Back in 1966, American engineer Jim Sutherland invented the Echo IV – the world’s first smart home device – and turned the fanciful notion of home automation a reality.
Sure, the Echo IV was itself almost the size of the house it was helping to automate. And its CPU clocked in at a snail’s pace of 160kHz. But it set the spark for the explosion of smart home devices that would follow.
Today, there are a huge number of smart home companies around the world, all creating an almost endless amount of products. So, for the average consumer, it can be hard to know the best from the rest.
That’s where we come in. Here’s TechBuddy’s guide to the companies shaping the homes of tomorrow and our pick of their best products.
The evolution of the smart home is being led by ‘the big 3.’ You may well have heard of them:
Way back in 2014, Amazon launched its virtual assistant Alexa, giving consumers the first taste of voice command technology. Since then, the tech and online retail giant has developed its output, producing smart lighting, smart plugs, and some of the best smart speakers on the market.
Where Amazon is really making waves though is in the smart home security sector. After acquiring tech security company Ring in 2018, Amazon is now the top smart home company for security. This year’s Always Home Cam – a 24-hours home surveillance drone that looks like something straight out of Black Mirror – could well flip the game on its head.
Amazon Echo Dot – one of the best smart speakers on the market, not only does the Echo Dot act as a mouthpiece for Alexa, but it also acts as a smart hub, connecting with other smart devices to enable you to use your voice to turn on lights, adjust thermostats and lock doors. Oh, and as a speaker, it sounds incredible.
It’s no surprise that Google is among the biggest smart home developers on the planet. Since acquiring hardware company Nest in 2014, the tech giant has been at the forefront of the evolution of the smart home.
In 2019 they unified their smart home approach, rebranding ‘Google Nest’ to become the official arm of their smart home division. And with products that include everything from speakers and thermostats to doorbells and home security, Google is busy creating the pieces of the puzzle that will form the home of the future.
Google Nest Hub Max – one of the best smart display interfaces on the market, Google’s hub is the centerpiece to the smart home, giving you complete control of all your devices, either through voice commands or via the touchscreen.
Not content with playing third fiddle to Amazon and Google in the smart home stakes, Apple is starting to make a serious claim for the king of the smart home company. They may not have as many compatible devices as Amazon or Google, but Apple’s smart home platform – Apple HomeKit – can be controlled by your Mac, iPad, Apple TV, or HomePod, negating the need for a hub.
Where Apple HomeKit shines is its security. Other platforms definitely have a more streamlined process – most just scan your network for compatible devices whereas, with HomeKit, you have to manually add compatible devices by scanning a unique six-figure code on the devices box or in its manual. Still, Apple’s renowned encryption and security standards are second to none and give added peace of mind to smart home enthusiasts.
Apple HomePod Mini – this little speaker packs a punch. The audio quality is amazing for something so compact and it syncs with Siri to tailor music and podcasts to each member of the family, make and answer phone calls, and access messages.
You don’t necessarily need to get all your smart home products from the same brand! Amazon, Google, and Apple are already working together on ‘Project Connected Home over IP’, which aims to create a new standard of compatibility, connectivity, and security for smart home devices.
Outside of the big three, some other major players are producing high-quality smart home products too:
It’s no surprise that one of the leading home appliance specialists are now one of the leading smart home appliance specialists.
With smart ovens that can receive recipe cooking times and temperatures from your phone and dishwashers that order new tablets when low, to coffee machines that take your coffee orders from your phone and fridges that scan your food for nutritional info, Siemens is the company currently shaping the future of the smart kitchen.
iQ700 Oven – a self-cleaning oven that can be controlled from inside and outside the home. This smart oven receives recipe cooking times and temperatures from your phone and, using innovative sensor technology, knows when your food is perfectly cooked.
Another big appliance manufacturer getting on the smart bandwagon, Bosch has a range of smart appliances and gadgets that are easily controlled via its Home Connect app. Smart ovens, washing machines, coffee makers, and fridges can all be controlled from your smartphone.
Bosch also produces a range of smart switches, thermostats, plugs, smoke detectors, and motion detectors.
iDOS Washing Machine – enter your laundry’s color, material type, and level of dirtiness into the Home Connect app and let this super-smart washer do the rest. You can even control and monitor your washing remotely through your phone.
Back in 2014, Samsung acquired SmartThings, the smart home tech specialists, showing they were serious about developing products for the home of the future.
While smartphones might be their #1 game, Samsung is now producing some seriously impressive smart products, all connected through its voice assistant, Bixby. Products include cameras, hubs, trackers, and, most notably, mesh WiFi.
SmartThings WiFi – a super-powerful next-generation AI-based mesh WiFi router that doubles as a smart hub. Mesh WiFi uses several nodes throughout the home instead of just one central router, for a wider coverage and a stronger signal. The SmartThings mesh WiFi router learns your home's environment, analyzing your devices and the flow of traffic to deliver optimal WiFi speed and coverage.
Known for its cutting-edge TVs, LG is another one of the big tech companies getting smart with their devices.
Through the LG ThinQ app, you can remotely control all your LG smart appliances, including washing machines, vacuum cleaners, fridges, dishwashers, air conditioning, and TVs.
LG CordZero Robot Vacuum Cleaner – you can control this robot vacuum cleaner from anywhere through the ThinQ app. You can even see your home through the in-built camera, and program it to clean certain areas
The multinational tech company is known for everything from kitchen appliances and electric razors to TVs and home audio, Philips has become the dominant producer of one sector of smart home devices – smart lighting – having launched the first smart home lighting system back in 2012.
While their smart TVs and smart toothbrushes are up there with the best of them, Philips Hue lighting is the best smart lighting system on the market. Smart bulbs and light strips, a Hue Bridge and a Hue app let you personalize and control your lighting environment with ease.
Philips Hue Play – a color-shifting light strip that syncs with your TV and reacts to the content on your screen.
The evolution of the smart home is not just confined to big tech companies. Companies who normally specialize in other retail sectors are now getting involved in the smart home scene. This suggests we’re out of the ‘early adopter phase’ and smart home tech is reaching the masses, meaning the future of the home will have a far wider influence than previously thought:
Lidl has already made grocery shopping more affordable; now it’s looking to do the same with smart home accessories. And while smart home devices might not have appealed to budget-conscious consumers, Lidl has arrived on the scene to produce great, affordable smart devices that prove that smart things can be accessible to all.
The brains behind it all is a Silvercrest smart home hub, which links your smartphone to other Lidl smart devices, including smart lights, plugs, and motion sensors.
Livarno Lux Smart Ceiling Lights – rotatable, tiltable, and dimmable via the Lidl Smart Home app, these smart ceiling lights are amazing value for money.
The Swedish furniture giant has already had a major influence on the way we furnish our homes. Never one to miss out, IKEA is aiming to play a major part in developing the home of the future.
Bringing its trademark low-cost style and functionality to the smart home game, IKEA has a line of smart WiFi speakers, smart lighting, and smart blinds, with much more to come.
SYMPHONISK Smart Table Lamp – a collaboration with Sonos, this smart speaker/table lamp connects to WiFi and your smartphone, with a blend of tech and design ingenuity that IKEA is renowned for. The decision to enter the IoT game looks a very smart one indeed.
These companies are solely focused on creating smart devices for the home:
When it comes to smart climate management, German company Tado is the European market leader. Founded in 2011, they were one of the first companies in Europe to produce smart heating thermostats. Today, they are undoubtedly one of the best in the world.
With a product range that includes smart thermostats, temperature sensors and AC controllers, Tado helps homeowners save money and enjoy all the home comforts of a modern home.
Tado Smart Thermostat – this impressive smart thermostat analyzes your neighborhood’s air quality, advises you on how to improve the air quality inside your home, checks local weather forecasts to adapt your home’s temperature, detects open windows and enables you to plan your heating to your daily routine.
Consumer electronics company Belkin has specialized in chargers and consumer electronics accessories for many years. Then, they smartened up their act.
In 2015, they created a dedicated smart home division called WeMo and have since become one of the leading providers of smart plugs and smart switches.
WeMo WiFi Smart Plug – this ingenious little device uses your WiFi to turn devices on and off remotely, can follow a preset schedule, and has IFTTT (if this, then that) capability, meaning it can turn a device on or off depending on temperature, or whether another device is triggered (lights on when you unlock the door, for example).
The smart home field is getting more competitive every year, with new players popping up continuously. Our list above includes the most important companies around, but there is plenty more out there. Amongst big-name tech companies that are now producing cutting-edge smart home devices, TP-Link, Sony, Honeywell, and ABB deserve a mention. And when it comes to dedicated smart home specialists, Arlo, one of Europe’s leading providers of smart cameras and doorbells merit a place too.
Do you think we have missed any great smart home companies? Get in touch with us on Linkedin and let us know your favorite smart home companies and devices, so we can include them in future updates!
If you want to know more about creating your own smart home or need help getting connected, get in touch with TechBuddy today… we’re always here to help!