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Keeping tabs on your home from miles away has never been easier

por Eunice Le Hunte (2020-02-14)

Lovers of technology must feel they are in clover. Another day, another piece of wizardry. can view the contents of your fridge from thousands of miles away; you can monitor how a cake is doing in the oven; you can turn on or off your heating, talk to a delivery man even when you're not in, check whether the garden needs watering.

In fact, you can be in almost total control anywhere in the world as long as your ‘smart' appliances are connected by your home's wifi and then operated remotely through an app on your mobile.

Sales of smart home products at John Lewis were up 106 per cent last year and are on track to double this year

But hurry. The technology landscape is forever changing. The new version of the Samsung Family Hub fridge is out later this month for a cool £2,999 — and it comes with built-in cameras, tracks expiry dates, suggests recipes based on your leftovers and will even talk to you.

Activated with Bixby voice control, you can ask ‘Hi Bixby, what's new today?' and it will read out the news, weather and calendar updates tailored to you.

Sales of smart home products at John Lewis were up 106 per cent last year and are on track to double this year. The good news is that if you want to join the smart revolution, you don't have to spend a fortune. However, you will in some cases, need a smart phone — one that is capable of downloading apps and operates like a computer.



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Smart lighting is a popular starting point — and costs from as little as £29 to set up — at Ikea. You don't need a smart phone for this system. A remote, which can only be used in the house, puts you in charge of up to ten wireless LED lights. Switch from cool to warm light, and dim or brighten to create a range of moods.

Using an app, you can also, however, set it up to link to your smartphone so you can be in control when you're out of the house. Ikea also sells a motion sensor (£16) which detects you entering and leaving a room, turning the light on and off.

Smart plugs are another easy way to get your home in the smart zone. They can make any appliance or lamp remote-controllable. Handy if you worry about whether you turned off the iron.

Put your question to our team of independent experts. Click the more button to email us more Plugs from Hive cost £39 each and you simply plug an existing appliance into the smart plug, which goes directly into the wall. The Hive app, once installed on your smart phone, will connect with the plugs and allow you to switch them on and off.

When it comes to security, such technology can be useful. Ring is a video doorbell with an in-built camera and audio that lets you talk to people at your front door, even when you're out.

Prices start from £89 and installation involves mounting the camera and doorbell units and installing the Ring app on your smart phone. You can also buy a video recording plan allowing you to access videos of your home surveillance anytime, anywhere, save them for up to 60 days, and even share your videos with friends, family and neighbours.

The Nest cam, pictured, also sends camera feeds of your home — inside or out — to your mobile phone. Prices from £159, Yale has launched a smart lock allowing remote control of your front door. It's operated manually by punching in a code on the keypad or with a key card — like the ones used in many hotels.

A four-bedroom smart home costs about £435,000, and residents can control everything from their front door to the kettle with their phone

It can also be controlled with a smart phone so you can let a friend in if they arrive early and you're stuck in traffic. Or you might want to offer a one-time code to a plumber so you don't have to take a day off work, for example. Priced from £129,

Laurence Mitchell, head of electricals buying at John Lewis, says: ‘Home monitoring is attracting interest from consumers as it is more affordable and flexible than the traditional built-in alarm systems. Such products can help you keep an eye on elderly parents in case they have a fall and need help, for example.'

The Nest Protect smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarm runs battery and sensor checks some 400 times a day and alerts your phone to any problems. It costs about £90.

Heating is another popular area of the smart world, particularly because there is an opportunity to save money on energy bills.

Hive - one of the first to launch - is from £249 - which includes it being set up by a British Gas engineer. A device is installed that is connected to your central heating and hot water system. Once the Hive app is downloaded to your phone and connects to your new device, you can switch your heating on or off remotely.

While a recent survey revealed that a quarter of homes now contain a smart device of some sort, a new development of houses in Milton Keynes — Sommar Place — is stocked from floor to ceiling with smart appliances. The homes, ranging from two-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom townhouses, are almost totally controlled via smart phones.

A four-bedroom smart home costs about £435,000, and residents can control everything from their front door to the kettle with their phone. 

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