A smart home is a safe, comfortable home, and what better way to help out with the automation process than giving some amazing gifts this holiday season? From security to safety to practicality, these gifts are the best that home automation has to offer.
Harman Kardon Invoke
If you’re invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, there’s really only one smart speaker you want: Harman Kardon’s Invoke with Cortana (about $100). It has an awesome speaker for clear audio, it makes Skype calls with ease, and the list of skills Cortana can use continues to grow.
Control your music, order pizza, take command of other smart home devices connected to the Invoke, and manage your calendar, all without lifting a finger. If a smart hub with a great speaker and Cortana integration is what you’re looking for, this is the answer.
The updated Amazon Echo (about $80) has been redesigned for a better sound and a softer look, but you’re still getting all the features that made the first version so great. Amazon Alexa is ready to control a wide variety of smart home accessories, and can be prompted with just your voice thanks to seven built-in microphones.
Using an Echo with Windows 10 is actually quite easy and should only take a few minutes. Following setup, you’re ready to access everything the Echo and Alexa have to offer, including music control and hands-free calling and messaging.
Nexia Z-Wave Bridge
The Nexia Z-Wave bridge (about $85), paired with the Windows 10 app, is a great place to begin your home automation process. Connect your Nexia bridge to the internet, hook up any automated accessories, and you’re essentially good to go. The list of Z-Wave products compatible with Nexia is quite extensive, and other smart devices from Nest, Schlage, and even the Amazon Echo also work with Nexia.
There is a monthly $10 subscription fee to use the Nexia system, but you get 4GB of video storage, remote access to all devices connected to Nexia, and the ability to connect hundreds of Z-Wave devices.
Ecobee4 smart thermostat
Our favorite smart thermostat over here at Windows Central is super easy to install and set up, has an LCD touchscreen, and has an app available for your Windows devices. The kit comes with all the hardware you need to attach the backplates and thermostat. Use your modern HVAC’s wiring — or the handy converter kit for older systems — to have your ecobee4 (about $250) up and running in minutes.
The updated ecobee4 has far-field microphones to pick up commands from across the room, an included sensor can be placed in a separate room for smart climate control, and it has support for other accessories like ventilators, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers.
Philips Hue starter kit
With this four-pack starter kit (about $70), you can automate the lighting in your home quickly and easily. Set schedules when you’re away, and tweak lighting so that it’s perfect whether you’re reading quietly or hosting a party.
This kit includes a bridge, which can be paired with the Huetro app on your Windows 10 devices. The Hue system will even work with Cortana, built into a Harman Kardon Invoke.
LIFX light bulb
LIFX bulbs deliver over 16 million colors as well as your standard white lighting, and all you have to do is screw them into a socket. OK, there’s also a quick app setup on your Windows 10 device, but once that’s complete, you can control each bulb individually without the need for a separate bridge. These lights can also be controlled with any of your Amazon Alexa devices.
A single LIFX bulb costs about $50, and there are also four-packs available for about $196.
Nest Protect smoke alarm
Installing the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm (about $119) in your house is a fantastic way to alleviate worry when you’re both at home and away. Control your Nest Protect from your Windows 10 PC, or use it with your Harman Kardon Invoke. Audible warnings can be heard when there is a problem, and notifications will be altered depending on whether you’re burning dinner or there’s a full-on carbon monoxide emergency.
The Nest Protect comes with the hardware needed for quick installation — choose from a battery option or a wired option that hooks up to existing wiring. Don’t worry, you’ll receive notifications if the AA batteries are running low (Nest says they will last for “years” and will notify you a year out from replacement). Why use a standard smoke alarm when you can protect your home to this degree?
Ring video doorbell 2
Having a doorbell that simply sounds when someone is at your door is a thing of the past. With the Ring video doorbell 2 (about $200), you get instant notifications on your Windows 10 devices, and you can see and talk to whoever is outside. The doorbell’s 1080p motion-sensing camera offers clear images, and you can subscribe to a cloud recording service for about $3 per month.
The Ring doorbell comes with all the hardware needed for quick installation, and you can connect it to existing doorbell wiring. The second-gen version now also has a detachable rechargeable battery pack. Never miss another delivery again, and have peace of mind about who’s coming and going at your household.
Ring Stick Up camera with solar panel
Keeping tabs on your yard or garage doesn’t mean you have to run wires and drill holes to get everything set up. This wireless camera from Ring delivers HD video and two-way audio, letting you talk to anyone near the device as long as it’s connected to Wi-Fi. Motion sensors keep the camera from recording when not necessary, and infrared capabilities mean you can record in the dark.
A single, battery-powered camera costs about $230, but you can instead grab two cameras and two solar charging panels for about $300 if you’d rather not worry about batteries and have a large space to monitor.
Schlage Connect touchscreen deadbolt
The Schlage Connect (about $178) hooks up to your Z-Wave home automation system — like Nexia — to provide an effective means of keeping your home secure. Thanks to its simple design, you can install the Schlage Connect in a standard door using only a screwdriver.
Each member of your family can use their own PIN on the touchscreen to unlock the door, and you can give out temporary guest PINs for visitors or housekeepers. A built-in alarm has three stages of urgency based on suspicious activity, tampering, and actual breaking and entering for a bit of extra security. While this deadbolt is based around keyless entry, there is still a key slot in the case of an emergency.