For anyone who grew up with dreams of flying cars and travelators in every home, the realities of ‘smart’ living might seem a little mundane, but for us, that’s the beauty of modern smart home ideas and trends. The best examples work in the background and just make life easier.
One perfect example of ‘smart’ technology sneaking into our homes is Amazon’s Alexa-enabled voice control smart speakers and devices. They have now connected more than 300 million smart home devices globally, and each one has the capability of controlling so much more than your music.
Amazingly, there are now around 2.2 million smart homes in the UK, according to research by the ecoexperts, boasting technology designed to take the strain out of daily life, save time, slash energy bills and entertain us.
The biggest smart home ideas and trends for 2023
'Smart tech is constantly evolving to help people live their day-to-day lives with ease as well as creating new ways to keep our homes safer and easier to control,' says Naeem Adam, a tech expert from electronics retailer AO.com.
With the industry evolving at a pace it can be hard to keep on top of the trends, so we’ve done the research and spoken to the experts to bring you the best new smart home trends for the year ahead.
1. The Rise of the Robots
Smart robot cleaners have come a long way in just a few years. What started as rather expensive toys that bumped around your house sucking up dirt, now feature NASA levels of navigation software that can map out your home and even clean around your mess. Prices have fallen and quality has risen sharply, and if you have a pet that moults we can’t recommend them highly enough.
That said, we’re starting to see a wider range of robotic helpers at home. Multi-purpose cleaners like the Roborock S7 Pro Ultra now have the ability to vacuum, mop, wash and empty automatically, while robot lawnmowers keep your garden looking pristine without lifting a finger. EBO Air is an autonomous, camera-packed security robot that guards your home when you’re not there, looking for problems and keeping tabs on the pets.
And while having your own robot butler might seem like a sci-fi fantasy, the reality is getting closer with gadgets like Temi who will follow you around being generally useful - face detection means it’s always where you need it - answering questions, showing content, managing smart home devices etc, and acting as a home security droid when you’re not there.
Robots are not essential members of the family just yet, but maybe that’s because we’re still expecting them to be like humans. In reality, gadgets such as the latest video doorbell, or connected lighting systems offer robotic levels of control already, just without the ‘robot’ personality.
2. Save energy, cut bills
Soaring energy costs mean we’re all looking for ways to keep bills manageable, and while there are plenty of quick tips on how to save energy the latest smart thermostats in particular can also make a significant difference.
'Installing a smart thermostat means you can control your heating on the go and avoid wasting money on an empty home,' suggests Gav Murray, Director at Hive. 'If you’re stuck at work or delayed on the way home, you can use your smartphone to stop the heating from coming on too early. It can save you up to £311 off your energy bills a year.'
And taking it a step further, by installing smart radiator valves such as Wiser in each room, you can accurately control the heating schedule room-by-room, and with clever eco and holiday modes, they estimate you can save up to £575 per year compared to a system without heating controls.
3. Smart lighting does more than just change colour
To the uninitiated, app-controlled light bulbs can seem like an expensive folly, but in truth they’re now brilliantly versatile, helping to improve security, transform bedtimes and boost your mood.
'Smart lights [Philips Hue is the market leader] can be on duty as your security Marshall, and mimic the actions of people being at home even when they’re not,' explains Giuliano Ghidini, Consumer Commercial Leader at Signify.
Colour-changing bulbs - and there’s now a smart option for virtually every fitting - can help energise you in the morning or relax in the evening, and by setting your lights to dim as you go to sleep, and brighten to gently wake you, you can ensure a calm end, and gently start to any day.
And don’t forget, if you choose a widely compatible smart bulb it can also integrate with other app-connected gadgets, dimming automatically before the movie starts, for instance, even adjusting brightness during the day depending on the position of the sun in the sky.
4. Your home Wi-Fi might need an upgrade
There’s nothing sexy about Wi-Fi routers, but without a strong, reliable connection across your entire home (and even garden) you won’t be able to get the best from your gadgets.
As crazy as it seems, according to Gary Newson, Regional Director for Netgear, 'Most UK households own an average of 30 networked devices, with some smart homes even equipped with more than 60 devices connected to the internet.' All these connected gadgets put pressure on your home network and there’s nothing more frustrating than having invested in app-controlled convenience if it doesn’t work when you need it to.
Your internet service provider should be able to offer affordable Wi-Fi extenders to help boost the signal around your home - some like EE even guarantee you can connect up to 100 products without issue.
But if you have a large house full of constantly online streaming teenagers and want to ensure a strong signal throughout, investing in a mesh-style system such as the Orbi WiFi 6E could be the best solution, as it ensures maximum speeds for as many as 200 connected products.
5. Hi-tech health and wellness is here
With the general population getting older, health tech is set to be big business in the next few years, with wellness gadgets helping keep our homes and bodies healthier. These include smart scales that track your body composition, at-home blood pressure monitors, posture-trackers and smart watches that track your heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
Air purification is one area where smart tech can help improve your health at home. The latest connected air purifiers detect levels of particulate matter in the air and adjust the power automatically. Allergy sufferers rejoice!
But wellness isn’t just a reaction to illness or fitness, it’s also about feeling good. Aqualisa has a range of connected showers with voice control that can be paired with lights, temperature and even music, to create a true spa experience at home.
6. Secure your home (properly) with tech
It wasn’t all that long ago that home security meant either having an expensive fitted alarm system or a big dog. Thankfully things have moved on since then and the best smart home security systems now consist of easily fitted alarms, sensors and cameras that can notify you of any activity at home or in the garden. The best video doorbells for instance can instantly notify you via smartphone when a visitor approaches the house, even if they don’t ring the bell, while also saving photos and video as possible evidence.
Keyless locks from brands such as Ultion from Brisant are also growing in popularity, letting you open the door with a smartphone app. A godsend to those who always forget keys, but also practical as you can remotely allow access to other people such as the dog walker or house sitter.
And while ‘smart’ security products have sometimes been seen as superficial rather than serious, some companies including Boundary now offer 24/7 call centre support, and can even alert the police.
7. Voice control really can make life easier
As we mentioned earlier, Smart speakers from Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, have proven to be spectacularly popular, with 300 million devices sold globally. It’s easy to understand the appeal; they can stream music, answer homework questions, read the news, narrate books and be used to video call friends and family all without needing to reach for your smartphone.
The success of voice control means there’s now an increasing number of compatible products, from soundbars, laptops, TVs and even cars, with hardware built-in. This means you can buy better quality speakers for instance with the same smart functionality.
And it’s worth remembering that smart speakers such as the Echo Dot or Google Nest Audio also act as a bridge to other smart home kits, so if you need to close the curtains, check the video doorbell or dim the lights, all you need to do is ask.
8. Enjoy music everywhere
It’s fair to say we’ve fallen in love with music streaming, with over 39 million monthly users streaming over 138 billion songs, according to research by gov.uk Smart speakers make enjoying this music even easier across the whole house, with brands like Sonos, Audio Pro, Denon Heos, and Bluesound able to play high-quality music over Wi-Fi, so you can enjoy a playlist in the kitchen, one in the living room and a night time mix in the bedroom.
Add in Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility and you don’t even need to get your smartphone out, just ask and your virtual DJ will do the rest. You can even stream music around the house wirelessly from a traditional analogue turntable, with the help of a streaming amplifier.
But the most important factor here is that you no longer need to compromise with poor-quality speakers to enjoy the latest technology. Even the most diehard music fan can now enjoy the best quality audio and the convenience of smart, app control.
9. Window dressings get the tech treatment
Luxury houses and hotels have boasted remote control curtains and blinds for years, but thanks to better battery technology and smart wireless control it’s now easier and cheaper to enjoy the luxury lifestyle at home.
SwitchBot has a range of plug-and-play gadgets to open and close curtains and blinds using your smartphone, and you can even set timers for dawn and dusk, which can improve sleep habits, and also enhance home security when you’re away.
'Electric blinds can also help with energy efficiency as they can be programmed to close when the sun disappears and temperatures start to drop, maximising heat retention,' says Lisa Cooper, Head of Product at Thomas Sanderson. 'And of course they’re perfect for hard-to-reach windows such as increasingly popular gable ends.'
10. Connected appliances make your kitchen smarter
App-controlled appliances started out as something of a gimmick, but the truth is, having remote control of your white goods has its advantages. Fridges that can tell when you’ve run out of milk, and even let you see inside via webcam make shopping easier, while Franke’s Alexa-compatible AQ Sense Monitor cooker hood boasts an integrated 21.5” monitor for streaming content, but also constantly monitors air quality and adjusts suction to maintain air quality at home.
Being able to start the washing machine remotely is fun, but in truth connected appliances have evolved greatly. Ben Peach, Laundry Product Manager at Haier Europe explains, 'Having app control does so much more than turn the appliance on and off, it can allow access to more than 40 additional wash cycles to take care of a specific garments as well as get maintenance updates and reminders to preserve the washer’s reliability, as well as information on the energy and water used of each cycle.'
What is the best device for a smart home?
As we’ve mentioned, the most important part of any smart home is the Wi-Fi that connects it all together, so if you struggle to get full signal in the bedrooms, it might be time to invest in a router upgrade.
If you’re addicted to the convenience of online shopping, but hate missing deliveries, a video doorbell would be a great first smart gadget. You may not catch a burglar with one - hopefully, because nobody ever tries to break in - but you’ll be able to ask the courier to put your new shoes in a safe place.
But in truth, the easiest and most versatile piece of smart home technology is a speaker with a virtual assistant built in. Whether you choose something with Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri compatible speakers, they’re great value, stream music but also offer an ever-growing list of features as well as the ability to control multiple smart home gadgets with only your voice.
What should I add to my smart home?
Assuming you’ve got some of the basics covered and are now looking to expand the scope of your smart home, it could now be worth investigating solar power and battery storage to help manage the spiralling energy costs.
With prices starting from £5,000, it’s a big initial investment, but according to Project Solar a 3kW (12 panel) system will generate around 3,400kWh of electricity per year, the equivalent to 97,000 hours of fridge, 5,000 hours of washing machine and 1417 hours of oven usage.
But there are many other ways to benefit from solar energy, for starters, Arl, Ring, Eufy and many other smart home security brands now sell affordable wall mounted solar panels to charge cameras, lights and sensors.
Battery storage is another great way to reduce energy costs, with brands including Anker selling large battery packs that can be charged up using portable solar panels, or during off-peak hours. Once full they can charge up a house full of phones, tablets, laptops and gadgets.
Does having a smart home add value?
According to research from Compare the Market, smart technology can boost the amount offered on a for-sale property by around £2,000, with 51 % of Brits willing to pay as much as £2,409 more for a property loaded with smart technology.
They’re relatively small amounts compared to the cost of a house, but a home with modern appliances and a good quality smart home security system will be more desirable, even a video doorbell can impress prospective buyers, even though they cost from just £100 to install anyway. Money-saving technology such as smart thermostats, renewable energy and LED lights could, given the current financial climate, also be seen as safe bets.
What’s next for smart homes?
If there has been one problem with smart home technology, it’s the fact that not all devices like talking to each other. Matter aims to change that, by offering cross-party compatibility across many of the leading smart home brands. The result should mean Hue lighting, Samsung SmartThings, Ikea, Amazon, Google and Apple, to name but a few, will all work seamlessly together.
Matter 1.0 launched in November 2022 with over 190 compatible smart home devices, but this is set to increase hugely over the coming years, so hopefully, when shopping for security cameras, speakers or thermostats for instance, whatever you choose will work on your chosen platform, and even alongside previously competing brands. Many existing products will also receive software updates to make them compatible.
Oddly there’s no dedicated website for Matter, but look for the logo to be sure your chosen product(s) will play nicely with others.
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