How to create a smart, connected home without spending a fortune

You don't need to spend a small fortune making your house work harder for you.
1 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Maximus smart security light

The first device you come across in my home is the Maximus smart security light (SSL), in the Coach style, which is a security system that also acts as an outdoor porch light.

The lighting fixture is also equipped with a two-way speaker and camera, and so if anyone enters your grounds without consent, footage is recorded and you can also potentially scare off intruders. (Subscription plans are also available if you wish to keep recorded footage for longer.)

Price: $199

Via: Maximus Lighting

2 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


Ring is a doorbell system equipped with video recording and remote alerts. While you don't need the video function while you're at home (unless you wish to avoid certain people or see who is at the door before opening the gate to the threshold), while you are out, the product comes into its own as you can talk to visitors through your mobile device.

With the introduction of the Chime accessory which brings back the traditional ring rather than forcing you to check your phone at all if you do not wish to, Ring is well worth the investment.

Price: £159 ($199)

Via: Ring | Amazon US

3 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


The TrackR, a small, incredibly lightweight GPS system, for example, can be attached to everything from your set of keys to your wallet, and then you use your smartphone and the TrackR app to locate them quickly should you use them.

Alternatively, if your phone is always the item that goes walkabout, you press the button on your TrackR to make the smartphone ring (even on silent mode) if they are paired.

For myself, I use it to keep track of my once-housebound rehome cat and her travels while she is exploring the outside world.

Price: $29.99

Via: TrackR

4 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

This is flic, a Bluetooth-enabled wireless device which can be programmed to perform a variety of tasks. Each button costs $34 and is a good entry-level product to begin experimenting with IoT device controls in your home.

Flic works on the "if this, then that" programming protocol, allowing you to use "recipes" to control your devices. This can range from playing a Spotify playlist with one click to sending out automatic tweets or controlling Philips Hue lighting with two presses of the button. While I'm yet to fully explore the ITTT protocol, I currently use it to automatically set my Nest thermostat to certain settings.

See also: ZDNet review

Price: $34

Via: Flic

5 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


The Canary is an indoor security system which is small and offers a good depth-of-field and quality of footage. You can choose from three options; "armed," which activates recording and alerts you through your mobile device, "disarmed," which records if anything is detected, and finally "privacy," which turns the camera and recording off so you don't have to concern yourself about being recorded in your own home.

If you are alerted remotely to a break-in you can press a button on your smartphone and set off a siren. That might be enough to scare intruders off but you can also directly call the police or fire department from the Canary app.

Price: $199

Via: Canary

6 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Click and Grow

The Click & Grow smart garden aims to simplify the process of growing plants through automating light and watering cycles for you, so you do not end up over-watering or losing your plants due to poor sun exposure. All you need to do is stick the herb pots in, put water in the side tank, and leave it alone. Once your plants begin to push on the transparent plastic orbs (which create a "greenhouse effect," the makers say), you take them off.

You can grow different herb types, tomato, strawberry, chilli and moss roses, among others.

Price: $59.95

Via: Click and Grow

7 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Fone QiStone+

A wireless portable charger I use is the Fone QiStone+, a 4000mAh capacity charger which aesthetically will fit in any modern decor, due to the gray, stone-textured casing. You simply put your device on top and let it do its work -- but, of course, the device has to support wireless charging.

This is not a product you should use if you need a rapid, emergency charge, but instead, could be left on your coffee table for incremental charges while you get on with other tasks.

Price: $79.99

Via: Fone salesman

8 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


The QuickLock is a Bluetooth and RFID-compatible door lock which will fit in modern homes. The lock, which I currently use to keep my office secure, takes no more than 10 minutes to install on a standard, internal door, and can be opened with your mobile device, fobs, cards and wristbands, depending on your preferences.

The lock is compatible with Android or iOS devices. A few additional, handy features are the ability to temporarily grant access to someone to a room through your smartphone and also check a log to see when the room was entered -- and by who.

Price: $169.99+

Via: The QuickLock

9 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Playbulb Comet

The Playbulb Comet is a simple strip of LED lights which, once connected to your smartphone or tablet through the Playbulb app, can be placed in your home wherever you want an additional light source. The strip is stuck on using a sticky adhesive layer on the back, and once plugged in, you can use the app to control color settings, effects, and brightness.

I use it as a replacement for an office desk lamp, which reduces the clutter on the desk but also allows me to work with the level of lighting I prefer.

Price: $59.99

Via: Mipow

10 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Playbulb Rainbow, Color

Another affordable option from Mipow is the Playbulb ceiling lighting ranges, the Color and Rainbow, which can be controlled through the Playbulb mobile application.

The difference between these two ranges is thus: the Color includes an inbuilt speaker, while the Rainbow is simply for color control.

I have two Rainbows for my bedside lamps, while I use the Color in my lounge for quiet background music.

Price: $39.99+

Via: Mipow

11 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Nixplay Seed

The Nixplay Seed is a digital photo frame which can replace traditional, physical frames with a screen which can display however many photos you wish. You sign up for a Nixplay account, upload your images into the cloud to compile different playlists, select transition effects if you wish and the product is ready to go.

You control the Seed with a small, square remote, and 7 - 10-inch versions are currently available.

Price: $99.99

Via: Nixplay

12 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet


While not 'smart' in an IoT manner, the MantelMount TV bracket, as the engineering itself is rather interesting and smartly designed, was worth inclusion. Suitable for flat screen televisions from 48 inches up to roughly 80 inches, you can pull the mount down up to two feet and move it up to 40 degrees horizontally.

The mount is a good option for those looking to create a central viewing point in a lounge -- movie nights, perhaps? -- as well as being able to view a show at a more comfortable height when there are other pieces of furniture to consider, such as fireplaces.

Price: $399

Via: MantelMount

13 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Elgato Avea

Playbulb is not the only smart lighting system I use at home. Due to the position of my house, my lounge tends to get dim very quickly in the evenings, and I don't always like to simply rely on ceiling lights.

The Elgato Avea dynamic mood light is charged on a small dock and then can be moved with you around the home. If you hook up to the light through either your Android or Apple device, you can either select your own colors or choose from a number of rather pretty presents -- such as "magic hour," "northern glow" and "cherry blossom" which change colors gradually over time.

More for ambiance and surroundings than bright, light function, this product is a surefire bet for entry IoT homes.

Price: $39.95

Via: Elgato

14 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Nest Protect

Nest's Learning Thermostat -- currently third generation -- is a stylish device which fits any modern home.

The thermostat has a very quick and easy install through the device's circular touchscreen and once connected to Wi-Fi will update automatically. You can use the Nest to determine the range of heating or cooling you want in your home -- which is handy if you are away, for example -- and this can also be changed via the Nest app.

In terms of the display, you have a lot of options -- such as a digital clock, display of target temperatures or an analog clock.

Price: $249

Via: Nest

15 of 15 Charlie Osborne/ZDNet

Nest Thermostat

To round up with the latest device I have managed to get my hands on, the Nest Protect (second generation) is a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. Available in both wired and battery versions, the alarm connects to your smartphone or tablet and once a safety check is complete, you're good to go.

The physical installation is very easy -- just requiring the included bracket to be screwed onto a surface -- and there is a faint glow at the front which lets you know it is operating normally. If the alarm detects anything, you will be alerted through your phone and the Nest Protect has a clear, loud sound so you are made aware of potential problems while you are inside.

Price: $99

Via: Nest

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