Old-fashioned outlet timers allow you to run outdoor lights, pool filtration system, and Christmas decorations on a schedule. But why stick with old-fashioned? New outdoor smart plugs allow you to control lights and other outdoor electronics through voice commands, an app, or a complex weekly schedule.
Talking to a smart assistant feels unnatural, especially when simple tasks require multiple commands. But a new Alexa update allows the smart assistant to “infer” what skills you need to use based on the context of your requests. Amazon says the new feature should make Alexa feel more conversational and reduce the time it takes to use skills.
Chromecast and Nest gadgets are cheap and ubiquitous ways to expand your home network. But the positive reviews of the surprisingly hi-fi Nest Audio may have spurred Google to spy even more integration, this time as an ad-hoc home theater. According to The Wall Street Journal, a Google representative says that Nest Audio speakers will work with more conventional setups.
Roku has been branching out as of late: in addition to reliable sales of streaming gadgets and partnerships with TV makers, it’s been selling sound bars and wireless speakers. The next step appears to be smarthome integration. In addition to some basic tools for Google Assistant and Alexa, Roku is expanding into the Apple ecosystem with its latest software updates.
I was extremely excited when Lenovo first showed off the Smart Clock Essential. As a simpler, cheaper version of the Smart Clock, one of our favorite smart home gadgets, it seemed like an easy winner. Alas, that’s not the case: a combination of poor user interface choices and flaky, undependable software makes the Smart Clock Essential a dud at best.
Amazon is rolling out a smart home dashboard to select Fire tablets. The new Device Dashboard is a one-stop-shop for all smart home controls, and you can access it from a new Smart Home button on your Fire tablet’s navigation bar.
Today, Apple announced the new HomePod Mini smart speaker, which is the smaller and more affordable version of the full-sized Apple HomePod. The Mini costs just $99. You can order yours on November 6, and it will start shipping on November 16. Improved audio and Siri integrations make it a seriously impressive competitor to the Amazon Echo.
Your smart home can do lots of stuff, but it’s mostly dependent upon you to activate them. Not anymore: The Google Home system is rolling out upgrades that let you activate features based on whether or not you’re actually present in your home. The system uses an Android phone’s location (assuming it’s enabled) to determine whether or not anyone’s home.
Last year we were blown away by Lenovo’s Smart Clock, a Google Assistant gadget that makes a perfect companion to your night stand. Lenovo is back with a simpler, cheaper design, if you prefer the look and function of a more old-fashioned alarm clock but still want some smart speaker capability.
Most people can live without an expensive smart thermostat. If you want to automate your home temperature and save a little cash, then a cheap programmable thermostat is all you need. Here are our favorite programmable thermostats, along with info on why they might be right for you.