Bill Head

You may have thought 2016 was the year of Alexa, but brace yourself. We have only just begun to witness the era of smart home technology. The New Year is bringing a lot of new technologies with it. Some of the gadgets will blow your mind. Some of them might just bend it a little. A few might just leave you scratching your head. Consumer product experts seem to be most excited about the ones that will change your home life.

From a safety standpoint, few can argue there’s room for improvement in those the little plastic outlet covers we use to keep junior from jamming a fork or a finger in the wall socket. New safe outlets can detect whether or not a plug is in the wall and won’t deliver current if what’s in the wall isn’t supposed to be. Other advances in home safety include greater connectivity of security systems, locks, and lights with smart phones so you have a better idea of who is at your house and when. From a convenience standpoint, letting the neighbor in to feed your cat just got a whole lot easier.

Normally dumb doorknobs aren’t the only things getting smart, either. Set the mood with color shifting lightbulbs, or start your robot vacuum on a new cycle from your phone. Other small appliances including coffee pots, slow cookers, – you name it – can tap into your wi-fi and get things cooking when you’re on your way home. Larger appliances like ovens, refrigerators and washing machines are in the mix, too. Your fridge can tell you if you’re out of milk, your oven can preheat itself and your dryer will be able to call the repairman when it needs service. Hopefully it understands the importance of a good warranty.

Speaking of that, let’s go back to Alexa for a minute. The Amazon product isn’t alone in the voice-command module market and Apple’s HomeKit is making a big push this year. Both Amazon and Apple systems are now allowing outside developers to create products that work with their systems, so new products are going to be flying onto shelves.

Probably the two smartest innovations from a real estate standpoint are the flood sensor and more affordable home security systems. The new flood sensors communicate via Bluetooth to your device, so unless you set it up with a spare device to keep at home, you’ll need to be nearby if it sends an alert – a big drawback. However, it’s a step toward technologies that might just save us from the all-too-common problem of attic water heater floods. More promising are the home security systems which allow homeowners an entry point into monitoring what’s going on at their home with video and motion sensing technology. While some of these products may not offer the same level of security as the traditional monitored services, they do offer a lower-cost way for homeowners to have an idea of what’s going on when they’re not home.

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