Smappee is like no other energy monitor we've seen. It learns the 'signatures' of devices using the electricity supply and over time it can build a list of how much electricity you are using, what items are being turned on and off, and which are the main offenders for making your bills jump sky high. Add in the company's 'comfort plugs' and you can trigger appliances to turn on and off to a schedule, or use the remotes if you prefer.
If this technology wasn't proprietary, it would be a major contender. It does have an API, and there's already an IFTTT channel, but to make a real splash it needs to align itself with one of the wider ranges such as ZigBee or Z-Wave before it can really shine.
That said, it's an amazing bit of technology that's surprisingly easy to fit. It can even account for a generator, or solar panels on the roof, measure them separately and offset them against your mains energy use.
The app is intuitive and detailed, and you'll soon find yourself sneakily switching stuff off just to see what difference it makes to your energy outlay.
An enterprise version has just come on the market too, which offers the same benefits to offices, suggesting that more features will trickle down to the consumer app.
Fibaro Home Centre
£225 (Lite) £460 (HS2)
Fibaro is a Polish manufacturer aligned to the Z-Wave network and offering a whole range of sensors and triggers. However, Z-Wave's cross-compatibility means that any other manufacturers' devices will also work. The Home Centre is the hub of the system, which acts as 'mission control' to the smart plugs and sensors.
For it to work with things like wall sockets, you will need to fit sensors, which makes Fibaro a big commitment, but what you get for that goes over and above anything you can expect from a standalone unit.
As well as Z-Wave, its open API has led to compatibility with a high number of IP devices from Blu-ray players to security cameras. You can use an IFTTT-style series of graphic commands, or program it yourself using Lua - a simple-to-pick-up-for-nerds programming language.
The possibilities are endless, though. We were able to trigger our lights to come on when they detected motion, but only if the light levels were low enough to justify it. Plus, between certain powers, the light level triggered could be lower so as not to disturb your partner as you stumble to bed.
With applications from a burglar alarm to a flood defence mechanism, this is easily the ultimate way to automate your home, but it comes at a hefty cost so make sure you're committed.
NetAtMo is the first company to release a home security camera with face recognition. And you know what? It works. After a little bit of training, the number of false motion detection alerts slumped to zero, until a guest comes over, which in itself acts as a reminder to 'introduce' them to the camera.
With a 130-degree field of vision and full infrared night mode there's very little to complain about. Especially when you discover that all the recordings of unrecognised movement are stored on a microSD card and streamed directly from the camera to your device, not stored in the cloud. You can choose to save clips or they'll start to overwrite when it reaches the capacity of your chosen card.
'Ah,' I hear you say. 'But what happens if someone just rips it off the wall?' Easy. The Welcome camera has one final trick up its sleeve. If an unknown face gets too close to the lens it will email a photo to NetAtMo, which will release it on request when you report the camera stolen.
At the moment it is being released as a standalone product, but there is an open API which will allow more compatibility in the future.
Hive Active Heating 2
£99 upgrade for Hive customers, £249 for new customers
The Hive has been around for a while; you can hardly have escaped its chirpy jingles on the TV. But the British Gas-owned smart thermostat has undergone a major revamp as part of its plans for a full, simple to use home automation system and started to rollout motion detectors, smoke alarms and other bits that tie together to create a full home system.
The flagship product hasn't been ignored either, sporting a new look including Dulux colour matching to surroundings, a new knob design from Yves Béhar that will make Apple spit fire, and controls that simply disappear when you're not using them. Add to that the improvements to the app which allow more on/off times during the day, and other safety features like frost protection and a holiday mode, and you've got one of the most idiot-proof products on the market.
An extremely robust, weatherproof camera designed for the outside of your property. It offers infrared night vision, mobile alerts and HD video, and will store your recordings in the cloud for seven days, with an option to up that to 30 days for a subscription. It looks the business and will last for years judging from the build quality.
To get it working over WiFi was slightly fiddly as it had to be connected via Ethernet first, then once that was sorted it had to be taken away for mounting. You can view it on your mobile device. So far so good, but it comes with a butt bigger than J-Lo.
There's no API, there's no standard format, but it does have its own channel on Roku, so you can play back those moments of absolutely nothing happening via your TV.
In short, a cracking outdoor camera.
£34 with quantity discounts available
The Flic was an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign. The idea is simple: Bluetooth buttons that sit around your home and trigger actions programmed by your phone or IFTTT.
The first batch has arrived and we have to admit that the idea of a button that does 'anything' is rather charming. You can set different actions for one-click, two-clicks and a long press. There's an optional clip if you want to wear it on, say, a belt loop, which is to a certain extent advisable because it does rely on the Bluetooth being in range of your phone.
What it can do is limited largely by your imagination. Full IFTTT compatibility means that you can trigger any action, as well as a few more included directly in the app.
From a simple long press to find your phone (if it's in range), a double-tap to go straight to The INQUIRER homepage (we like that one) or a single press to control a Philips Hue lightbulb, there are a lot of possibilities.
The rubberised surface is pleasing to touch and glows red when pushed. We'd love to see another one further down the line that adds WiFi connectivity, but as a proof-of-concept and a solution to a problem you were yet to find out you had, we're rather fond of it. µ
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