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Smart TVs are the latest and greatest evolution of the humble TV and deliver so much more than the traditional home visual entertainment devices of yesterday.

So if you’re in the market for the best smart TV, where do you get started and what should you be looking for to find the best box and system for your budget?

In this guide, we’ve taken a look at the very best smart TV systems, smart TV platforms, and peripheral smart entertainment devices to help you find the best smart television for your needs.

Getting Started with Smart TVs – What is a Smart TV?

The humble TV has always held an important role in the home, but the latest smart TVs represent the most recent evolution in smart home entertainment viewing and fundamentally transform how we watch shows and movies, spend our downtime, and increasingly, interact with our homes.

But what exactly is it that makes a smart TV ‘smart’?

Probably the fundamental entry criteria for any smart TV system is the ability for the device to connect to the internet and subsequently allowing the streaming of content from services such as Netflix and Amazon.

Many of the best smart TV systems build this functionality into the platform directly, allowing ease of access to the top streaming services directly through the TV’s user interface – simply choose what you want to watch and then hit play.

The latest generations of smart TV take the smart functionality further than this though, allowing you to control the box directly from a connected smart home controller or voice control system such as Amazon’s Alexa enabled family of devices or the Google Home devices.

Even beyond this though, the best smart TV systems are now designed to actually integrate as a core part of your wider smart home ecosystem, providing the ability to work as a smart controller and hub in their own right.

What this means in practice, is that the best smart TVs are quickly becoming not only the star of the show when it comes to the smart entertainment solutions in your home, but are increasingly a central part of your smart home as a whole, allowing you to connect your smart set to everything from your phone to your lighting for a fully integrated and coordinated experience.

What to Look for in the Best Smart TV

Buying a smart TV is serious business and there’s a lot to consider on the practical front from the size and brand of the device you choose through to technological considerations such as the resolution and display types.

Smart TV Display Technology Considerations

There are a couple of display technologies you’re going to want to be thinking about when finding a smart TV for your home and one of the first is choosing whether to go for the OLED or LCD/LED variants of display.

There are a few differences between the two types of tech here and it can help to know what makes one stand out from the other.

OLED utilizes a system in which every pixel you see is effectively a separate light source. The major advantage here is that your smart TV doesn’t require a backlight which in turn means it’s going to be considerably slimmer than more conventional models.

On top of this, OLED smart TVs tend to have a considerable advantage when it comes to highlighting both colors and blacks on the screen – this difference can be really noticeable once you’ve experienced it for the first time.

Conventional LED screens are the natural choice of screen type if you’re working to a slightly tighter budget and are still going to deliver a ton of bang for your buck, providing everything from a great color production to a super-crisp picture – perfect for immersive movies or box set binge nights.

As mentioned, while the quality of the picture and overall experience provided by an LED are still going to be awesome, it’s important to remember that the TV is likely to be thicker than the slimline OLED equivalent, so if this is an issue, consider making the step up.

The Best Smart TV Platforms

The best smart TV systems you’re going to come across are either going to be based around a generic platform (like Android TV) or will be specifically tied to a manufacturer (as is the case with Samsung and LG sets).

Device Specific Smart TV Platforms

Many of the top-tier smart TV manufacturers have opted to create their own platforms for running on their devices (there are a couple of exceptions to this rule – see Generic Smart TV Platforms below).

As you’d probably expect in these instances, the result is a smart TV platform which is highly tailored to the device and as such, tends to benefit from an all-round smoother and sometimes more polished finish.

For brands such as Samsung (and the SmartThings platform), the added advantage of proprietary on-board technology means the ability to effortlessly connect with native smart devices and platforms around the home, even controlling them directly from the TV.

Samsung – Eden and SmartThings

Samsung opted for a proprietary smart TV platform on their devices and the result of this is an engine which is both highly intuitive to use and effective at what it does.

The latest Samsung smart TVs are now also designed to offer compatibility with the company’s SmartThings platform which effectively means your smart TV is now also a smart hub, allowing you to monitor and control other compatible and connected SmartThings devices around your home.

Panasonic – My Home Screen

Simplicity sits at the center of Panasonic’s smart TV platform and the latest generation hasn’t changed considerably since the first version was launched.

The simple offering of My Home Screen means that the platform is highly responsive and doesn’t suffer from the some of the glitches and crashes experienced by more process hungry smart platforms resulting in a user experience which is great for serving up what you want to watch without hassle.

LG – webOS

The webOS platform utilized by LG in their smart TVs is widely viewed as one of, if not the best smart TV platform.

Often held up as the benchmark platform that other manufacturers attempt to copy, webOS provides a super-simple layout which offers a high degree of customization, allowing you to find exactly what you want to watch with ease.

On top of this, the LG smart TV offering now takes smart functionality further, with the platform allowing enhanced voice control for accessing features on the device as well as searching the listings for content based on your request.

Generic Smart TV Platforms

There are a couple of generic smart TV platforms out there, but by far the most common you’re likely to encounter is Android TV, the system favored by brands such as Sony and Phillips (at least for their European devices).

Android TV

The Android smart TV platform is the engine of choice for manufacturers such as Sony and with good reason.

Offering a high level of compatibility and connectivity, Android TV is a natural matching for Sony who have developed (and customized) it a lot since first adopting the platform.

As you’d expect from Android, you’re going to get excellent compatibility with almost all things Google and this manifests itself most obviously in the ability to utilize Chromecast as well as Google Assistant for voice control, the latter allowing you to ask the system to provide information and even to search for shows or movies by actor.

The Best Smart TV Choices for 2018

Finding the best smart TV system can feel like a daunting process with so many devices out there, each offering a seemingly endless variety of features.

We’ve taken the legwork out of trawling the smart TV landscape to bring you the very best smart OLED and LCD smart TVs for bringing your visual home entertainment experience into the era of the interconnected smart home.

The Best OLED Smart TVs

OLED displays are at the cutting edge when it comes to smart TV technology and deliver deep blacks alongside vibrant colors for an immersive viewing experience which is unparalleled.

You’re going to typically pay slightly more for an OLED than you will for the more traditional LCD display based systems, but if you do go that extra mile, you’re truly getting the best visual offering paired up with a screen which will often be so thin, you’ll barely see it from the side.

LG C8 OLED Smart TV

The LG C8 is quite simply one of the best OLED smart TVs currently out there, delivering everything from a stylish design and impressive set of features, through to one of the very best smart platforms on the market.

As well as an impressive outward appearance,  the C8 boasts a ton of tech improvements on earlier models including an Alpha 9 processor all of which add up to a smart TV system that sets the benchmark.

Features and Design

The LG C8 is a smart TV that serves up a lot of tech to deliver a

Right off the bat, it’s clear that the ultra-thin profile of the OLED panel on this smart TV has been put to good use in delivering a device that looks (almost) as good switched off in your living room as it does switched on.

With a form factor which is quite simply very thin (just a few millimeters thick at top), the C8 tapers to a wider point at the base of the device and it’s here that you’ll find the speakers which are designed to project sound towards the viewer for maximum effect.

Smart Features:

LG utilizes the WebOS platform for its smart TVs and for good reason as this highly intuitive smart platform has a reputation for being one of the best in the business, delivering a highly responsive solution that’s largely unchanged from earlier iterations.

remains largely unchanged from previous years – but, if it ain’t broke why fix it? That said, you can expect the same intuitive and highly responsive smart platform that still uses a launcher bar along the bottom this time around.

Featuring an interface that’s easy to navigate, the system is also smart in the way it learns from your viewing habits using a predictive algorithm to suggest content you’re likely to enjoy.

Streaming services are what you’d expect from one of the best OLED smart TVs and you’re going to be connected to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube in a matter of minutes once the C8 is setup in your living room.

The C8 is a an internet of things (IoT) ready smart TV and utilizes what LG call their ThinQ AI system, an artificial intelligence technology built into the latest version of WebOS devices which uses control protocols for hooking up to other smart devices in your smart home ecosystem.

What this means (among other things) is that the C8 also features excellent voice control which utilizes natural language processing as well as offering full compatibility with both Amazon’s Alexa range of smart speakers and the Google Home system.

Why We Love This Smart TV

The C8 is a smart TV that provides a superior picture and viewing experience at both HD/SDR as well as 4K/HDR and as with other OLED smart TV systems, specializes in delivering incredibly deep blacks and vibrant colors for crystal clear clarity.

If you’re looking for the best OLED smart TV platform, it’s tough to find better than LG’s WebOS smart platform with its excellent choice of streaming services while the smart home functionality of the ThinQ system makes this the perfect set to slot straight into your smart home entertainment lineup.

Killer looks and a wide ranging set of features to match, make this one of the top smart TVs for the money right now and due to this, we highly recommend it if you’re looking for the smart TV that does it all and looks effortlessly good in the process.

Learn More About the LG C8 OLED Smart TV Here The Best LED and LCD Smart TVs

When it comes to finding the best smart TV for your requirements, you’re going to be faced with two major choices – LCD (conventional LED devices) or the newer OLED format.

LCD Smart TVs offer exceptional value for money and in many ways deliver an incredible picture quality and overall smart viewing experience.

You’re going to notice a few differences between LCD smart TV systems and the newer OLED alternatives, although in many ways these are likely to be minor (less defined blacks on LCD devices for example) and for the money, the best LCD smart TVs we’ve outlined below represent excellent value for money.

Samsung Q7 4K UHD Smart TV

The Samsung Q7 is the front-runner smart TV within the company’s offering of connected televisions and brings a lot to the table when it comes to smart features and technical capability.

Opting for what’s called QLED technology over the OLED favored by other brands, the Q7 utilizes an LCD screen for Samsung’s flagship device, and the results are certainly impressive when it comes to an ultra-sharp viewing experience.

Featuring what Samsung calls ‘Ambient Mode’, the Q7 effortlessly switches to a low-power mode when not in use allowing it to blend with the room with photos, useful information, and even background music.

Smart Features:

The Q7 includes the latest version of Samsung’s SmartThings protocol which goes a long way to making connectivity to your smart home environment super straightforward .

On top of this, the device includes a good range of apps included right out of the box with others available from the app store.

It’s worth noting that as with other Samsung smart TVs, the Q7 features embedded ads along the main interface bar which can’t be permanently removed meaning you’re going to see them on and off during use.

Learn More About the Samsung Q7 4K UHD Smart TV Here OLED vs LED and LCD

Environmental considerations

OLED certainly sits at the higher price point of the different smart TV display technologies but this extra cost can be accounted for in the budget you allocate for your new smart TV beyond differences in picture quality,

If you’re looking for the best smart TV system from an environmental perspective, you may think that the eco considerations end at the energy efficiency of the device when in use, however LCD panels use the greenhouse gas, Nitrogen Trifluoride during the manufacturing process while OLEDs don’t require this, making them a greener alternative up-front if this is something you’re actively thinking about when picking the best smart TV for the job.

The post The Ultimate Guide to the Best Smart TV Systems and Platforms appeared first on For the Smart Home.

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The best Google Assistant devices are bringing the company’s smart voice assistant to the home in a big way, allowing you to take full voice control of the connected devices in and around your home simply by speaking a command to a nearby Google Assistant device or smart speaker.

Like their main rival (which takes the form of the excellent Amazon Alexa range of smart assistant devices), the Google Assistant enabled voice controllers are on hand to help you take hands free control of your connected smart home tech as well as answering any of those tricky questions that only Google has the answer to (we’re looking at you kitchen conversions).

We’ve taken a look at the best Google Assistant devices from dedicated smart speaker systems, through to smart tech with in-built Google Assistant integration to help you integrate an unparalleled level of smart home control and voice activation for controlling everything in your smart home environment.

From voice controlled lighting and temperature control, to finding out the weather for the week ahead and listening to music around your home, the best Google Assistant devices are there to help you get it done.

OK Google, let’s go.

Google Assistant Devices – The Essentials

At the most basic level, Google Assistant is a voice activated control platform that sits at the heart of microphone based voice control systems from Android smart phones through to dedicated smart speakers and even display based smart tech such as smart TVs.

When you hear somebody speak about ‘Google Assistant’ therefore, they’re really talking about the voice control platform that listens for and responds or reacts to your commands or questions.

If a smart home device is Google Assistant compatible on the other hand, it simply means that the device in question has been designed to integrate with Google’s voice control platform, but will ultimately require a stand-alone voice control unit (like the Google Home smart speaker below) before you can start controlling it with your voice.

While tech companies such as Apple are also in the game, the major players in the field of smart voice control and smart speakers are still Amazon and Google.

Much like Amazon’s Alexa system of smart speakers and voice control devices such as the Echo, Google have made a significant impact on the smart device voice control scene with their standalone devices as well as those third-party devices which integrate Google Assistant into the design for voice control.

With both of the tech giants effectively looking to dominate the smart voice control market, you’re going to find a lot of compatibility with other smart home devices in both cases, as well as each brand offering smart voice controllers which are both extremely competitive when it comes to price point and which are high in functionality.

If you’re on the fence as to whether to go down the Alexa route or to invest in a Google Assistant device, it’s worth keeping in mind that Google is the last word when it comes to online search and if you’re looking for a smart voice assistant which has access to the company’s AI and search power, both now and in the future which may make a Google Assistant powered device a solid choice if this will represent a primary use of the system in your everyday life.

Getting to Grips with Google – Google Assistant and Google Home

If you’re new to the world of Google Assistant devices, you’ll probably be wondering about the difference between Google Assistant and Google Home pretty quickly.

At the most basic level, the Google Home prefix is the name given to the company’s range of ‘in-house’ smart speaker and voice control devices.

Starting with the company’s first smart speaker device (conveniently enough) called Google Home, the brand has subsequently rolled out a couple of other devices since launch which have looked to scale the original device up and down in the form of the Google Home Max and Google Home Mini.

Much like the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo and family of devices (think Echo Dot and Echo Plus), the Google Home family of devices all utilize the same voice control platform (in this case Google Assistant) at a variety of budgets, sizes, and audio quality outputs to allow you to find the best option for your specific home and device requirements.

While the Google Home devices are all built around the Google Assistant platform, they don’t represent the only option for utilizing the system however.

Third-party devices ranging from (non-Google) smart speakers to smart TV’s are increasingly integrating the Google Assistant platform into their design meaning the choice for Google-powered voice control is now greater than ever.

The Best Google Assistant Devices

The range of smart devices built around the Google Assistant platform is greater than ever before and continues to grow with a combination of both dedicated smart speaker voice control systems from Google as well as third-party devices utilizing the system to help you control your smart home, answer questions, and enjoy hands-free entertainment using the power of your voice and the intelligence of Google.

Google Home

The flagship smart voice controller at the center of the Google Assistant device family is the the original Google Home smart speaker system.

Combining a sympathetic design with the essential elements of a standalone smart speaker system and of course, Google Assistant on-board, the Google Home is the company’s main competition to Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo smart speaker.

Google have always been competitive when it comes to the price of their smart speaker systems and the Google Home is no different in this respect, providing a good balance of a budget-friendly but feature-rich offering which works with a whole load of other smart tech devices out there.

If you’re looking for a smart speaker and voice controller that offers compatibility, functionality, and a low price-point, it’s hard to beat the Google Home.

Sound quality is always a consideration when looking at a smart speaker system and in this respect, as with other dedicated smart voice controllers, if you’re looking for a music-first, assistant-second device, you’re almost always going to be better off going for a dedicated speaker system or device that works the Google Assistant platform into the device as a bonus (more on these below).

With that being said, you’re still going to get a relatively good quality of audio output from the Google Home, so if you’re after a smart voice assistant that can play some music in the kitchen while you cook, this is still going to represent a solid choice for the money.

On the design front, the Google Home device is available in a number of color finishes meaning you’re going to be able to blend it in to most applications in your home or office.

Learn More About the Google Home Here

Google Home Mini

If Google Assistant voice control is your primary goal, then the Google Home Mini is an excellent, low-budget way to make it happen.

If you’re familiar with Amazon’s Alexa range of devices, then you will probably notice certain similarities between the Mini and the Echo Dot and much like its Alexa-based competition, the Google Home Mini is effectively a compact version of it’s larger and more powerful sibling.

What this means on the ground of course is you’re going to lose out somewhere when exchanging a smaller form-factor for a reduction in functionality and this is going to be most noticeable in terms of sound quality and audio output.

With this being said, the Google Home Mini is exceptionally priced given the number of smart control features it packs into its tiny shell and if you’re on the lookout for a miniature smart home device controller which also crams the power of Google into a minimal (and beautifully designed) footprint, you simply won’t find better than the Home Mini.

Consider the Google Home Mini if you’re looking for an entry level Google Assistant option for controlling your smart home devices if audio quality isn’t a consideration or as an extension as part of a voice control relay for controlling your devices wherever you are in the home.

Learn More About the Google Home Mini Here

The post Google Assistant Devices – The Ultimate Guide to Google at Home appeared first on For the Smart Home.

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If you’re new to the world of smart locks, then the word August may simply bring to mind hot summer days by the pool or on the beach.

If however, you’ve begun to research the topic of interconnected smart home security or are a seasoned veteran in the smart home device circuit, then you’ll probably know that when it comes to connected smart door lock systems, August are simply one of the best in the business.

In this guide, we’ve taken a look at the very best smart door locks and devices within the August family to bring you the lowdown on the last word in smart home security.

Whether you’re looking to find the best August smart home device for building into a new home automation setup, or simply want to know how the devices work (and what other devices they work with), our definitive guide to the best August smart locks and devices is here to get you started.

August Smart Home Devices – The Essentials

Let’s start with the basics – August make smart door locks (and they do it well).

With this in mind, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about the kinds of things to consider when finding the best August smart home devices for your specific home and situation.

One of the key considerations when it comes to August smart locks is that almost without exception, August devices are designed to work with single cylinder deadbolt door lock systems.

The good news here, is that if you’re based in the US or Canada, this is pretty much the standard when it comes to door locks and door locking mechanisms, so the chances are that if you live in this region, you’ll be good to go right out of the box.

If you’re based in another part of the world though, this is definitely going to be something to keep in mind before taking the plunge and investing in an August door lock, but fear not – if your door doesn’t fit this configuration, we’ve got you covered with almost every door type in our guide to the best smart locks.

Single cylinder locks (the type that use a key to unlock from the outside and a thumb turn handle to open from inside) are the bread and butter of the August smart lock devices and they’re effectively designed to allow super easy setup (no locksmith needed) to turn your existing lock into a smart lock with minimal fuss in under 30 minutes.

While most single cylinder lock mechanisms are likely to be compatible with August smart locks, a list of the specific systems and brands that the August devices will work with has been provided by the company so it’s definitely worth checking them out ahead of time to ensure compatibility.

The Smart Lock Lowdown – August Smart Home Devices at a Glance

If there’s one thing you can be sure you’re getting with an August smart lock device, it’s a wide feature set.

The latest August smart home devices provide a lot of functionality right off the bat and among the smart lock competition out there, the August range of smart locking devices are about as fully-featured as you can get.

What this is going to look like in practice is a smart locking solution that’s widely compatible with a huge amount of smart tech in your connected home ecosystem as well as providing ton of ‘local’ features specific to the device ranging from remote unlocking with your smartphone to providing guest access for visitors or housekeepers when you’re not home.

Probably the feature that you’re going to find most useful is the ability of August smart locks to automate the locking of your door without the use of your hands (particularly useful when you’re bringing in the groceries). August call this feature (appropriately enough) Auto-Lock and Auto-Unlock and it’s this functionality that quickly makes you appreciate the benefit of a top-tier smart door lock system once you’ve got one installed at home.

On top of this feature, the second big selling point of the August smart home devices is what the brand calls ‘DoorSense’ – effectively the ability to operate and keep an on your door lock from anywhere.

August Smart Lock Compatibility

An effective smart home ecosystem is one in which all of your devices seamlessly play nice with each other while also requiring minimal upfront setup required on your part.

Whether you’re talking about smart lighting or smart security, the key to a flawless smart home automation setup is choosing devices which are compatible across device types, brands, and wireless protocols straight out of the gate.

In this respect the August smart home devices do a great job of minimizing the stress when it comes to ensuring your smart door locking solutions get on with the other devices in your home.

Z-Wave Plus compatibility means you’re going to to be able to connect with appropriate devices from brands such as Nest, while the leading smart speakers and voice assistant devices are compatible with August’s flagship devices meaning Google Home, Apple’s Siri, and of course, Amazon Alexa devices are all going to get along with August smart locks once installed.

The Best August Smart Locks and August Smart Home Devices

From comprehensive smart lock systems to video doorbells that let you know who’s calling, the range of August smart home devices is designed to make your smart home ecosystem more connected and intelligent than ever before from the moment you reach the front door.

In this part of our guide to August smart home devices, we’ve broken down the very best August smart locks and gear to help you find the perfect fit for your home and needs.

August Smart Lock Pro and Connect

Without a doubt the flagship smart lock within the family of August smart home devices, the August Pro smart lock and the August Connect bridge device (included) is the last word in smart home door locking.

If you’re looking for the August smart lock that will give you the complete range of connected door locking functionality, then the August Pro is the place to start.

To get started, the August Pro smart lock provides the standard automated locking and unlocking functionality that you’ll almost certainly be looking for if you’re in the market for a smart door lock system.

Voice control is also within the remit of the August Pro and with this smart lock on your door, you’re going to be able to control the access to your door through Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple Homekit smart speaker systems.

Learn More About the August Smart Lock Pro and Connect Here August Doorbell Cam Pro

The August Doorbell Cam Pro is a solid choice if you’re looking for a smart doorbell system to let you know about (and communicate with) anyone who comes calling, whether you’re in the house or away from home.

A free basic video subscription service with the device allows you to watch any video that the Doorbell Cam Pro has captured over the last 24 hours while two-way communication and a light for illumination at night mean you’ll have total oversight to any visitors or the mailman if you’re out at work or running errands, whatever the time of day.

In addition to HD video capture and real time alerts, the August Doorbell Cam Pro is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice control smart assistant out of the box.

As you’d expect from two devices in the August smart home device family, the knockout punch comes when you tie the Doorbell Cam Pro up with an August Smart Lock with this pairing enabling you to see who’s at the door, communicate with them, and of course, let them in, all within the app from a connected smartphone wherever you are.

Learn More About the August Doorbell Cam Pro Here August Smart Lock

The lock that started it all, the latest generation of the August Smart Lock is the perfect example of a fully-featured smart lock device.

While the entry level sibling of the August Smart Lock Pro (see above), the Smart Lock from August carries a smaller price tag for the streamlined functionality that it offers so if you’re looking for a budget friendly smart lock solution that still offers a ton of smart tech under the hood, this device is a great wallet-friendly choice.

Auto-Lock and and Auto-Unlock are still standard functionality with the August Smart Lock. as is DoorSense, but unlike the Pro, you’re going to get a slightly reduced level of smart voice assistant integration with the likes of Google Assistant and Alexa. Similarly, the vanilla August Smart Lock doesn’t offer Z-Wave Plus compatibility so if your smart home environment is going to need this, it’s definitely a good idea to consider splashing out for the Pro.

With that being said, the August Smart Lock is a cracking smart lock (see what we did there?) and offers the essential functionality of one of the best smart locks on the market, providing everything from ‘phone as key’ access, to hands free unlocking and locking.

Learn More About the August Smart Lock Here

The post August Smart Devices – The Ultimate Guide to Everything August appeared first on For the Smart Home.

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Nest is one of the leading names in the world of interconnected smart home devices, offering an unprecedented level of cross-device compatibility and providing the ability to automate everything from security to heating your home.

In this guide we’ve taken a look at the entire range of Nest devices to provide you with the essential information and lowdown on each device within the family of Nest smart home devices to help you find the perfect devices for your needs and for your home.

Whether you’re totally new to the world of connected home technology or are a smart home veteran, our guide to the best Nest smart home devices is here to guide you through the ins and outs of some of the best equipment in the business.

Nest Smart Home Devices – The Basics

Owned by Alphabet, Nest Labs and their range of Nest smart home devices are designed and built around the concept of compatibility, providing the ‘Works with Nest’ platform (more on this below) as a core compatibility offering for ensuring that other devices in your smart home ecosystem will work right out of the box with any connected Nest tech without the need for a third-party integration such as IFTTT.

Since the launch of the brand’s first smart device – the original Nest Learning Thermostat – in 2011, Nest Labs have steadily grown the product offering and have risen to become one of the leading names in smart home technology.

Meet the Family – Nest Smart Home Devices

Whether you’re looking for one of the best smart thermostats for automating the job of keeping your home feeling just right, or want to bring some of the best smart home security devices into your home’s connected ecosystem, the growing range of Nest smart home devices with their legendary performance and compatibility are always going to be a good place to start.

Nest Thermostat

Featuring a 229 ppi display, the latest generation of the Nest Thermostat is designed to take total control over the smart temperature management of your home for the perfect automated environment.

The range of Nest smart home devices excel at both automation and compatibility out of the box and in this regard, the Nest Thermostat (earlier iterations were known as ‘Learning Thermostats’) is perfectly suited to take control of your home heating if you’re looking for a smart thermostat solution which will monitor and manage the temperature with minimal input, as well as offering unrivaled compatibility with other devices in your smart home ecosystem for automating device triggers.

Utilizing what the device calls ‘Farsight’ technology, the Nest Thermostat’s display knows when you’re nearby and once it detects you, will automatically light up to show you everything from weather and time to of course, the current temperature and levels of your home heating.

In terms of control, the latest iteration of the Nest Thermostat allows you to interface with your smart home heating controller in a number of connected ways ranging from app and voice control (the system is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa range of voice controllers), through to adjusting the settings of your home temperature on the device itself.

Learn More About the Nest Thermostat Here Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera

The indoor security camera from Nest is designed to detect motion and sound and report back to you through a paired phone, email or, smartwatch.

What this means in practice of course is a ready-to-go smart indoor security device which will relay a live view of whatever it sees in your home as well as storing up to 3 hours of event history for free.

The Nest Cam Indoor is a great choice if you’re looking for a smart home security camera to monitor the interior of your home while also making an excellent option for use in a nursery as a smart baby monitor when you’re not in the room.

Two-way communication is built into the Nest Cam Indoor which means not only can you see who’s there, but can also speak to and hear them through your phone – perfect for communicating with the babysitter or even with pets when you’re away from home.

While continuous cloud recording is included with the Nest Cam Indoor, this and some of the more advanced features of the device (customizable activity zones, person alerts etc) are part of a premium package which can be purchased separately although you still get a 30 day free trial once set up.

Learn More About the Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera Here Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera

The Nest Cam Outdoor is the weatherproof sibling of the Nest Cam Indoor and represents the durable external smart camera offering within the family of Nest smart home devices.

If you’re looking to implement a comprehensive smart security setup in and around your home, then a reliable and hard-wearing outdoor smart camera is an essential element to the system.

Providing a 130° Wide-angle view, the Nest Cam Outdoor captures visual footage in 1080p at any time of the day or night thanks to an in-built night vision capability from the inclusion of 8 infrared LEDs.

As with the Indoor, the Nest Cam Outdoor sends a phone or email alert whenever the device picks up activity in its field of view as well as allowing for two-way talk and listen capability for communicating with anyone outside your home such as the delivery guy or neighbors.

Durability and a weatherproof design are the ace card up the sleeve of the Nest Cam Outdoor, and like many of the best smart home security cameras for use in external conditions, it’s built to survive the elements.

Learn More About the Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera Here Nest Protect Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Quite simply, the Nest Protect is one of the best smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for the money.

Utilizing a split-spectrum sensor, the Nest Protect is able to detect both slow and fast burning fires and will immediately tell you specifically what it’s detected (and where) through your phone as well as directly from the device itself.

Voice alarms and phone alerts cover everything from smoke and carbon monoxide detections, through to sensor failure and low-battery notifications.

You know that annoying thing with smoke alarms when you burn the toast and have to hit the stop button? Nest Protect features App Silence meaning you can silence the alarm using your phone from within the Nest App.

The Nest Protect is available in both a battery-powered and wired flavor and features a 10-year product lifetime thanks to its long life sensors.

Learn More About the Nest Protect Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Here Works With Nest

When it comes to building a fully automated smart home, undoubtedly the critical factor in ensuring that all of your gear is able to communicate effectively and get on with each other in a seamless way is by ensuring maximum device compatibility right from the start.

The Works With Nest platform is one of the best examples of this in a smart home range and the Nest smart home devices all deliver this compatibility right out of the box.

Kind of like a seal of approval from Google, any smart home devices that sport the ‘Works With Nest’ stamp are basically going to play ball with any Nest device you own, be it a thermostat, smoke detector, or camera system.

The major advantage here of course is that you’re going to be able to work in some pretty awesome integrations with minimal fuss between your Nest smart home devices and other tech in your connected environment.

While this can be achieved with other devices using various smart hub systems and/or combinations of IFTTT applets to trigger responses from other equipment, having the ability to have this happen without any additional setup is a real bonus when it comes to ease of setup and use right from the start.

If you want the lighting in your home to automatically react when your Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide in the air, choosing a set of smart light bulbs that offer Works With Nest compatibility as standard will allow this with minimal steps once the bulbs are screwed in.

The Best Works With Nest Smart Home Devices Philips Hue Light and Color Ambiance Starter Kit

The great thing about the way Philips Hue connects with Nest is that it does away with the requirement for third party integrations such as IFTTT to trigger your lights to do something as a result of changes in your connected Nest smart home devices.

By connecting Hue to your Nest setup, you can get your lighting to carry out some pretty great tasks such as flashing if there’s a problem (that your smoke detector picks up for example) or turning lights on and off when you leave or enter the house.

Learn More About the Philips Hue Light and Color Ambiance Starter Kit Here

The post Nest Smart Home Devices – The Ultimate Guide to the Best of Nest appeared first on For the Smart Home.

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The best smart doorbell cameras are replacing the conventional doorbell with a smart alternative which allows you to see who’s calling without ever needing to be at the door.

Whether you’re upstairs or at work, the best smart video doorbell systems mean you can remotely view (via a companion app on a smartphone) whoever is at the front door as well as many systems also allowing you to communicate directly with the caller via a two-way microphone and speaker interface on the device itself.

The Best Smart Doorbell Camera Systems

There are a few major names in the world of connected smart doorbell camera devices as well as many lesser known, but equally reputable options which you’ll find deliver equally excellent results  if you’re looking to secure one of the best video doorbell systems for your entryway.

We’ve taken a look at the best smart doorbell models across a range of brands as well as price brackets to help you find the best solution for your home.

Whether you’re looking for a standalone video doorbell that will simply allow you to know who’s there, or want a more comprehensive smart doorbell setup that can integrate with other elements of a smart home security setup or a smart door lock system, we’ve covered the very best smart doorbell camera devices for every eventuality.

Ring 2 Video Doorbell

The Ring 2 utilizes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery making ii a great choice if you’re looking for one of the best smart doorbells that runs on batteries rather than a wired setup.

Among the top of the Ring 2’s feature list is a full HD 1080p camera which provides a 160-degree field of view while a two-way audio offering means you’re going to be able to communicate with whoever comes knocking.

A subscription service is available with the Ring 2 if you want to watch back any recorded footage captured by the camera.

It’s worth noting that while the functionality and feature set of the Ring 2 Video Doorbell are excellent, the requirement for holding a battery makes it somewhat larger than other smart doorbell camera systems on the market so keep this in mind.

In order to have the doorbell sound elsewhere in your home, the addition of a Ring Chime device will allow you to hear the doorbell in the conventional way even if you’re far from the door or your phone (the unit itself will output sound as will a connected smartphone). The good thing about the Chime is that it plugs directly into a mains socket and also works as a WiFi extender meaning you can place it a significant distance from the main unit.

Learn More About the Ring 2 Video Doorbell Here August Doorbell Cam Pro

The August Doorbell Camera is a great smart doorbell camera unit as a standalone device but is one of the best smart doorbell systems if you’re looking for a solution that’s ready to pair with a smart lock system.

When combined with the August Smart Lock, you’re basically going to be able to see who’s at the door and let them in remotely using your phone, whether you’re upstairs, at work, or even in another country.

Featuring 1080p recording functionality, the August Doorbell Camera also includes an in-built light (for use at night and low-light scenarios) as well as a two-way audio feature for communicating with callers via the app on a connected smartphone.

In terms of power, the August Doorbell Camera relies on a wired connection as the primary means of operation with a lithium-ion battery which is held in reserve as a fallback power source.

Learn More About the August Doorbell Cam Pro Here Ring Video Doorbell Elite

The Ring Video Doorbell Elite includes a number of useful features that you’d expect from a high-end smart doorbell system and allows you to answer the door from a connected tablet, phone, or pc.

Offering the ability to create and customize motion zones, the Ring Video Doorbell Elite allows you to focus the detection area of the device onto a specific area of your porch. Whenever someone enters this zone or presses the doorbell button, you’ll receive an alert.

When a visitor calls, you can then see as well as verbally communicate with them via the system’s in-built speaker and mic.

The inclusion of night vision sensors as well as a weather-resistant design means that the Ring Video Doorbell Elite is resilient, durable, and versatile, working in all conditions and whatever the time of day.

In terms of aesthetic considerations, the Elite is a good looking video doorbell system and includes four interchangeable face plates which allow you to customize the device to match your home or mood

Making the switch from a conventional doorbell to a smart video doorbell is a considerable investment and Ring recognize this with a guarantee to replace your Elite if it gets stolen once installed.

Learn More About the Ring Video Doorbell Elite Here Zmodo Smart Greet Wi-Fi Video Doorbell

The Zmodo Smart Greet Wi-Fi Video Doorbell is one of the best smart doorbell systems if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, feature-rich solution.

Providing the ability to answer the door from a paired smartphone wherever you are, the Smart Greet allows you to see, speak to, and hear visitors wherever you are.

Visuals are provided via a HD wide-angle lens which provides a clear picture of everything within the device’s field of view. An alert and recorded video clip are also sent directly to your connected smartphone if the system detects motion in the frame.

While not utilizing batteries for a wireless system, the Zmodo video doorbell does boast easy setup which utilizes existing wiring from your previous doorbell for quick installation.

The ability to save any recorded motion alert clips is limited to 36 hours of free cloud storage with the ability to opt for the 24/7 cloud recording paid subscription service (a 30-day free trial is also included) which allows you to review, save, and share any recorded footage.

Learn More About the Zmodo Smart Greet Wi-Fi Video Doorbell Here SkyBell HD WiFi Video Doorbell

The most impressive feature of the SkyBell is undoubtedly the ability to store and play back recorded video footage for up to seven days without the need for a paid subscription. This is often a premium feature on many of the best video doorbell systems so the fact that the SkyBell builds this in from the start is a great addition to a strong device.

A 1080p video quality with the ability for up to 5x zoom is the basis of the SkyBell HD’s visual offering while a two-way audio connection via an in-built mic and speaker means you can communicate with whoever’s at the door.

One of the useful features of the SkyBell HD is the ability of the device to automatically let you know if someone has been in the range of the device’s visual sensor for 10 seconds. On top of alerting you to this, the camera will also begin filming (and will store the clip in the cloud) which means you’re going to have a porch-side security camera which will keep watch over any packages delivered while you’re not home.

Learn More About the SkyBell HD WiFi Video Doorbell Here

The post The Best Smart Doorbell Cameras, Video Doorbells, and Smart Doorbell Devices appeared first on For the Smart Home.

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In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the incredible ways Amazon Alexa allows you to control your smart home devices without ever lifting a finger. From lighting and heating to sound and vision, Amazon’s Echo family of Alexa smart home devices mean you can now make it all happen just by saying the right words. We’ve put together the comprehensive guide to Echo and Alexa smart home devices to get you started with smart voice control today.

When it comes to smart home control and the future of voice-activated automation, Amazon have emerged as a serious player and arguably the current leader in the market with their Alexa smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo.

  RATINGFEATURES 
Amazon Echo9.6/10
  • • 2.5" woofer and 0.8" tweeter
  • • Line Out with Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable

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Amazon Echo Plus9.7/10
  • • Inbuilt Smart Home Hub
  • • 2.5" woofer and 0.8" tweeter
  • • Line Out with Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable

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Amazon Echo Spot8.2/10
  • • Echo functionality with a 2.5" screen and 1.4" speaker
  • • Video playback
  • • Line Out with Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable

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Amazon Echo Show8.6/10
  • • Echo functionality wih a 7.0" screen and dual 2.0" speakers
  • • Video playback
  • • Line Out with Bluetooth only

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Amazon Echo Dot8.8/10
  • • Line Out with Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable for enhanced audio output

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Amazon Tap8.4/10

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You may already be familiar with the Echo as Amazon’s answer to voice-controlled information and assistance and these are certainly areas where the device excels, with the ability to carry out a wide of remit of verbally initiated tasks from helping with your to-do lists and online shopping through to giving you live traffic and weather updates and even controlling a whole load of your integrated smart home devices.

What makes this so good is the fact that using Amazon’s inbuilt intelligence Alexa (and a few well-placed microphones and speakers), this can all be done with the power of your voice, so no more smartphone tapping required.

Amazon is the new Apple

You probably remember when you bought your first smartphone, you may even remember the phones you owned beforehand and the way that the game changed almost overnight with the launch of the iPhone and the subsequent iterations of always improving handheld devices.

In a lot of ways, this turning point is where we are with smart home voice controllers today and the transformative effect they’re already beginning to have on the way we control our connected devices, access information and build a smart home around a centralized ‘intelligent’ device.

That ‘smartphone moment’ has now arrived when it comes to smart home voice assistants and Amazon is leading the charge with its intelligent AI assistant Alexa to making your home and connected devices, smarter, more efficient, and more responsive to your every command and question.

While there are other major players (namely Google and Apple) also pushing into this new and evolving space as quickly as possible to gain a share in what will become a defining moment in smart home technological changes, Amazon are undoubtedly at the front of the pack with the always-expanding and improving Echo family of devices and the ever smarter Alexa intelligence that sits at the core of them all.

So what does this mean in practice?

Well firstly, many of the newest smart device manufacturers are increasingly building Alexa compatibility into their bulbs, locks, and thermostats out of the box, meaning with Alexa and one (or several) Echo devices set up in your home, you’re simply an unboxing away from having a voice-controlled system of Alexa smart home devices.

On top of this, many of the best existing smart devices are almost certain to be compatible with Alexa either through subsequent firmware updates, utilizing a service such as IFTTT or interfacing through a third-party smart device.

Put simply, Echo and Amazon’s flagship Alexa smart home devices are compatible with a lot of connected devices and gear in your smart home ecosystem.

Amazon Echo

From ordering take-out to dialing a ride with Uber, answering your deepest (or most shallow) of questions or just playing music, the Amazon Echo is the flagship Alexa device which also connects to your smart home and lets you make interconnected home magic happen using your voice.

Updated in a beautifully stylish and compact form, Alexa’s had a  makeover in the latest iteration of the Echo smart home devices and she looks amazing. All of the functionality of the previous Echo in a smaller shell allows the new Echo to deliver all of the benefits of the older models with even less space requirements and a variety of awesome color finishes.

Find out more about the new Amazon Echo here
Meet Alexa

Behind it all, Alexa is the voice-controlled system behind Amazon’s suite of smart assistants. Having the ability to speak your command or aska question and have a device respond is pretty awesome and this is what Alexa aims to accomplish for a wide range of jobs such as reading you the latest headlines, playing your favorite music, controlling your home lighting and even turning on your smart coffee maker.

Acting as the digital intermediary between your voice and getting things done, Alexa is the intelligence that transforms Amazon’s Echo, Dot, Show and Spot devices into smart home media control centers.

It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that Alexa smart home devices represent the turning point in the field of voice-activated smart home control and assistance.

While Apple’s Siri arguably introduced the world to mainstream voice recognition, Amazon’s platform is looking to take things much, much further from what we’ve had before, towards a world of home intelligent assistance that Tony Stark would be familiar with.

Watch out Jarvis, Alexa’s on your tail.

The Echo and range of other Alexa devices utilize what are known as far-field microphones, effectively enabling Alexa to hear your commands, wherever you are in the room and even when there’s other stuff going on around you that would almost certainly confuse lesser microphones.

This intelligent listening capability is taken further by the fact that (with the higher end devices such as the Echo, Dot and Show at least), Alexa is always listening out for your next instruction. This means there’s no need to push a button to get started with these devices, instead, you just speak the wake word – “Alexa” by default – at which point Alexa will be activated and is then ready to receive a command. From there, simply say what you want to happen and Alexa will do her best to oblige.

This means there’s no need to push a button to get started with these devices, instead, you just speak the wake word – “Alexa” by default – at which point Alexa will be activated and is then ready to receive a command or question.

From there, simply say what you want to happen and Alexa will do her best to oblige.

If an ever-evolving and always improving smart home assistant is what you’re after, Alexa offers an excellent way to dive into voice-powered automated assistance for the most common tasks you find yourself doing.

The center of your voice controlled smart home has arrived, and she’s called Alexa.

In the Ultimate Guide to Amazon Alexa and Echo What is the Echo and is it for me?

At the most basic level, the Amazon Echo is a voice-activated device that ‘listens’ to instructions and carries out simple tasks in response to these commands.

These actions can come in the form of an audio response from the device’s speakers – music or spoken information – or a relayed instruction to a connected smart home product within your wider home network – Ask for the smart lights to be switched on in the living room and illumination will follow.

So how does the Echo function as a standalone speaker system for streaming my music collection?

The Echo is capable of operating as an independent audio speaker solution for listening to music, and in this capacity, it really does perform pretty well (given that this isn’t the primary purpose of the device) for everyday use.

With a 0.6 inch tweeter for high notes and a 2.5 inch woofer for a deeper bass response, the latest Echo delivers what Amazon refers to as “omnidirectional sound” to provide broad sound coverage in all directions.

However, if what you’re looking for is a purely dedicated speaker system, there are certainly other alternatives which offer much more bang per buck at a lower price tag than the Echo.

If on the other hand, what you’re looking for is a device which offers the power to unite and control your smart home devices using your voice alone, provide responses to your vocalized requests and that outputs decent quality audio as a bonus, then the Echo is the device you’ve been waiting for.

With Alexa-based devices such as the Echo and its smaller but equally smart sibling Dot, the days of needing to free your hands to get something done in the house are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Imagine those times when you’re in the kitchen with your hands occupied cutting vegetables or washing dishes, just being able to tell your smart home to brighten the lights or asking Alexa to set a timer for 10 minutes.

The age of the hands-free home helper has arrived – and it feels great.

As well as queuing up your favorite tracks or lending a hand with household tasks, the Echo – and by extension, Alexa – can be used to find out those essential bits of information that you never have to hand when you need them.

For example, you can ask for facts about famous events or people and Alexa will pull what she knows from Wikipedia or ask a mathematical question and get the answer absolutely right, every time.

On the practical level again, combining these skill sets is super-useful when employing the brains of Alexa to assist you with your everyday household tasks such as converting units of measurement and setting reminders.

If you’re looking to build a comprehensive home automation ecosystem from the ground-up, you’re almost certainly going to want to include at least some element of voice control into the setup for your devices and alongside other solutions such as Google’s Home device, the Alexa range from Amazon are some of the best out there to get the job done.

Getting Started: How Alexa Works

When using Alexa, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that Amazon has done a very good job at designing a language recognition interface that is both intuitive to use and effective at responding to instructions and questions.

This ease of use is partly due to the design of the Echo and the Dot which incorporate seven microphones with ‘beamforming’ technology to hear whatever you ask, wherever you are in the room.

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If you’ve been looking for a smart solution to make sure you don’t forget a thing when you leave the house, the MagHive system from PITAKA is what you’ve been waiting for. Key-holder, wireless charger, tracker, and heads up display all rolled into one, the MagHive is looking to transform your experience of leaving the house and coming home again – all while making sure you never forget your keys again.

Phone? Check. Keys? Check. Wallet? Check.

What happens when you cross your everyday carry (EDC) essentials with connected smart home tech?

The answer comes from smart tech startup PITAKA in the form of the awesome MagHive system, a smart reminder and centralized scheduler that keeps your ‘grab and go’ essentials (think keys, wallet, phone) in one place with a whole load of tech smarts built-in.

Beautifully combining a highly aesthetic design with practical functionality and usability is a key component of what makes the MagHive system work well as a usable and useful system.

By some ingenious placement of magnets and the integration of a few bits of core tech, the MagHive is designed to take the stress out of remembering the most critical parts of your day before you ever set foot out for the day. And the best part about it, is that it actually works well.

We spent a week putting the MagHive through its paces to see how much it helped or hindered our morning routine and while the days of being reminded by our moms to remember our keys and umbrella may be behind us, it was exciting to have found an automated assistant promising to be the next best thing.

Here’s how it went.

Introducing the MagHive

When it comes to smart and connected tech, one of the most often overlooked areas of the home is the entry hall and foyer.

Sure you’ve got your smart video doorbells and smart camera systems, but until now, nothing has really come along to handle the business of actually leaving and returning home everyday.

Pitaka are looking to change this with their ingenious modular MagHive system.

Effectively a connected (and magnetic) repository for your keys, wallet, phone and anything else of similar pocket-worthiness, the MagHive brings together a series of simple yet effective solutions, built around a reminder system to make sure you’re ready for the day ahead before you even open the front door.

Looks like rain?

MagHive will let you know.

Need to remember to pick up the dry cleaning?

MagHive’s got your back.

The MagHive achieves this in a couple of different ways, each revolving around the unique modular hex components that make up the full system and allow for a whole range of useful features from wireless phone charging, to magnetic storage, and a display for showing you what you need to know and when.

Smart Tracking and Reminder Service

MagHive is, at its core, a smart reminder system that looks to serve you with the most relevant information you need for the day ahead, at that time when you’re most likely to forget – for example, when you’re leaving the house or returning home – and with this in mind, a whole load of the system’s functionality is built around the idea of presenting this info to you when you need it most.

Whether you’re removing your keys or wallet from the dedicated magnetic hex on the system, the MagHive will let you know (via the display unit) any reminders that have been set against that item, thanks to the inclusion of RFID tech in the form of a keyfob and wallet-insert.

What this means in practice is you’re able to tie specific reminders to specific sets of keys or wallets, ensuring different people in your household get served the relevant information once they grab their keys, but before they actually leave the house.

On top of this though, the ability to create dedicated user profiles for individual members of your household and then tying these up to a key-fob or wallet insert sensor means you’re going to be able to track whenever someone leaves or arrives home.

This means knowing your kids have arrived home from school via a notification on your phone when the system detects that they’ve placed their keys back on the magnetic home-base.

Specifications, Features, and Design

When we unboxed, hung-up, and setup the MagHive system at For the Smart Home HQ, the first thing that struck us was the aesthetic qualities of the system and its interlocking wooden hex modules.

Taken alongside the usual tech design considerations, it’s crystal clear that Pitaka were looking to design and build a system that actually looks good when it’s set up and being used in your home.

On top of the visuals though, usability, features, and of course, usefulness under real-world conditions were crucial factors in our test, so we’ve outlined the essentials below.

Size

The largest single elements of the MagHive system are the individual hexagonal modules which join together seamlessly (and satisfyingly) with the use of a magnet system to form the system as a whole.

Each hex unit measures around 5.6″ x 6.7 ” with a thickness of about 0.63″.

If you’re looking at the standard, out of the box system setup (display unit, wireless charger, RFID base unit), you’ve got a footprint that incorporates three individual hex tiles which can be laid out in multiple configurations to best fit the space constraints of your wall or chosen surface.

The great thing about the MagHive system though, is the ease with which it can be expanded to accommodate more hexes further down the line – for example if you want another wireless charger module for charging a second phone. If you’ve got the space on your wall, the system is designed to expand.

Construction and Design

As you’ve probably gathered, the main design of the MagHive system is focused around the six sided ‘hex modules’ which come in a couple of flavors in terms of functionality and allow for magnetic connection between any additional neighboring modules – what Pitaka calls ‘Magnetic Lock-and-Load’.

The build quality of the individual MagHive modules is robust, with each wooden hex offering up six connection points (one on each edge) which allow for seamless joining to the other modules in any configuration you want.

One of the great features of the MagHive design is the ability to connect the power cable (when recharging the system or running off the outlet) to any of 3 specific edges on any of the modules, maximizing the flexibility of the system and allowing it to adapt well to a variety of different locations around your home.

If any modules can be considered the ‘center’ of the whole system though, then it’s probably the hexes which contain the 1280 x 720p display unit and the magnetic Near Field Communication (NFC) module. It’s from these two modules where you’re going to be providing input (in the form of removing keys, devices, or leaving voice memos) and receiving all visual and audio notifications from the device itself.

Surrounding this, the supporting act comes in the form of an additional magnetic QI wireless charging module which can be used to charge a QI-compatible device such as a phone or smartwatch.

The end result is a seamless design and connectivity solution which MagHive ties together in a way which makes for a clean, modern, and functional user experience.

Display

The display module of the MagHive is the main visual interface of the system and focuses around a 1280 x 720p touchscreen display.

From the MagHive’s screen the standard dashboard displays a variety of useful information right off the bat – things like the current time, temperature, and where you live.

As well as providing the visual interfacing for the system, the display hex also contains the power switch for the device as well as an in-built mic and speaker for recording and listening to memos.

The companion app for the MagHive allows you to create user profiles, set message reminders, and activate automation schedules for message notifications based on things like weather changes. These show up on the front-end of the system directly through the visual display unit when you grab your keys or wallet, or replace them when you come back home.

The idea of this is that the system will serve you with a visual notification if, for example, you’ve set the appropriate automation parameters for weather thresholds. This means you’re going to be made aware of rain or sun before you leave the house and dress appropriately without any unexpected surprises.

Sensors

At the simplest level, the MagHive is ultimately a coordinated smart reminder system that utilizes NFC pairing tags to help you track your everyday carry items.

The most natural application of this is for the pocket staples – keys, wallet, and phone – and it’s with these in mind that the system has been designed.

A magnetic keyring fob and magnetic wallet insert allow you to hook up these items to the system and to ‘associate’ them with a user profile in the back-end via the companion app.

The idea here is that when you grab your gear before leaving the house, or put it back when you come home, the system will know what (and who – based on the paired profile) has just interacted with it, and depending on whether you’re removing or returning an item from the system, can then display a user appropriate notification such as a reminder or automated response.

This same logic allows the system to send a notification to your phone, alerting you, for example, when someone has arrived home or has just left.

Unboxing and Setup

As already mentioned, the default configuration of MagHive provides three Hex Modules for your various QI device charging, visual notification, and magnetic key-fob sensor needs. As well as this, the version of the device we tested included a magnetic RFID key fob and a (powerful) magnetic wallet insert. You’re also going to get a power outlet cable which is of a pretty good length, although depending on the layout in your home, you may want to invest in a longer version for practicality.

The great thing about the MagHive system is that on the hardware side of things, it really is just plug and play.

Out of the box, you just snap the system together using the powerful magnet connections on each of the three hex modules (a system appropriately called ‘Magnetic Lock-and-Load’ by the brand) allow you to effortlessly clip the hexes into the configuration that works best for your situation.

There are a couple of ways to mount the system, with the most common and practical being the wall-mounted option utilzing the hanging bracket on the back of each hex – this is what we did.

Alternatively, you can of course lay the system flat on a desk, side table, or other surface and you’re going to get the same end result.

With the system setup, keys attached to fob, and wallet insert tucked away, the next job is to install the companion app for the device on your phone before setting up the details in the back-end (location, temperature preferences etc), as well as assigning users to the system and pairing up your sensor connected items.

Again this was a pretty painless affair with a simple to follow user interface and good instructions from app installation through to initial setup steps.

The final stage of phone pairing is achieved via a QR code reader in the app which you use alongside your phone’s camera to scan a QR code on the display hex of the system to complete the pairing process.

Conclusion

The MagHive shows a lot of promise as a smart home entryway monitor and looks to bring together a couple of areas which haven’t really been covered by companies to date.

While smart tracking is certainly not a new innovation in the connected home space, bringing elements of this functionality together with a solution that also offers wireless charging, interactive notifications, voice control, is a welcome innovation, and it’s here that MagHive is looking to corner the market.

One of the features that the MagHive platform is currently lacking is any form of voice control functionality, however, PITAKA inform us that this is in the works and will be integrated into the system in the near future.

The ability to tell Alexa to turn the lights and music on while we’re taking off our shoes and jackets would represent a serious improvement on the system, so this is definitely one to watch out for.

The MagHive is also design conscious. Unlike a lot of tech out there, where the focus is on function over form, how a device looks often becomes an afterthought. It’s refreshing that this isn’t the case with the MagHive, which just looks good.

When we tested the system, we initially thought it was going to be a case of ‘cool, but not necessarily useful’, however after a week of hanging by the door, we actually found we had started using MagHive without even knowing we were doing so – it had become second nature and part of the standard workflow of coming and going.

It’s ultimately this combination of usefulness and sympathetic design that makes the system a win for us, offering the ability to integrate into your home and daily life in a way which actually delivers a practical benefit and if worked into your everyday activity, makes life easier.

The PITAKA MagHive is available for backing on their Kickstarter page now with initial shipping dates estimated for September 2018.

MagHive system kindly provided for review from the awesome guys at PITAKA. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support For the Smart Home.

The post Pitaka MagHive – A Smart Entryway Helper appeared first on For the Smart Home.

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