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Smart home technology

Find out how smart technology can help you stay independent in your own home for longer.
4 min read
In this article
Smart technology for the home How can smart home technology help with independence in later life? How do voice control smart hubs work?
The best smart devices to consider for your home

Smart technology for the home

Smart devices, hubs and voice control systems offer a huge range of benefits for people of all ages, but this technology can prove to be even more useful, particularly as you reach later life.

Smart home technology gives you control over a whole host of internet-connected versions of devices we use every day. These devices include, but are not limited to, light bulbs, plugs, thermostats and even some appliances. The gadgets are connected using a wi-fi network and can then be controlled using an app on a mobile phone. Each device has a different app which your smart hub consolidates into one, so you don’t need to keep switching between apps to control the tech in your home.

Having a range of smart devices effectively turns your smart hub and the app on your phone into a remote control for your home.

How can smart home technology help with independence in later life?

Smart technology allows you to control various features in your home without putting yourself at risk.

  • You can switch your lights off from your bed, meaning once you’re settled you don’t need to get up in the dark and risk falling.
  • If getting up and down from a chair to switch on lights and lamps, or stooping to reach a plug socket, becomes challenging if your mobility has decreased, you can do these things with the help of technology.
  • You can install blinds that can be controlled from your phone or smart hub, and there are even kits available that can be added to existing blinds turning them into smart ones.
  • Plus, since you can control your smart devices, even when you aren’t in the house, you could have a lamp or radio turn on at certain times of the day to make it seem as though someone is home.

How do voice control smart hubs work?

The potential pitfall of smart devices is that you need a smartphone to control them. If you’re new to smartphones and apps then suddenly having something that can control many of the devices in your home could be quite a daunting prospect.

You could set up your smart hub so your smart bulbs come on at 7.30am every morning and the blinds in your bedroom open at the same time.

Voice controlled smart hubs go some way to eliminating this issue. A smart hub consolidates all the smart devices in your home, and their relevant apps, to allow you to control them by using this one hub. The same commands that you would use the apps for can be spoken to the hub instead.

The best smart hubs make controlling all of your smart devices really simple and some allow you set up routines, so you don’t need to control them at all. You could set it so that each morning:

Checklist (ticks)
  • your smart bulbs come on at 7.30am 
  • the blinds in your bedroom open 
  • a smart speaker starts playing your favourite radio station.

Or in the evening, you could ask Alexa or Google Home to:

Checklist (ticks)
  • dim the smart bulbs by 50%
  • and adjust the temperature on your smart thermostat by a few degrees.

These hubs are the ideal solution if you don’t feel confident using a mobile phone. Simply saying ‘Alexa’ (the name of Amazon’s voice assistant) followed by a command is enough to activate many of the most popular smart home devices. Google Home works the same way, but you say ‘OK Google’ instead.

Plus, the systems are very intuitive to understanding different ways of saying a range of commands. An Amazon Echo will know that you want to turn your lights off whether you say ‘switch off’, ‘turn off’ or just ‘off’.

Our in-house testing at Which? has found both these hubs to be great listeners capable of understanding different dialects and words, so even if your speech isn’t completely clear you might find that a Google Home or Amazon Echo can understand you.

Read Which? Technology’s advice on how to buy the best smart home hub to help you pick the right hub.

The best smart devices to consider for your home

We have outlined three key smart devices that you might like to consider for your own home as a starting point.

Smart light bulbs

Smart light bulbs can slot into the same fittings that are in most lamps and ceiling lights, so you don’t need to buy a new lamp or fixture. They can be turned on and off, and dimmed even if your light didn’t allow dimming before. Popular models include Philips Hue, Ikea Tradfri and LIFX. Read Which? Home & garden’s top smart bulbs article to find out more.

Smart plugs

Sockets are often tucked away out of sight and if there’s anything you want to switch off at the wall, such as a radio or TV, then it can mean a lot of bending and reaching. Smart plugs can be switched on and off from an app. Popular models include Samsung SmartThings smart plugs, Elgato Eve smart plugs and Hive Active smart plugs.

Smart thermostats

These aren’t as simple to fit as bulbs or sockets and your boiler needs to be compatible, but they make adjusting the temperature in your home really quick and simple. You can use an app, or your voice if you have the right smart hub, to set the temperature exactly how you like it. Popular models include the Nest Thermostat, Hive Active Heating and Honeywell Lyric.

Learn more about the top tips for buying a smart thermostat in this Which? Home & garden article. 

Further reading

Technology around the home

There are many simple technological aids available to help make your life easier and safer, and to give you more peace ...

Telecare

Telecare systems make use of new technology to help people in later life continue to live independently. We explain ...

Personal alarms

Personal alarms can help people who live alone to feel safer and more secure by providing contact to the outside world ...

Last updated: 14 Dec 2018