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A Beginner’s Shopping Guide to Smart Home Devices



A Beginners Shopping Guide to Smart Home Devices 1024x1024 min

With the rate at which technology is advancing, it can be easy to take advancements in personal leisure for granted. How many of us have caught ourselves getting frustrated with our smartphones, then stopped to consider how outlandish such a device would have sounded a scant few decades earlier? The future is now, and the promises of hand-held video screens and interactive artificial intelligence systems made by sci-fi films of the past are being realized around us at a shocking pace. The next innovation to sweep the nation, now that our phones and watches are smart, is likely to be the smart house, a living space that responds to our vocal commands and accommodates our every need. If you’re interested in living in a smart house, here are some devices to consider adding to your arsenal.

Smart Hubs

The centerpiece of any coordinated smart home is a hub, a device that you communicate with to control your appliances. If you want to be able to control your entire smart home apparatus from a single device, you should look for appliances that are compatible with your hub. The leading tech companies have all developed hubs, with varying amounts of compatible equipment. Start shopping for your smart home by researching the Amazon Echo, Google HomeApple HomeKit, and Samsung’s SmartThings hub, as well as the appliances that they work with. Once you’ve selected the system you’d like to use, look for smart devices that can pair with your hub.

Smart Thermostats

The Nest thermostat was one of the first smart home devices to hit the market, back in 2011. You can pair the device with your phone to adjust the temperature of your home without touching the base unit. What’s even “smarter” about the Nest is that it will gradually learn about your typical schedule of heating and cooling your home and start automatically adjusting to keep you comfortable. The Nest is now compatible with Amazon Alexa, meaning you can control it with your voice as well.

Smart Plugs

The Wemo Smart Plug is one of a few devices now offering owners the ability to turn power on or off to any connected device using their phone or their voice when paired with Alexa. The function of this plug extends to anything you plug into it, meaning you can now turn your fan, lamp, or fish tank on or off on a schedule, or via Alexa or your phone.

Smart Locks

The eGee Touch Smart Padlock is just one of many smart locks now hitting the market, allowing you to lock or unlock your valuables with the touch of a button. The Schlage Connect Deadbolt does the same thing for your door. These locks pair well with a smart doorbell, like the Ring, which you can use to interact with visitors via a Wi-Fi enabled camera and speaker.

Smart Lights

Connecting your lights with your smartphone or smart home hub lets you turn them on or off remotely or on a schedule, meaning you’ll never waste power by running out of the house with the light switch on again. The Philips Hue line of smart lights takes it a step further by letting you choose from millions of colors and shades of light, and the Hue line is compatible with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home.

Smart Cleaning

Like the Nest thermostat, the robotic vacuum was an early smart home innovation, but in the decade-plus since its release, it’s improved vastly. The Roomba 900 series now offers voice control with Alexa, so you can yell at your robot vacuum to start cleaning. Yet another sentence that would have been ridiculous a few years ago.

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4 Apps You MUST Download Before Vacationing with Kids




4 Apps You MUST Download Before Vacationing With Kids 1024x1024 min

Vacations are supposed to be a time for relaxation, but with the stress of hitting travel deadlines, finding a decent place to stay, and holding on to your possessions, they can often include a great deal of stress. Add kids to that equation, and you might need a vacation after your vacation! Luckily, the age of the Internet and mobile phones offers us myriad solutions for keeping kids occupied while on the go. Here are four apps you should have pre-loaded to keep your kids quietly occupied while you focus on getting there, and relaxing once you arrive.


  1. LumiKids Park: Early Learning Play for Kids:

You may have already heard of Lumosity, the company responsible for a popular group of products that help adults work out their brains to keep their cognitive functioning the best it can be and learn new skills along the way. This is their version for kids. Parents put in the kid’s age, and kids then enter a magical playground where they can interact with their surroundings and play mini-games. The games teach skills like sorting, memory, and hand-eye coordination, so your kids will be busy learning while you’re busy lounging.


  1. Toca Kitchen Monsters:

This app is a free version of Toca Kitchen, a popular cooking game. Kids prepare different outlandish foods for the eating pleasure of two hilarious monsters, whose noises of enjoyment will delight your kids (although headphones are a must if you’re not fond of constant chomping noises). Be warned: Toca Kitchen Monsters, will keep your kids occupied, but do NOT count on it to teach them good meal etiquette.


  1. The Robot Factory:

One of the most popular kid’s apps, The Robot Factory has garnered rave reviews from parents and children alike for its seemingly endless possibilities. Kids get more than 50 robot parts to combine however they see fit, and they can then test out their creations in an arena. Building the robots is a snap, and the app encourages your kids to get creative in how they configure their automaton friends. And they can save their robots in the showroom to perfect them later. Who knows: you might have a future engineer in the family! Find out this summer vacation and let your kid loose on the Robot Factory.


  1. The Foos:

Coding now ranks up right alongside reading and arithmetic as a skill for kids to develop, and there’s no better way to introduce them to the process than with the Foos. The 24-level game has three unique domains chock-full of interesting, programmable characters. Kids create sequences of actions that the characters then perform in order to accomplish tasks. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the basis of coding! Teaching kids to arrange tasks in sequence via a colorful drag-and-drop action sequencer prepares them for the basics of coding in a fun, creative way, while keeping them enthralled so you can enjoy your time AWAY from the computer.


These apps are all eye-catching and fast-paced enough to keep your kids occupied while you enjoy your vacation. Just keep in mind that many feature sound effects, so headphones are essential. As an added bonus, many of these apps help kids develop important skills. So, ironically enough, their brains might be expanding while you’re giving yours a rest! Happy trails.

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