Wired World: Welcome To The Internet of Things

Let’s face it, we live in a wired world. The chances are very good that you’re connecting more things at home than ever before -- and you’re not alone. From phones to tablets to media players to TVs to gaming consoles to refrigerators, nearly every conceivable appliance, gadget, and device in your home is connected and “smart”. It’s official, the Internet of Things (or IoT) is inescapable in 2015. And while the industry is still jockeying to create a definitive standard of what exactly the IoT Connected Home is, the emergent functionality seems to emphasize safety, convenience, and security. It’s all about creating a smarter and more reactive living environment: a home that has your back. Perhaps you’re just wading into the shallow end of the connected home or have been researching the right first step. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. There are a ton of IoT products on the market worth your attention -- here are four of our favorites to get you started.

Nest Learning Thermostat ($249)
Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat is perhaps the gold standard of IoT: beautiful, usefully functional, money-saving, and backed by a growing Connected Home ecosystem. The Learning Thermostat will, as its name suggests, learn your preferences over time so that you can always rely on a temperate house, no matter the season -- or make adjustments on the fly from anywhere using their beautiful app. If the price tag looks a little steep, keep in mind the Nest Learning Thermostat helps you conserve energy -- so it’ll eventually pay for itself. Keep an eye on Google’s burgeoning Brillo smarthome platform to see how Nest will continue to expand its functionality in the near future.

SmartThings Smart Home Starter Kit ($199)
Another fittingly named IoT product, the SmartThings Smart Home Starter Kit, is your best bet if you’re just starting out in the wonderful world of home automation. It comes complete with sensors to monitor things like motion and sound, and have your home react accordingly (for instance, have the lights turn on). It also utilizes the super useful IFTTT platform (If This Then That), meaning it is compatible with a broad selection of other smarthome devices for easy integration. A great first step into this growing category.

Phillips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Pack ($199)
Let’s get the bad out of the way first: the Phillips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Pack essentially lets you change the color of your lights, anywhere, anytime, from your phone. That’s it. But if you’re an entertainer, a dinner partier, a lover, or a fan of mood-lighting, the Hue system can add tremendous ambiance to just about any room in your home. The Starter Pack is no-frills -- three bulbs and a hub -- but it is great at what it does. Something of an IoT niche but worth looking into.

August Smart Lock ($249)
Looking for a next-gen way to protect your home or apartment? August’s Smart Lock has the looks and smarts to do the job and do it right. The product design is masculine and simple (essentially a silver puck) and it doesn’t stand out ostentatiously. It features exceptional user controls and unlike a lot of other smart locks, allows you to create as many e-keys as you want for family and guests. It also sports an “auto-unlock” feature where your presence unlocks your door -- which should prove incredibly useful the next time you come home with your hands full.

Real talk, it’s only a matter of time before our homes become sentient and the robots come to kill us all. But in the meantime, exploring the vast world of the IoT is a fascinating peek into the future, no time-traveling Delorean needed.