It seems like every day someone is slapping smart features into some new category of previously mundane household devices. Here are some smart home products you'll be excited to give or receive.
Philips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Pack
This smart LED light bulb set costs an eye-opening $199, but Philips Hue bulbs are remarkably customizable. Not only can they display the full range of standard light bulb color temperatures, but through the Hue mobile app, you get another 16.5 million colors to choose from, as well as all kinds of programmable functions. Among other behaviors, you can set the lights to go off on a timer, or on your GPS-based proximity. You don't need to spend this much for an LED bulb, but Philips' Hue line is easily the most fully-featured one.
Pitched as home security for the rest of us, the monthly-fee-free iSmartAlarm gives you an expandable network of sensors you can position around your home. With motion detectors, open/closed contact sensors, and a camera you can view and control from your smartphone, you'll be able to secure your space without breaking the bank.
Smart-device darling Nest unveiled a connected smoke/CO2 detector this week, but it's the company's Learning Themostat from 2012 that we're still most drawn to. From the stunning design, to the intelligence that studies and adapts to your temperature preferences over time, the Nest is one of the best examples of how common household fixtures can benefit from connectivity.
Honeywell Smart WiFi Thermostat with Voice Control
Nest gets most of the headlines, but traditional thermostat market leader Honeywell is in the smart-device game, too. This model is Honeywell's second, and it's the first thermostat we know of with voice control. We haven't reviewed it yet, so we can't comment on the effectiveness of its voice recognition capabilities, but the idea of being able to adjust the temperature "Star Trek"-style has a lot of appeal.
For every new smart device, it likely means an app to go with it. To stave off app fatigue, Revolv Inc. has come up with the Revolv Smart Home Solution. This hub funnels control of your connected light bulbs, locks, security systems and other devices into a single, simple-to-use iOS app.
Insteon's connected LED won't change color, but its warm yellow light and $29 price tag make it recommendable nonetheless. You or your giftee should have some enthusiasm for home automation in general, since you'll need the Insteon home automation starter kit to control the bulb from your phone.
The beauty of Belkin's WeMo line of programmable plugs is that they give you a simple, flexible, and affordable way to experiment with home automation. We like the plug-motion detector combo, since it sells for less than $80, and lets you play with both basic on/off capability and motion triggers for any device you connect to it.