The smart home products market is still in its infancy, and like all new technology products, there’s been more than a few growing pains. Security concerns, compatibility, and the often high cost of entry, continue to hurt a market looking to add adopters.
For a market in flux, here are some smart home product categories worth avoiding, at least for now.
We’ve come a long way since folks owned ice boxes. Even the most basic refrigerators on the market today are likely to feature automatic ice makers and a filtered water system to go along with the traditional refrigerator/freezer combination.
Samsung’s new Family Hub looks like something straight out of “The Jetsons.” The smart refrigerator, which starts at around $5,500, features a Wi-Fi enabled touchscreen that lets you manage your groceries, connect with your family, and entertainment your guests.
Even if cost isn’t a factor, now is probably not the time to go all in and buy a smart refrigerator. Simply put, there are still a lot of unknowns. What’s the upgrade cycle for a product like the Samsung Family Hub? What happens if the company stops supporting it?
An alternative solution: Rather than buy a smart refrigerator, mount a dedicated iPad to your appliance and load it up with recipe apps. Add a wireless Bluetooth speaker and treat your guests to music from Apple Music, Spotify, or another service.
Smart Water Sensors
Natural disasters can cause all types of problems, including flooding. Smart water sensors serve various purposes from basement water monitoring to water leak detection. The biggest drawback to smart water sensors: many rely on power and Wi-Fi to get the job done. What happens when the power goes out because of the flooding?
Another approach: Smart water sensors are relatively inexpensive and do provide some peace of mind, especially when you’re currently at home. When on the road, however, it’s always wise to add a human element to the equation. Have a friend check your home after intense rains.
Smart Air Conditioners
The list of smart air conditioners already on the market remains relatively small. Samsung offers a series of smart wall units, which allow you to monitor and change energy settings from anywhere. The window-based Frigidaire Gallery Smart Room Air Conditioner is also available in many places. It features Wi-Fi control, allowing you to control room temperature anywhere, anytime from your smart device.
A better approach: Instead of buying one of these, we recommend turning your traditional air conditioning units into smart ones.
Sensibo turns any remote controlled air conditioner into a smart device, thereby helping you to reduce your energy consumption. The Tado Smart Thermostat controls your air conditioning (or heat) via infrared, just like your remote control, and connects through your Wi-Fi to the internet.
Already a Samsung SmartThings owner? You can control your air conditioner remotely with products like the GE-In-Wall Smart Switch. With this switch, you can turn your lights on/off from your smart devices, and also trigger the lights when certain events occur. For example, when someone opens a door or leaves a room. The switch also plays nice with ceiling fans, which can turn on/off depending on the temperature of the room.
For the most part, smart home security cameras serve a useful purpose and have improved significantly over time. Most are now wireless and run on your home’s Wi-Fi network. Most capture HD video. And current-generation cameras have been designed to look much better inside and outside the home.
Our biggest concern about smart webcams is security. Companies such as Alphabet’s Nest and Samsung (with SmartThings) have dealt with some significant security issues in recent months, which is something to keep in mind before making a purchase.
A good rule of thumb: To get the most out of your home security camera, dedicate yourself to updating its firmware on a regular basis. By doing so, you can stay on top of future security flaws.
Pet and Baby Cams
Besides regular, everyday home security systems, the smart home market is becoming inundated with smart cameras designed to monitor your pets or children. One of these is the $149 PetCube, which allows you to play with your pet virtually.
A more practical solution: Rather than spending the extra money on a pet or baby cam, stick with an all-in-one solution. The $199 Withings Home, for example, works anywhere in the home and includes pet and baby cam features. In other words, you can continue to use it long after your child has grown.
All-In-One Control Panels
If you’re looking for a connected-home control panel, you might be enticed by Umbrela, which promises to replace conventional electrical switches to provide an impressive list of smart home control features. These include day and night cameras, noise cancelling microphones, stereo speakers, motion and environmental sensors, and more.
Unfortunately, Umbrela, and products like it, are expensive. When it’s finally released, Umbrela is expected to cost $500, while a “mini” panel without a camera will go for $300.
A far less expensive alternative: Install one control panel and upgrade your outlets and switches with Z-Wave or ZigBee devices.
Smart Water Bottles
Are you the type of person that needs a little bit of encouragement to drink more water? You’re almost certainly not alone based on the number of smart water bottles that have invaded the consumer market in recent years.
Smart water products from Hidrate, Seed, and MyHydrate all promise to keep you better hydrated. Unfortunately, they all come with the same fatal flaw. What happens when you leave your smart water bottle at home?
A better solution: Ditch the pricey smart water bottles and instead use a free water intake app on your smartphone. Waterlogged, My Water Balance, and Water Tracker are just three of the many solutions available on the App Store. Best of all: You can drink your water out of whatever cup you’d like.
The Smart Home market continues to evolve as it adjusts to early mishaps and expected growing pains. While there are some terrific smart home products already available, some aren’t yet ready for prime time and should be avoided.
What smart home products do you recommend right now?