionally, advanced robot vacuums can plot out a room while remembering which spots it cleaned and which spots it missed, hence never going over the same place twice. Talk about efficiency!

2. Smart lights:

The lightbulb - an eponymous symbol of good ideas. What makes these bulbs different? Well, they’re connected to the Internet, which means you can do much more with them than simply turning them off and on. For example, the Philips Hue System, offers both functions of mobile control and color changeability. Should you find the Philips Hue System too expensive, you can opt for cheaper candidates: the Philips Hue Lux, at a retail price of 20$, and the GE’s Link LED light bulb, at a retail price of 15$. No matter which color you prefer to light your rooms in, each of these options are “green” - a smart light is more energy-efficient than traditional fluorescent bulbs and can be turned off remotely if you aren’t home.

3. Smart locks:

Smart locks are a bit tricky if you live in a rented space, because you usually have to replace part or all of the door lock. To minimize the damage, you’re better off using smart locks that replace the deadbolt only, like the August smart lock. This device lets you to lock or unlock the door using your phone. In fact, a model like the Kwikset Kevo uses Bluetooth technology to recognize your phone and unlock itself. As a result, you don’t even have to use the app, you can just tap your phone against the lock. What’s more, these smart locks are still compatible with your original physical key, making it super convenient for your landlord.

4. Smart security cameras:

If you’ve ever felt unsafe or concerned about your privacy while at home in your apartment, a security camera can provide peace of mind or future evidence. Pragmatic models for renters include Canary, Piper, and Netatmo Welcome. Using one of their apps, you can see what any of these cameras are seeing. The shot footage is then stored on the cloud for future viewing. But this is only 10% of what these gadgets can accomplish. With the benefit of a learning algorithm, a smart security camera can learn when you are usually home and when you are usually out. Subsequently, if the camera registers movement at an irregular time, it will alert you. What’s more, these nifty little gadgets monitor the quality of the air, temperature, and degree of moisture in the air, all for your benefit.

5. Smart hubs:

If every gadget we’ve mentioned so far were an organ in your smart home, then a smart hub would be the brain. A smart hub is basically a centralized control unit - a technological middle man - for all your other smart gadgets. So instead of resorting to a thousand different apps for a thousand different gadgets, you can control a thousand different gadgets using one app. Add to that, a smart hub creates a platform for all your smart gadgets to talk to each other. Imagine this, the next time your smartwatch detects that you’ve woken up, it will be able to tell your coffee machine to start brewing while opening your bedroom blinds and opening your bathroom lights.

Smart technology is still very much at its infancy: it has a long way to go and a lot of hurdles to cross. Yet, it also has plenty to offer at the moment, regardless of whether you live in a luxurious condominium building or a humble studio. Go out on a limb this spring and see what smart technology you can add to your home.

Beth Kotz is a freelance finance and tech writer with a strong interest in artificial intelligence and its vast potential for society. A graduate of DePaul University, she is currently based out of Chicago, Ill.

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