There was a time in the not-too-distant past when we worried if our children were going to get into the right schools. If they were going to pass their tests and go on to have productive and fulfilling lives. Today, we seem almost more interested in making sure our homes are smart. After all, we want our lives to be easier, more intuitive and in need of the occasional hard restart.
And while the smart home craze has been gaining ground for years, only recently has the cost of entry been so affordable. It seems everyone has an Amazon Echo, a Google Home or Apple HomePod. “Alexa, order me a large veggie pizza and a gross of masonry nails.” But as great as those are for learning the weather or listening to NPR, you can do better. None of us will be happy until we have a robot cooking us dinner and drones taking out the garbage. Luckily, we’re almost there.
1. HOME SECURITY DONE FLIGHT
It may not take out the trash, but the Bee from Sunflower Labs is a security drone that will launch itself from its own secure base (aka “the hive”) when sensors detect motion around the perimeter of your home. The Bee lifts off and heads to where that motion was detected and then sends high-resolution video to your phone to show you what’s happening. It’s self-charging, weatherproof and knows the difference among animals, cars and people. Price TBD. sunflower-labs.com
2. ROYAL FLUSH
We’ve tended to look down on high-tech toilets in the past, but this might be the year when our bathrooms deserve that personal assistant touch. Speaking of which, Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet has Alexa built in. Feel free to order more toilet paper or play music on its high-quality speakers, or just talk to your (very) personal assistant. If that weren’t enough, it has sensors for water efficiency (so you’re never using more water than is necessary), as well as smart lighting in interactive, multi-color options (so that you don’t stub your toe in the middle of the night). It even has a heated seat that opens and closes automatically when you arrive. Kohler says it allows users to “fine-tune every aspect of their experience.” OK. $7,000 (white), $8,000 (black). us.kohler.com
3. THE WALL
From Pink Floyd’s legendary album to the television game show to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise, we can think of a lot of things when we hear the term “the wall.” But Samsung would like you to think of their 219-inch Micro LED TV. It uses only red, green and blue pixels, so it can deliver absolute true black but also can stun with its brightness and colors. Best of all, this is a modular system, so it can be assembled in any size or shape you want. Just imagine, John Snow at four times his real size. At press time, the price had yet to be announced, but it’s expected to hover near $100,000. (Money well-spent.) samsung.com/us
4. (RO)BON APPETIT
If you love cooking, feel free to skip this one because Moley Robotics is launching a robotic kitchen unit this year that will blow your mind. Imagine the wall of your kitchen where the range sits. Now imagine two robotic arms hanging down from the upper cabinetry, grabbing the required ingredients to re-create your grandmother’s famous pasta primavera or Ina Garten’s beef tenderloin. The company has designed this robot to make recipes that are put into its system thanks to technology that mimics some of the world’s top chefs (who helped with its development). It comes with an ever-increasing, iTunes-style library of recipes from around the world. It even cleans up after making dinner! Price TBD. moley.com
5. SMART MIRROR
Remember Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Remember the mirror that the Evil Queen was all hung up over? It seems that technology is finally available to the rest of us. Capstone Connected Home of Deerfield Beach sells smart mirrors that project through the reflective surface so that you can stream YouTube, access Google Voice Assistant, check the weather and your commute, or scroll through Instagram while brushing your teeth or combing your hair. It can even recognize up to six different voices, so it can navigate among Google accounts with complete privacy. We’ve already had televisions built into mirrors, but this is the closest thing we’ve ever had to what the inside of the mind of a Kardashian is like. By the way, you look marvelous. Price TBD. modernlifestyleconnections.com
6. KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ’EM
Many of us would rather do almost anything than fold our clothes. Solution? Order the FoldiMate. Going on sale later this year, the life-changing device allows you to put unfolded clothes in the top and see beautifully folded items drop out the bottom. Shirts. Pants. Towels. It’s like having your own domestic servant at your laundry room fingertips. $980. foldimate.com
7. WAIT, WHO’S CALLING?
With our ever-busying schedules, it can be hard to keep in touch with the ones you love. And that goes for our pets. Fido and Fluffy hate the fact that you’ve left them home alone (well, they’re together, but politics keeps them from having a close relationship). Thank God for PetChatz, the world’s most respected pet cam/treat dispenser that not only allows you to see your pet while you’re away; it allows your pet to see you! The device mounts at pet height and has a small video screen, allowing Fido to look you square in the face thanks to wireless connectivity. You can even dispense treats with the tap of a button. But the best part is that PetChatz comes with a paw-size button that sits on the floor. When it is pressed, the device calls your cell, connecting you to your dog! That’s right, your dog can call you anytime it wants. (Your cat won’t call, so let’s not even pretend.) $299. petchatz.com
8. LOOK OUT!
Do you have windows? Aren’t they a pain? Always getting dirty and just staying that way until the next hurricane. But if seeing out is important to you and you don’t like cleaning, you owe it to yourself to get Ecovacs’ Winbot X, a Roomba-
like device that climbs your windows and cleans as it goes. This is incredibly useful if you happen to have large sliding glass doors or spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows that you like to see out of. It uses a fan induction system to suck itself to the glass and then chooses the smartest path to clean the surface. $450. ecovacs.com
9. ALEXA LOOKS SHARP
We’ve already made fun of the fact that Alexa might know when you are using the bathroom, but the voice assistant could actually come in handy with Sharp’s new line of major appliances: an oven, range, dishwasher, four-door refrigerator and washing machine. The oven features 150 auto-cooking options that can be activated hands-free via Alexa; the fridge can chill bottles and cans in minutes and allows you to change the zones in the freezers to become additional fridge space; the dishwasher stores detergent and softener for up to 20 loads and can order more via built-in Amazon Dash; and the washing machine can be told to work any of its 22 specialist stain-fighting programs to leave your clothes looking great. sharpusa.com
10. FANTASY FAUCET
Who knew a voice-activated faucet was something worth paying actual American dollars for? Well, the Sensate faucet from Kohler Konnect features voice-activated technology allowing it to dispense measured amounts of water, and provides two sprays (via pull-down spray head) to help make daily kitchen tasks easier. If you say, “Dispense 2 ½ cups of water,” you get 2 ½ cups of water. If you’re thirsty, this could be a game changer. Price TBD. kohler.com
11. NO MO’ MOWING
There’s no reason to be surprised that technology has evolved to include lawn mowing. If we can have automatic vacuums that navigate their way through our rooms, sucking up all manner of refuse, it makes sense that we release a bladed killer on some offending crabgrass. Arguably the top-rated prospect in this category is Husqvarna’s Automower 450X. If your Barbie collection needed a Batmobile, this would work out just fine, as this sleek devil is capable of mowing up to 1.25 acres on one charge (it’s electric). Guide wires keep it from mowing the rest of your neighborhood, and a host of sensors onboard help keep it from mowing over the dog. You can even control it from your phone. $3,500. husqvarna.com
12. THE BLINDS LEADING THE BLINDS
If you’re like us, you know the pain and suffering caused by the constant need to raise and lower blinds. One minute it’s too dark in here, the next, it’s too bright. You have to get up, pull on a cord, sit back down… When will it end? Soon. IKEA (Scandinavian for “buy me”) is getting ready to launch automatic blinds in the U.S. Coming in regular and blackout versions, the motorized smart blinds will be able to interact with smart assistant products such as Alexa or Siri, meaning you can just say “Close the blinds” to your device and life will be forever changed. Price TBD. ikea.com
13. SLEEP ON IT
At this point you don’t have to mow, cook, clean your windows or fold your laundry. With that in mind, you should sleep in. But the bedroom is where most smart items draw the line. Not so with Sleep Number’s 360 Smart Bed. It uses Responsive Air technology to sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support. It even has FlexFit, so each side can be raised individually. It also can warm the lower portion of the mattress so your toesies don’t get cold. After all that, it sends a sleep report to your phone to let you know your SleepIQ score. Does your bed do that? We didn’t think so. $999-5,099. sleepnumber.com
14. DOJO INTERNET SECURITY
Everything in your house is now smart, which means you need to be smart, too, in order not to have your Wi-Fi and personal information hijacked by ne’er-do-wells. Dojo-Labs has introduced Dojo, a piece of technology that looks like a river rock but is, in fact, a gatekeeper for all of your technology. It constantly scans all of your connected home devices (TVs, computers, tablets, cellphones, printers, networks, routers, gaming consoles, appliances, etc.) for malware, viruses and cyber attacks and keeps them from getting hacked. It glows to let you know there are issues you need to be aware of and sends alerts to your phone. $199. dojo.bullguard.com