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Get smart at home

Next-generation gadgets are coming thick and fast to the market and now is the perfect time to look at your home, lifestyle and security. Here are 10 gadgets for sale from smart thermostats and Robot vacuum cleaners, to security cameras operated from your iPhone.

Lights, camera, security
Security lights and CCTV are a useful way to deter intruders. Nest Cam (from around £179) is an innovative system that beams pictures from your home camera to your iPhone, so you can see what’s going on when you are not there. You can even remotely speak to people knocking at your door, so you can direct a parcel delivery. The system plugs into the mains electricity, so you don’t have to worry about batteries, and it can store images for up to thirty days.

No more housework
This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Robot vacuum cleaners can be left to get on with the task while you enjoy your morning coffee. They are perfect for light housework or a daily sweep. There are plenty to choose from, including the Dyson 360 Eye (£799.99 available from Currys) to the Eufy Robot Vacuum RoboVac 11(£219.99 available from Amazon).

Thinking ahead
How often do buy milk, then find you already have a couple of pints in the fridge already? The Samsung Smart Refrigerator (£1,999) means that this will never happen again. It has cameras inside, so you can have a look round via your mobile when you are out shopping. Not only that, but it has a shopping list facility and will come up with meal ideas based on what needs using up.

Time for an audit
January is a good time to audit your emergency procedures at home. Look at each room and imagine how you would escape. A smoke alarm (from £12) gives you extra time when every second counts. Consider having fire extinguishers and emergency ladders on upper floors and make sure you can get out of the windows. Carbon monoxide alarms (from around £12) should be placed in every room that has an open fire or boiler or any gas stove. Nest offers high tech combined solution with a carbon monoxide and smoke alarm (around £110)

Let there be light
Lighting systems that can be controlled from your iPhone, mean you no longer need to fall over the cat on the way into the house. You can also turn lights on when you are away, so it looks like you are home. And you can programme lighting to turn on gently to wake you up in the morning. For Hue personal wireless lighting (from £50), try


Be energy efficient 
You want to save money on your energy and save the planet, too. A simple way is to regulate the heating, so you aren’t warming rooms that are empty. Thermostats on radiators mean you can turn down the heat in bedrooms, while still being cosy downstairs. Room thermostats have always been able to automatically switch the heat off when the temperature reaches a pre-set level, but now smart thermostats (from £219) learn your movements and regulate the temperature accordingly.

Household assistant
Smart speakers are really starting to compete for our attention. There are a lot of features to compare, and plenty of price points. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are all voice-activated – handy if you are up to your elbows in flour. Apple’s Homepod is due to be launch this year, too.

Lock it up
Upgrade your locks on doors and windows.  Banham Locks was founded in 1926 and nearly a century later the family-run company in Kensington High Street is still making London secure. It offers a free security survey to homeowners. Top tips include fitting three locks on your external doors, including a five-lever mortice deadlock, where you have to use a key from both sides. This will help you get the best price for your home insurance, too.

Home alarms
A home alarm system is an extra security feature and it is important to take professional advice here. Wireless battery systems start from around £75. You will need to replace the batteries regularly, but battery life is now measured in years rather than weeks. Either way, you can have a system that just sounds an alarm, or you can have a system that texts you to say there is a problem. Others, will alert the police or a security office, if there is a problem. Banham, as mentioned above, is a local firm that offers a 24/7 monitoring service to safeguard your property.

Team up
The OWL Protect is a tried and tested neighbourhood watch scheme. It is effective and friendly. You will receive email alerts about your area with updates and advice, and the group fosters a community spirit which helps to make your streets safer. The not-for-profit group has an online shop selling simple security devices.

Top tech tips for the home: 

  • Interactive devices can be vulnerable to hackers. Check whether the gadget has a mute button to disconnect the microphone and change the code word that activates it, so that it’s not switched on accidentally.
  • Reputable brands let you review and delete your voice history, so take advantage of this option and do it regularly.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date and use complex passwords. Change your passwords regularly to protect your technology and your home.
  • Be careful what you connect. If you sync everything and the system is hacked, the hackers have access to everything.
  • Some people use two WiFi networks. This means you can allow any visitors to the house to use one without giving them access to all your personal information.

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