In an age of smart fridges and smart mirrors, the notion of a fully connected smart home is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

While we may not have robot servants like Rosie from The Jetsons, it’s possible to make your home feel like you’re living in the future.

While this feature is focused on smart homes, everything here could easily be applied to office spaces, hotels, hospitals or anywhere else you’d like.

We’ll be looking at complete systems that overhaul a space entirely, as well as small, singular items that can be added to any environment to make a difference.

Home Automation

While home automation has always been marketed as a way to simplify your life, it’s actually more focused on having control over your home.

When you arrive home from work, do you want the the lights on at half brightness, the air conditioning to be set at exactly 21 degrees and your speaker system to be playing smooth jazz? That’s exactly what automation offers you.

This is achieved through connecting various parts of your smart home to a central control hub. Whether through a wired system hooked up to a wall mount, or wireless through wifi, Bluetooth or Near Field Communication (NFC) to a tablet or phone, there are many ways to go.

To start the process you’ll need to look at what you want to automate in your home. With those parameters in mind you can look for a system to suit your vision.

For example, the Control4 Experience is a combination system that handles media streaming, security and climate control. It also comes with a really cool feature called “mockupancy” which will control your lights, TV, music and more to make it look like you’re at home, even when you’re not, hopefully scaring away would-be thieves.

If you thought South Africa would be left behind when it comes to this new frontier of automotive houses, you’d be mistaken. Check out a list of companies below which both stock home automation products and will sometimes install them for you.

The internet connection

So you’ve moved into your new home and you need to connect to the internet. Thanks to advancements in internet technology, there are a number of options to choose from and the solution you choose with will determine everything else you might need.

Your choices in South Africa are primarily wireless, in the form of LTE and 3G connections as well as wired connections in the form of ADSL and fibre.

If you go the wireless route you may need to opt for a router which accommodates a SIM card. Some routers even allow you to plug a wireless internet dongle into a USB port as well.

For wired connections you will need an ADSL,VDSL or fibre-compatible router. For fixed internet up to 10Mbps an ADSL router will do but for fibre connections and anything faster than 20Mbps you will need a VDSL router or one with a WAN port and fast WiFi.

The next decision you will need to make is how fast you want your wireless signal to be. For the fastest WiFi connection you should look for routers that support the 802.11 b/g/n/a/ac standards. If you have a large amount of people connecting to your network or if you plan to add your home and gadgets to the internet of things you might want to consider a dual, or tri-band wireless router.

These routers beam internet out on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, which can give an in-demand network a bit more breathing room.

The final step to ensure your home is connected to the internet is to determine whether you need a WiFi range extender. If you have thick walls and a big house, chances are you are going to need a range extender just to make sure everybody can get their daily dose of cat videos thanks to a wireless signal that reaches every corner of your home.

The Gadgets

While the other solutions listed here are great contained systems, this section will look at individual, smaller purchases.

Oregon Weather Station

Oregon-Weather-Station

While a telescope can turn you into an amateur astronomer, this kit can turn you into an amateur meteorologist. In the box you’ll find a main console, rain gauge, wind sensor and a thermo-hygro sensor.

That funnily-named device measures humidity and temperature and sends it to the main console. With this you’ll be able to store seven days’ worth of weather information before sending it to your PC over USB. We can’t think of anything more futuristic than having your house become the a data sensor that track the environment.

It may not be very useful for most people, but it’s ice-cool.

 

The Looftlighter

Looftlighter 1

While this may be a Swedish product with a distinctly Swedish name, the Looftlighter fits in perfectly in South Africa. Next time you’re starting up the braai, don’t bother with matches or lighters, because this puppy shoots out superheated air that can light charcoal, briquettes, hardwood and anything else you point it at.

It’s so clean and efficient and it’s amazing to see in action. Oh, and it only takes 60 seconds to light something on fire.

 

Sabre Car Parking Sensor

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The Sabre is just one of the makes of a brilliant idea: put a sensor in your garage or parking lot and never scrape up your car again.

If you’re unfamiliar: a parking sensor uses some method (usually a laser) to measure the the distance between your car and a wall. If you drive too close, it will alert you with sounds, lights or both, so you can park close to objects with no worries that you’ll hit them.

While many new cars come with this standard, or at least offer something similar as an optional extra, these are much cheaper and work with any car. And don’t forget that it will probably be cheaper than the cost of repairing scratches, bumps and paint on your car.

Smaak Rechargeable Light Bulb

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Rechargeable light bulbs are as clever as they are simple: plug them in like regular bulbs and they’ll provide light as well as charge an internal battery.

When the electricity goes out due to load shedding or some such other inconvenience, the battery will take over and keep the light powered.

Other types of bulbs also have LED lights to last a long time, and some even have the ability to be removed and used as a torch. Just make sure those are installed in lamps and not your roof.

 

PetSafe Magnetic 4-Way Locking Deluxe Cat Flap

PetSafe Magnetic 4 Way Locking Deluxe Cat Flap

Again, this is a simple idea that has more uses than you may think. This kit comes with a magnetic collar for your animals that, when they get close to the flap, automatically open it.

The rest of the time the flap will remain shut, only opening when the collar comes into range.This means that no stray animals (or thieves, if they’re small enough) can get into your house. It also comes with the option to allow “only in” or “only out” should you need those functions.

 

Oregon Grill Right Bluetooth Thermometer

Oregon Grill Right Bluetooth Thermometer 1

Well here’s a new take on a relatively simple instrument. This thermometer can be setup with alerts to tell you when food is ready as well as estimate the state of a piece of meat (which also includes medium-well and medium-rare, which is a nice touch).

There are also other features like target temperatures and air temperature monitoring. If you’re serious about cooking, this is for you.

Kymera Magic Wand

Kymera Magic Wand

While the other products on this list aim to make your home feel like something from the future, this one makes it feel like a space from Harry Potter. This wand uses motion sensors to become a universal control for may appliances in your home. You can pull off “magic” like changing channels by flicking the wand, adjusting volume by turning it and swiping through images from afar.

[Image – Huffington Post]