The problem with most smart home products isn’t that they’re dumb. It’s that they aren’t smart enough to talk to one another. You can’t mutter a few words on your way to bed, and watch the lights shut off, hear the furnace shut down, or the AC crank higher. Each piece of gear typically has its own app, and sometimes its own wireless hub to attach to your existing WiFi network. It can get complicated. Companies like Apple and Google are trying to simplify the category, and make multiple products controllable through a single interface, but it could take years for those efforts to bear fruit. For now, you still have to micromanage your supposedly smartened-up home.
A handful of products, though, are worth the effort. We’ve tried tons of smart home gear, and will continue to do so as the segment keeps picking up steam. Some of the gear out there is fun, but niche, like color-changing light bulbs and home security cameras. Some is promising, but not yet ready for review, such as a connected mattress, and a magnetic plate that makes any light switch smartphone-controllable. And some are thinly-veiled scams, using pretty websites to sell single-purpose sensors whose functions are already incorporated into other, better products. For now, the list of smart home products that we can recommend without any reservations is shorter than we’d prefer, but too useful to pass up.