Are you ready to trick out your dorm room or college apartment for the new school year? We’ve got you covered. From speakers to lights, here are some of the best smart devices for your home away from home.
Alexa, What Is Amazon Echo?
First introduced in late 2014, the Amazon Echo (UK) remains the must-have product for college students. The Bluetooth speaker offers 360-degree omni-direction audio, allowing you to stream songs from Spotify or iTunes on your iPhone using the free app. It features Pandora and Audible built in. And yes, you can use it to stream music from Amazon’s Prime Music service.
But Amazon Echo is much more than a speaker. It also houses an intelligent personal assistant called Alexa. Use the service to get answers to questions, hear the latest news and weather, or learn more about local businesses. You can also use Alexa to find sports scores and schedules and current traffic reports. Need a midnight pizza fix? Yes, Alexa can order food too.
One of the best things about Amazon Echo is that it’s fully integrated with other smart home products on the market, including WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and ecobee. As such, it can control your lights, switches, or temperature with ease. Of course, in a dorm room you’ll be limited to installing only temporary devices like smart Philips Hue lights or WeMo smart plugs.
Are you looking for something less expensive? Consider the Amazon Tap. The $99 device is similar to the Amazon Echo, except to ask Alexa a question, you need to tap on a button. As a bonus, the Amazon Tap offers dual speakers and doesn’t require a power cord. The device provides up to 9 hours of playback between charges.
Amazon Echo keeps getting better thanks to monthly software updates. There’s no telling what you might be able to do to impress your friends next.
Let There be Light
When your parents were in college, lights had two settings, on and off. Today, you can adjust the mood and appearance of your dorm or apartment with a simple tap on your smartphone.
With LIFX smart light bulbs, you can choose from between millions of colors or 1,000 shades of white. Best of all, LIFX’s set-up doesn’t require a hub, bridge, or extra hardware. Simply replace your existing bulbs and download the free LIFX app to get started.
LIFX bulbs are available at various price points.
Philips Hue does require you to purchase a separate bridge for your smart lights. For this, however, you get more buying choices. In addition to white, colored, and ambient lights, Philips Hue also offers light strips, a perfect addition to any college party.
Looking for more? Take a look at the Philips Hue Bloom (CA, UK), which is designed to create indirect ambient lights wherever a power socket is available. You can also use the Philips Hue Bloom to sync movies and music.
Philips also offers the non-Hue Wake-Up Light (CA, UK). This product helps you start your day better by providing a colored sunrise simulation. The Wake-Up Light also comes with five natural sounds for a more relaxing sleep, FM radio, and reading lamp.
For those looking for a less expensive smart light solution, consider the Bluetooth-enabled Flux Bluetooth Smart LED Bulb (CA). Offering energy efficiency, Flux supports a color palette of over 16 million colors and also different tones of white light.
Smart lighting continues to improve, and don’t be surprised to see newer products head to stores in the months and years to come. Many of these are likely to arrive at even lower prices than those already available.
Add Some Security
Thanks to falling prices and improved technology, security cameras aren’t just for homeowners. Some of the most popular cameras are ideally suited for a college dorm room or an apartment.
Google’s Nest Cam (CA, UK) features a modern design that is subtle enough to blend into the rest of your surroundings. Offering 1080p HD video, Nest operates when you’re away automatically using your phone’s location. With 24/7 live streaming, advanced night vision, and motion and sound alerts, Nest Cam offers home security no matter where you are in the world.
The Canary All-in-One Home Security Device (CA, UK) features an alarm. If you were to receive a motion alert and notice that there is a problem, Canary offers two solutions to resolve the issue. You can either sound the alarm remotely or push the emergency call button in the app. If anyone breaks into your dorm room, it won’t be long before the entire floor hears about it.
Piper nv (CA, UK) is perhaps the geekiest looking camera on our list, and we mean that in a good way. Another all-in-one solution, the Piper nv is considered the first ever 180-degree night vision HD camera. With live and recorded video, instant mobile alerts, Z-Wave home automation and an extensive list of environmental sensors, Piper nv is an excellent choice. For those who don’t need night vision, Piper Classic (CA/UK) is more affordable.
For peace of mind, webcams are a practical solution for college life. They help to keep your home secure, even when you’re not around. A good rule of thumb: Make sure your roommates are on board with adding a camera.
Switches Make It Better
Belkin offers two low-cost smart products worth considering. The WeMo Insight Switch (CA/UK) connects your home appliances and electronic devices to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you turn devices on or off remotely. With the free WeMo app for iOS or Android, you can create rules and custom schedules, so that appliances are only running when you want them to run. By contrast, the WeMo Switch (CA/UK) works on Wi-Fi and through a cellular connection.
Setting up a Belkin device is relatively pain-free. Download the WeMo app and then plug the Switch into an outlet. Connect the Switch to your Wi-Fi network and follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation. Now you can turn your home electronics/appliances on or off from anywhere.
Odds and Ends
Finally, there are two additional smart home products your dorm or apartment shouldn’t be without, Google Chromecast and the Mr. Coffee Smart Coffee Maker.
Google Chromecast is a media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on your television. You can use it to stream video content from your mobile device to your TV. Chromecast works with iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Chromebook.
The Mr. Coffee Smart Coffee Maker (CA) allows you to brew a cup of joe from anywhere using your smart device. With the WeMo app, you can schedule or adjust brew time and set up reminders, so your coffee is fresh and hot whenever you want it.
From lighting to speakers, there are plenty of smart home solutions available for a college dorm or apartment. Each is simple to set up, and most are inexpensive.
What type of smart home solution have you prepared to begin the school year?
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