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It’s never been easier to build a smart home. Beyond the same Google/Amazon/Apple/etc. voice-powered assistant speakers you’ve probably seen on every gift guide for years, there’s a world of wonderful smart home products that can delight, surprise and maybe make your life a little easier. The following list is void of those usual suspects and features unique products that would be perfect for anyone trying to make their home just a little bit smarter. Or for you. Whatever works.
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The promise of the Brilliant Controls panel is to provide a dedicated place to control your myriad smart home devices, all while adding a few remotely controllable light switches to your walls. It’s got a built-in camera (with a physical privacy shutter) that you can use for room-to-room video chats, or to check up on your home while you are away. Supported devices include Wemo smart plugs, Ring alarms, Sonos speakers, Philips Hue and Lifx lights, as well Schlage, Yale and August locks, among others. The number of integrations keeps growing and covers most of the major brands, but if you’ve bet on other systems, this isn’t the controller for you. It comes with built-in Alexa support and works with the Google Assistant, too.
Price: Starting at $299 on Amazon
Flair Smart Vent
Smart thermostats are fairly ubiquitous these days, but depending on which one you’re using, you could be getting a lot more from your home heating and cooling with relatively simple DIY upgrades. The Flair Smart Vent system is one such upgrade, and though it costs a bit upfront to get going (each register is $79 to start, depending on size — and you’ll need at least one control puck to act as a hub, which adds around $100 to the cost of entry) you won’t have to call an HVAC contractor or break down any walls to take advantage of what it offers.
Price: Around $200 for a starter kit that includes one register and one puck, direct from Flair
Many smart home gadgets focus on convenience or automation of typically manual tasks, but Flume’s smart water sensor provides a potentially much more vital service: the ability to track how much water you’re consuming and alert you to potential leaks in your home’s plumbing. The company just released its second-generation Flume Smart Home Water Monitor ($199), and the device is easier to set up and smarter than ever.
Price: $199 on Amazon
Give the gift of art this holiday season with Netgear’s Meural. The connected screen is purpose-built to display artwork. The company offers a subscription service that provides access to the best art throughout history and even packages the art in a way that ensures nothing gets stale. Of course, the owner can also upload their own art to the display.
Price: Starting at $299 from Netgear
Think of the Sensibo as a smart thermostat for those who do not have a central/heating cooling unit. If a person has a window air conditioner, portable room heater or modern heat pump — any device that has a remote control — the Senisbo will control the temperature. The latest version retails for $149 (it’s often on sale) and works great. If you have multiple heating and cooling devices, get a couple of these devices to have complete control.
The company launched in TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield competition in 2015 and has since evolved the product into a powerful platform that can automate a person’s heating and cooling needs.
Price: Starts at $115 on Amazon
DIY smart display
There are countless DIY smart home kits on the market and Adafruit has a great collection. The company’s PyPortal is a great jumping off point as it provides the builder with a touchscreen display and basic computing platform that allows for all sorts of uses. With just this kit, a person could build a smart alarm, smart display or Amazon Echo clone.
Price: $55 from Adafruit
Nanoleaf products work like interactive, programmable art displays… and, for bonus points, they look like something out of a sci-fi movie. Once you’ve snapped the modular panels together, you can tie them into HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home, or if you’re feeling fancy, use services like IFTTT to programmatically recolor the lights based on the weather outside, or flash whenever you’ve got an incoming message. The kits with everything you’d need to get started (the controller, power plug, and a handful of panels) start at around $150-200, while expansion packs with more panels go for around $60-70 — so it’s not a cheap hobby, but you can start with just a few panels and build up over time if you’re so inclined.
Price: Currently starting at $180 direct from Nanoleaf