Smart Home

Don’t Waste Your Time Waiting For These Smart Home Gadgets

Joel Lee 05-06-2015

Smart home automation What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More has really caught fire these past few years and manufacturers are hopping on the bandwagon while they still can. Smart thermostats, door locks, light bulbs, and so much more — you name it, it’s probably being developed.


Here comes the smart home revolution. Worried that it might be expensive? Smart homes are cheaper than you think How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? A smart home could change your life – freeing up time in your day and regulating your routine so you don't have to remember what needs to be done. But how expensive is it, really? Read More . In fact, there are plenty of mind-blowing products that you can afford right now 6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford Are you ready to join the smart home revolution but worried that it's beyond your budget? Smart homes aren't that expensive, and there are plenty of components that the average homeowner can afford. Read More . Don’t let price deter you.

According to ABI Research, 1.5 million smart home systems were installed in 2012. In 2017, estimations predict that 8 million systems will be installed. How’s that for rapid adoption? And the best part about smart home automation is that the possibilities are currently endless.

But not all of those possibilities will be winners. There are plenty of products that sound great but simply aren’t feasible or have taken so long to develop that they’re no longer interesting. Here are a few that you probably shouldn’t waste your time waiting for.

SONTE Smart Shade

A little less than a year ago, I recommended a handful of smart appliances worth buying 5 Smart Home Appliances You Should Be Buying The "smart home" concept is taking off and you should be keeping up, otherwise you'll end up missing out on the future. Read More and included the SONTE Smart Shade as one of those products. While I stand by my other recommendations, this is one that I regret mentioning, simply because I jumped the gun.

On the surface, the SONTE Smart Shade sounds revolutionary. It’s a shade that sits on your window and automatically adjusts between transparent and opaque depending on the amount of light that passes through. The goal is to block out excess light to regulate your home’s temperature.



So what’s the problem? For starters, the marketing for this product began way back in 2012. It’s been shown every year at the Consumer Electronics Show event and they even ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013. But the product still isn’t ready!

By this point, it feels like SONTE is failing to live up to the hype. Is it even real? How many competing products are going to come out before this one does? After all, there are numerous energy-saving smart home products Save Energy and Money With These Smart Home Devices One of the biggest benefits of a smart home is the energy saving technologies available. As well as saving money, you’ll also be pushing toward a more sustainable, convenient living situation. Read More already on the market.

I wouldn’t wait on this one. Who knows how long it’ll be before they actually release something to the public? Besides, is a smart shade even necessary anymore? I’m leaning towards no.


CastleHUB Smart System

CastleHUB, which is one of the more recent contenders in the smart home arena, claims to be “the world’s first whole-home voice control system”. In short, it’s a system that aims to support all available smart home protocols and devices, effectively replacing all other smart home hubs on the market Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick, but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises. Read More .

It’s a tall order to make and many, like me, are skeptical about whether CastleHUB can actually accomplish what it promises to do. In fact, if you read their Kickstarter details, it’s the same handful of promises repeated over and over in different ways.


The truth is, several big name smart home hubs already support multiple protocols like Z-Wave, Zigbee, etc. For example, the SmartThings Hub is already very much mix-and-match. As home automation matures, bridging this gap between protocols will become less of a concern, and that means CastleHUB will lose much of its value.


One of the other draws of CastleHUB is that it’s voice-controlled. But is that really necessary when the more robust Amazon Echo is moving towards smart voice control How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home Smart home tech is still in its early days, but a new product from Amazon called "Echo" may help bring it into the mainstream. Read More ? CastleHUB promises integration with Amazon Echo, but what happens when the other hubs also integrate? Why rely on a middleman when you don’t need to?

I’m not saying you should write off CastleHUB completely, but don’t rush into it. Wait and see if they can deliver. As it stands right now, the odds are stacked against them.

Kepler Gas Detector

Last year, we wrote about several smart home Kickstarter campaigns 6 Smart Home Kickstarter Campaigns You Should Totally Back Here's a list of six of the coolest currently-running projects on Kickstarter that will help you improve life around the house. Read More that looked interesting and worthy of funding. One in particular, the Kepler Gas Detector, sounded promising at the time but has lost much of its uniqueness since then.

The Kepler is an “intelligent gas and carbon monoxide detector” with several smart features like monitoring, alarms, and notifications. If a leak is detected, an alarm is triggered and alerts arrive on your smartphone.



Their crowdfunding efforts met success in August 2014, which led to the start of mass production in January 2015. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much news since then, and the product is still unavailable to the public. But here’s the real question: Is it worth waiting for?

Honestly, I don’t think so. The market already has the Nest Protect, which is a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that comes in battery and wired models, and Nest is a stronger smart home brand than Kepler’s company, Orvibo. I wouldn’t wait too long for this one.

Roost Smart Battery

At first, the concept of the Roost Smart Battery actually sounds pretty useful. Rather than buying a bunch of smartened devices to replace what you already have, why not smarten your current devices by inserting a smart battery instead? The execution of Roost, however, is where things fall apart.

The biggest misstep is that it’s specifically marketed as a battery for smoke alarms. Based off of that, you’d probably assume that it only works in smoke alarms. Not only that, you’d probably assume that it offers some nifty features that improve the smoke alarm you already have. Neither of these are true.


Roost will alert your smartphone when your smoke alarm goes off, but the real selling point — at least according to the website — is that it will notify you when the battery is getting low so you don’t have to deal with the endless chirp of a dying smoke alarm.

Is that really enough of a concern to warrant buying a specialized battery? As someone who was lazy enough to suffer through three months of smoke alarm chirping, even I don’t think there’s much value in the Roost. Worst of all, it’s not even available to purchase yet. Should you wait for it? I certainly won’t.

Smart Home: The Good and Bad

As with all markets, the smart home automation market is full of products that are useful, useless, and all manner in between. Before you spend money pre-ordering something that sounds cool, you should consider whether the product is actually worth supporting.

That being said, if you want to get involved with smart home automation, here are a few categories worth looking into: smart home security Safe and Sound: 4 Great Smart Home Security Devices Read More , smart home lighting Philips Hue Alternatives That Are Actually Worth It The Philips Hue system is leading the charge when it comes to smart lighting, but there are some worthy alternatives. We've picked three that all offer the same basic feature set and hackability. Read More , and if you’re feeling adventurous, smart devices you’ve never heard of 5 Smart Home Gadgets You Probably Haven’t Heard Of Read More .

Have you ever bought a smart device that wasn’t worth it? Are you looking forward to any smart products that are taking forever to release? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Smart Home Illustration Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Gadgets, Smart Appliance, Smart Hubs.

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  1. Tristyn
    October 1, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    I totally don't understand why you compare the Nest Protect to the Kepler Gas Detector. In fact, you say that the market already has the Nest Protect which detects smoke and carbon monoxide. It doesn't detect gas. The Kepler detects gas. Totally different products that detect different noxious fumes. No similarity at all.

  2. Anonymous
    June 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you for covering this issue. I am currently trying out several smart home devices and systems, Schlage Connect door locks, Nest thermostat and smoke/co detectors, Chamberlain Myq garage door opener, Wink hub, Rheem Eco wifi water heater, iRobot vacuum and mopper, Netgear Arlo security camera, and iSmart Alarm system. I've been waiting on the iSmart Alarm doorbell to come out. I just got my new Apple Watch and enjoy discovering all the new smart things that will connect with that.

    These are exciting times in the smart home arena, but clearly a huge dose of patience is required on the part of the consumer. One of my fears is that I will invest in a system only to find it obsolete or abandoned. iSmartAlarm is beginning to smell fishy. I have more hope for Arlo; hopefully Netgear values its reputation and will work thru the issues to a great product.

    In the meantime thanks again for keeping your readers informed! I depend heavily on your articles and reviews to keep me from buying into a bunch of broken Indigogo promises.

  3. Anonymous
    June 5, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I used to go to the Ideal Home Exhibition (in past years, when this was the only way to see new home technology products) and get excited by all those 'Home of the Future' articles in magazines; I was also an early adopter. I've had buitl-in vacuum cleaners, robot lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners and floor moppers, remote-controlled garage doors and window blinds - and so on and so on, all before anyone else had even heard of them. Did they work? Some didn't, some did - after a fashion..

    Now, on the whole, I wait. I wait until other people have been the first-adopters and have reported back on the pros and cons; then I wait some more. Everything but everything is released before all the problems have been ironed out, and so early adopters end up paying. They pay higher prices so that R&D costs can be recouped, and they end up with a product which is flawed and will be out of date very quickly as soon as the next couple of generation of the product appear with the flaws removed (and a few extra knobs and whistles added as sweeteners).

    The other main problem with home technology is that it's developed for the perfect house.My first robot lawnmower was tested, apparently, in Israel where lawns were laid from scratch and nurtured lovingly because little grew 'naturally'. So the robot struggled with a wild, centuries-old, English lawn with its bumps, tree roots, animal activity, nooks and crannies. The built-in vacuum cleaner was developed for modular modern properties with removable panels and cavity walls etc., and was consequently difficult to fit in an old country cottage with thick stone walls and, when part of the system gave up, it was impossible to find the fault without extensive excavation. The vagaries of the electricity supply in rural England are often too much for sensitive equipment, and now copper-wire 'broadband' is too hit-and-miss for it too.

    So, while in my dreams I still have a 'home of the future', the reality is that I'm a slightly disillusioned and delaying adopter of its technology. Perhaps when I'm very, very old and have to move back into a metropolis and a purpose-built flat...