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Life Hacks: 

How to connect your home with Christmas cash

The Internet of Things is a simple concept: as soon as home devices like kettles, coffee machines, thermostats and toasters are able to connect to Wi-Fi, they can all communicate with each other, and with you. That means you can control them remotely, and they’ll learn your routine and adjust accordingly. But which of these Things are worth your money? And how can they transform your house into a 21st century cyber pad? Read on, and find out where to spend that Christmas cash.

Five gadgets for the connected home:

1. Philips Hue


There’s no shortage of smart bulbs around, but Philips makes some of the best. That’s because it’s able to combine its experience in consumer electronics with its heritage in light bulbs (it started making carbon filament lamps in 1892).

You can choose from millions of colours of light, and change it from your phone. Thanks to geofencing tech, you can set your lights to come on as soon as you walk in the door, or to switch off the minute you leave. Of course you can put them on when you’re out too, to make it look like the house isn’t empty. They’re dimmable, programmable, and can even pulse in time with music. It’s the only light worth owning.

2. Nest


The smartest thermostat in town was bought by Google back in 2014. What higher accolade is there? It’s one of the most user friendly IoT gadgets around, with a big, clear interface and simple mechanism that works just like an analogue thermostat. It promises to save you a bundle on your heating bills, which is a godsend during these winter months. It’s smart enough to know when you’re in, and it needs to heat the house, and when you’re out.

Nest launched a new model in the autumn, with a slimmer body and better screen. It also lights up the display when someone is across the room, so it’s easily readable. The original and best smart thermostat.

3. Ulo


Most home security cameras are perfectly functional, but they’re just a bit boring for our taste. Ulo is a playful twist on the concept – it’s shaped like an owl, which is sure to keep the kids happy.

But its avian stylings add some cool functionality too. Battery running low? Its eyelids will droop, making it look tired. Take a photo through it, and it’ll blink, like activating a shutter on a camera. Watch a live video stream through it, and it’ll squint. Its eyes even follow you around the room, so you know you’re being watched. Its beak is also a two-way mirror that hides its night vision camera and motion sensor. Double-tap its head and you’ll start alert mode – as soon as your smartphone leaves the Wi-Fi network, this records every movement as an animated GIF and emails them to you. So if anything happens while you’re out, you’ll know about it. It’s waterproof too, so can keep an eye on your garden. The only downside? It won’t ship until next November.

4. Amazon Dash Buttons


Need some more razor blades? Or toilet paper? Or washing powder? Amazon’s Dash Buttons can help. They’re branded buttons you stick in the bathroom, on the fridge, on the washing machine, or wherever you like. Press it and it’ll automatically order another shipment of your chosen product. You’ll get an email confirming your order, and you can cancel if you’ve accidentally ordered too many (or some joker though it’d be funny to press it over and over again).

You can get them for all kinds of brands, including Bounty, Finish, Gatorade, Maxwell House, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Gillette, L’Oreal, Huggies and Greenies. It’s the future of shopping.

5. Withings Aura


This bedside light helps you fall asleep and wake up feeling rested. It comes with a sleep tracker that you place under your mattress. Once it’s recorded your sleep data, you can program the light to wake you at the optimal moment in your sleep cycle. Its sleep mode plays relaxing wave sounds and emits a red light that gently dims, helping you fall asleep. Then it wakes you with a cool blue light that comes on gradually, mimicking sunrise, to help you wake naturally.

It’s a lot less jarring than a normal alarm. Hook it up to Spotify Connect, and you can play your own playlist or one of the curated wake-up or sleep ones. It connects over Wi-Fi, and can be controlled from an app on your phone. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back.

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