7 Tech Must-buys for the Ultimate Smart Home

Posted in Home Tech

Most of us are wired to our phones 24/7 as it is, but rather than using that connectivity for aimless scrolling, a much more productive application is being able to control and influence our home surroundings with just the tap of a button. Who doesn’t want a futuristic smart home setup? From the climate to lighting, music to kitchen appliances, these must-buy gadgets are just the thing to deck out your ultimate smart home.

Sonos Beam

smart home tech - Sonos

If you’re an audio- or cinephile, chances are you dream of the perfect audio setup at home. Build your own 3.1 home theatre system by mixing and matching from Sonos’ suite of smart audio gear. Whether its the all-in-one home entertainment system Sonos Beam or the Sonos One speakers, or the Playbar, adjusted by Oscar-winning audio engineers themselves, the speakers are all equipped with auto-sound tuning system and are also compatible with Google Assistant or Alexa.

More info here.

Samsung Cube Air Purifier

Unveiled recently at CES2020, the Samsung Cube Air Purifier is a stylish, modular-shaped air purifier that blends in with any chic and contemporary surroundings. The three-layer filtration system works to purify and deodorise air. It’s also Wi-Fi enabled, so you can deftly monitor your indoor air pollution levels from everywhere as well as control it from an app.

More info here.

LG Steam Styler

smart home tech - LG steam styler

Save your coins when it comes to dry cleaning and place your clothing in the handy new LG Steam Styler instead. Smart dressers have been setting a new bar for clothing care in the next generation smart home, working to efficiently refresh and revitalise clothes between washes, and remove dust and germs deep within the fabric — especially important for items that can’t be thrown into the washing machine. The gadget stores user data, including your preferences and usage patterns, and you can even download the latest software updates for new garment care cycles.

More info here.

Miele KM7897 FL Induction Hob

smart home tech - Miele

The eternal struggle to multi-task your cooktop will plague you no more when you invest in the ultimate Miele Induction Hob. This new innovative cooktop features a full-surface induction, so you can have maximum flexibility for up to six pots and pans at the same time. Need an extra sear? The Induction Hob also comes with Miele’s exclusive TwinBooster function, so you can combine the power of two cooking zones into one when needed. With the Con@ctivity function, the hob connects automatically to the cooker hood to apply the proper settings.

More info here.

Philips Hue Lighting

A futuristic home just doesn’t seem complete without snazzy high tech mood lighting. Get your hands on a set of Philips Hue Lighting and the Apple Homekit compatible Bridge, and control the lights and colours all from the convenience of your Apple devices. 

More info here.

Nanoleaf Canvas

smart home tech - Nanoleaf

Speaking of swish lighting systems, the Nanoleaf Canvas is made for those who want an ethereal, glowing artwork mounted on their walls. These delightful panels play on our senses of sight, sound and touch for a fun and interactive decoration at home. There’s real-time rhythm technology so it pulsates to your chosen tunes, across a spectrum of 16.4 million colours. 

More info here.

Ambi Climate Control 2 

smart home tech - Ambi Climate

The world’s first smart indoor climate control accessory — designed and headquartered in Hong Kong — can help you regulate the air conditioning in your home to prevent overcooling and overheating, saving up to 30 percent of energy at the same time. Using AI and machine learning, your preferences are taken into account to auto-adjust the temperature and humidity in every room in the house to your desired comfort level.

More info here.

Evelyn Lok
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. She covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.

How the Internet of Things Is Transforming the Way We Live

Posted in Home Tech

Each time you put on your AirPods to enjoy music streamed from Spotify or track your daily steps with your Fitbit, you’re tapping into the Internet of things, or IoT. On the home front, IoT is the increasingly common ecosystem in which web-enabled appliances and devices (the “things”) communicate with one another and the cloud to seamlessly carry out tasks that would otherwise need to be done manually. 

“Today, we can use a mobile app or smart-TV hub to set automated timers for our entrance foyer lights, set the temperature for a bath or shut the window blinds. Homes can be equipped with smart irrigation, temperature sensors, Wi-Fi-controlled light bulbs, voice-controlled thermostats that can even read the news, and home energy monitors that let you track your electricity and water usage in real time,” says Jeremy Tay, co-founder and director of Singapore interior design studio Prestige Global Designs

“Home IoT enhances our living experience. As our smart products become more integrated, we’ll rely less on manual intervention.”

Flip a switch to turn on the lights, or start the day by turning on the coffee maker? How mundane! Virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant allow you to control smart devices within the home via voice commands, which also replace online text searches; affordably priced Wi-Fi smart plugs easily allow “dumb” devices such as an old stereo to be controlled or automated via an app. 

Automation, however, is just the beginning. The next level of IoT incorporates artificial intelligence (AI), allowing smart home appliances to not only relieve you of manual tasks, but also learn your habits and preferences, and eventually be able to perform tasks in anticipation of your needs. Products with AI already exist: the iRobot Roomba, for instance, can remember the layout of your home, create a map of the most efficient movement patterns and return to its charging station when its battery is low. 

AI also takes the existing “fuzzy logic” of washing machines to the next level. In September at the tech trade fair IFA 2019 in Berlin, LG announced time- and water-saving washing machines that can detect the load volume and clothing fabric type and, tapping into its cloud of big data, automatically apply the best wash cycle to minimise damage to the clothes. The machines can also be controlled using voice commands or the LG Smart ThinQ app.

Current smart ovens, too, can recognise food and automatically apply the right settings, and come with cameras that let you keep tabs on, say, how that roast is doing. A new concept oven by Whirlpool will project recipe suggestions with video instructions on the oven door based on family preferences as well as how much time everyone has for dinner (it syncs with their calendars); it’ll also reorganise recipe steps so different dishes can get prepped, cooked (on the appropriate oven shelf) and then plated at the same time. 

Gone are the days when you end up throwing out expired food because you bought more than the family needs. Smart fridges have inbuilt cameras to let you visually take stock; some track food’s expiry dates and even suggest recipes — and set other smart devices such as the oven — based on ingredients inside the fridge. Samsung’s Family Hub Smart Fridge also retrieves shopping lists shared by different members of the family, and groceries and food deliveries are but a few taps on a touchscreen away. Other bonuses: answer a phone call, converse with someone at your front door, and even mirror your Samsung TV on the fridge’s screen so you’re not left out if you’re cooking up a storm as the rest of the family catches the new episode of The Walking Dead.

With beacon technology, your smartwatch or smartphone, or a miniature Bluetooth tag that you can attach to, say, your bedroom slippers, enables high‑level customisation of a home’s spaces to individual preferences — for instance, changing the setting of the air conditioner, dimming the lights and turning on music when you step into a room. 

What we’ll soon see more of at home, thanks to IoT, are applications for healthcare and wellness, security, taking inventory, home-based learning and sustainability. The 5G rollout will only accelerate the capabilities, with faster connectivity to handle the huge volumes of data from smart devices. 

The innovative Allblanc Mirror Fit displays workout videos and lets you attend live fitness classes. In wearable devices, AI-enabled biometric trackers and fall detectors can help give the elderly as well as patients with chronic diseases such as asthma — and their family members — greater peace of mind. 

Home systems can send push notifications when the kids are safely home, or if a tap or device is left running (and allow you to shut it off remotely). Existing smart sensors and microphones can alert homeowners — and their security firms or emergency services — to gas or water leakages and even the sound of breaking glass or smoke detectors going off. 

While predictive maintenance is more widely applied in industrial contexts now, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace for manufacturers to monitor and analyse data regarding the condition of your home appliances. So, instead of servicing your air-conditioning system every three months regardless of necessity, a house call will be arranged only as required. This helps prevent annoying breakdowns and cuts maintenance costs. 

Bosch has developed a BML100PI projection module that enables manufacturers to create interactive smart shelves — whether in a fridge, a storage solution, a kitchen pantry or a wardrobe. 

With gesture and touch recognition, and used with a digital-assistant extension, it can take an inventory of the contents, pencil in a supermarket run on your calendar or show online shopping options if pantry supplies are low, make outfit recommendations based on the weather forecast, and so on. 

A sophisticated, well-planned IoT-enabled home can also boost a property’s resale value. According to Hazriq Surattee, founder of smart home consultancy Digital Homes Group, anyone designing a new home should future-proof their properties by laying Cat8 instead of Cat5e/Cat6 cables. He also suggests including more Cat8 Internet cables to allow for future IoT expansion and scalability, adding that it’s crucial to ensure that all your devices from different brands can be controlled from a single home automation ecosystem such as Control4.

Michelle Koh Morollo

7 ‘Smart’ Ways to Make Your Home Smell Nice

Posted in Home Tech

Infusing your interiors with a fresh scent used to mean having to plug in or spray a cloying iteration or lighting a candle, which comes with its own set of safety hazards. Happily, home fragrance has come a long way. And thanks to Bluetooth compatibility and app control functions, today’s scenting is systematic — with features like timed spritzes, customisable strengths and aromas to evoke every ambience. Here are seven smart scent systems to spark your senses. 

Moodo

Feeling beachy or craving a citrus spritz? The Moodo aroma diffuser (US$100) lets you customize your fragrance according to your mood. It connects over Wi-Fi and pairs with the Moodo app, which allows you to control the scent schedule remotely (afternoon lemon zest, anyone?) so you don’t waste the fragrance capsules when no one is home. Scent capsules come according to fragrance families (warm, citrus, floral, etc.) in packs of four. You can select from the app’s mixes or create your own signature blend. The device is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, Siri Shortcuts and Google Assistant, so all you have to do is ask it for a specific smell and it will magically waft your way.

Aera

Much like music, scent can set the tone for your home. Vanilla or sandalwood signifies warm and cozy; citrus or lavender brings on the so fresh and so clean vibes. Due to the ease of the Aera Smart Diffuser (US$200) and its accompanying AeraForHome app, filling your space with its own aroma is as easy and safe as the touch of a screen. You can put your spray on a schedule—by time of day or day of the week, control its strength by room and monitor fragrance usage all on the app. Simply plug in your Aera, load a scent capsule and download the app to create an integrated system and a surround-scent experience.

Pura

The Pura (US$59) might look like an ordinary air freshener plug-in at first glance, but this intelligent gadget is equal parts scents and sensibility. It connects to your smart phone over Wi-Fi and gives you complete control of the fragrances it releases through an app. Each fragrance vial lasts 15 days. You can adjust the intensity, create scenting schedules and manage two different scents at the same time and even swap them. The device also doubles as a night light and lets you customize the color and brightness of the illumination.

Aromini Bluetooth

Perk up your pad by diffusing essential oils into the air with the AroMini Bluetooth (US$336). This isn’t your stick-in-oil variety. The high-tech device uses cold-air diffusion to release nanoparticles into the air to keep the scent (and its therapeutic benefits) concentrated, which helps you (and your home) reap the most from the aromas. Connecting it to your smartphone means you can conserve oil and energy by setting specific run times, control the intensity of the fragrance and make sure it’s being distributed evenly around your room. And it covers up to 1,000 square feet, so even if you’re at the opposite end of the room, you’ll still get the full effect.

CINQ

If standard scents aren’t your thing, the CINQ smart fragrance diffuser (US$120) lets you be a master mixologist by giving you the tools to create 8,000 different varieties of unique fragrances. The connected device pairs with your smartphone and Alexa. By exploring the CINQ Studio App and providing feedback on 24 specific smells, the company will send you capsules on a monthly basis. The device fits five capsules at a time and you can adjust the strength of each one to create a scent that’s uniquely you, so there’s no chance of smell fatigue.

Scentee Machina

While it looks like an elegant set of oils on a tray, Scentee Machina (price TBC) is an AI-driven device that takes home fragrancing into the future. There are 14 different scents to choose from and they aren’t your basic sniffs. Think: chocolate, red wine, buttered toast. The diffuser holds four cartridges at a time, and you’ll get a new one every month. The controls are operated by your smartphone — you can turn them on and off, set timers and manipulate intensities all remotely. Not to mention, AI intelligence analyzes your favorite fragrances from your usage history and recommends custom scents.

Pium

If you need a morning lift or help de-stressing at night, the Pium smart diffuser (US$190) emits a scent to suit your mood based on the time of day. Morning is a dose of citrus and flowers; afternoon releases an aromatic and herbal blend; and nighttime offers an herbal and floral mix. The system can handle all three capsules simultaneously and allows you to manage the strength, schedule and power of the scents through the accompanying app. It’ll also tell you when your capsules are running on empty and lets you buy more through the app. Oh, and it pairs with Alexa and Google Assistant, so all you have to do is ask it to deploy a specific blend and you shall receive one — without even having to pick up your phone.

Staff Writer