Smart Tech Solutions for Families to Simplify Life
Ever wish you could unlock your door with an app when you can’t find your keys? Turn the air up so the house is nice and cool when you return home from a weekend away? Text your elementary school kid to tell her you will be late – but without giving her a smartphone? Whip up some professional-looking party decorations the night before your son’s birthday from the comfort of your living room? Tell the UPS delivery man to leave your package out back even though he’s at your house and you’re at work?
Here’s a secret – ways to do all of those things exist. While they are not all cheap, these products are worth their weight in gold because they make life easier, reduce stress, save time, and may help you save money in the long-run.
Here is some of our favorite tech for families that can help life to run smoother and let you work smarter, not harder.
Smart Lock: If you are like many Moms, it’s a struggle just to get the kids out of the car and up to the front door. The last thing you want to do is have to fuss with finding your keys once you finally get there. Not to mention, chances are you’ve forgotten your house key altogether once or twice. The answer a Smart Lock. We like the Kwikset Premis since it’s easy to install and easy to use. Set a code and that’s it. Handyman or guest coming? No more risking a break-in by leaving a key under the mat. You can even set a one-time use code for visitors to use. Even better, when your kids get a little older they will easily be able to let themselves in and you won’t need to worry about them forgetting or losing their key. And don’t worry – just in case you forget your code there is a back-up key.
Smart Thermostat: Everyone knows that an easy way to save money and be kind to the environment is to be smart about how much you heat and cool your home. But, it can be overwhelming to remember to re-set the thermostat every time you leave the house, before you go to sleep, before you leave for vacation, etc. The answer is a smart thermostat like the Nest. The Nest automatically adjusts for different seasons and learns your patterns after a week. You can also adjust the temperature from an app so if you get up early one day and it’s freezing, just grab your phone to turn up the heat before you get out of bed. Kids coming home early in mid-July? No problem – use the app to crank up the air before they get home.
Smart Doorbell: There was a time when doorbells just went ding-dong, but now they can do so much more. The Ring Video Doorbell is the new essential doorbell for any family with kids. There are many possible settings depending on when and how you want to be alerted to movement by your door, but parents of toddlers who like to escape will appreciate a warning when your little one makes his way onto the front steps. Ring can also be used as a video camera in live view to watch the kids playing in the yard. Some families install a Ring in by the front and back doors for this purpose. There is also the ability for two-way communication so it’s possible to tell the delivery guy to leave a package out of street view through the app or tell your friend who popped by for a visit when you will be home right through the doorbell. It also offers peace of mind when you are away since you can get alerts whenever anyone is at your door or just check-in with the live view feature.
Smart Vacuum: A vacuum is not always a vacuum. It’s no secret that some work better than others, but new advances have made some cordless vacuums just as good, if not better, than even high-end corded vacuums. We were initially skeptical about whether the Dyson Cyclone V10 would stand up to a busy household of four kids whose hobby seems to be tracking dirt into the house and leaving trails of crumbs behind wherever they go, but the Cyclone 10 more than delivered. This is one piece of equipment that just works flawlessly. It’s very light and easy to maneuver, with a swivel head that easily gets under the sofa and can get to those little corners and spots along the walls most vacuums miss. It really does make vacuuming easier and eliminates the need for other household gadgets like a handheld vacuum and electric broom. There are a few different price points and models (including one for animals).
Dumb Watch Phone: Why is there something dumb on our list? Let’s face it, you might not be ready to give the kids an iPhone but you still want to be able to get in touch with them and ensure you know where they are. The answer is a dumb phone that locks down who your kids can call and text but still does everything you need it to do. There are a couple of good options depending on your phone carrier. The GizmoGadget is a great choice for anyone with Verizon. Use the app to program up to 10 numbers and those are the only numbers your child can call and the gadget will not accept any calls from any numbers not approved either. You can also use the app to send your child text messages and they can message you back with their choice of messages you program in (such as I’m fine, on my way home, I’ll call you in a minute, etc.). You can also track the location of the watch through GPS. Other than that, there isn’t much too it – and it’s only $5.00 a month to use. Anyone can use the TickTalk 2 regardless of phone carrier with plans starting at $5.00 per month. This watch phone is similar to the GizmGadget in that in allows you to pre-program up to 13 numbers. You can text your child from the app and your child can send you a voice message back and you can track the watch’s whereabouts. TickTalk has the option to set times when the phone turns off so that your child will not be able to use it during regular school hours. There is also an option to turn the phone on to listen to your child without him knowing you are doing so. While it may seem like a dumb watch phone is for kids, the truth is these devices are a smart move for parents who are ready to give their kids a little more freedom but still want to keep track of them, for kids who want the ability to call a few relatives or friends without checking with a parent first, or for parents who just aren’t quite ready to give their children a smart phone and are looking for an intermediate step.
Smart Air: Anyone who pays attention to the news knows that pollutants in the air are up, as are allergies and conditions like asthma. You can’t control the air outside, but you can make the air inside your home a little easier to breathe. A smart air purifier like the Dyson Pure Cool Link uses a HEPA filter and automatically turns on as needed. It’s Wi-Fi enabled so that you can monitor the air quality in your home and turn it on as needed. There is even a quiet mode so that you can run the purifier at night without waking anyone up.
Smart Security: An alarm system probably sounds like a good idea to many, but the cost and hassle of having your home wired may not sound so appealing. The answer? A sensitive one-time cost security camera like the Ring Spotlight Camera. Set it up once, choose your settings, then watch the light and camera come on automatically when motion is detected. There is even an alarm for when you need to scare off intruders. Since the spotlight camera is controlled through an app you can keep an eye on things even when you are not at home. A smart security camera might also come in handy when your kids become old enough to try to sneak out of the house.
Smart Baby Monitor: If you have a baby, you need a baby monitor. It makes sense to get one that will grow with your family and does more than just the basics. The bbluv-Vizio All in One Baby Monitor is a smart solution. During the day it is motion-activated with a clear picture and sound, plus it has night vision so that you can see your sleeping beauty even at night. It has a super-long range, can play lullabies, and will alert you if baby’s room gets to hot or too cold. We prefer the large display screen it comes with to models that require you to use your phone for video since you can see the screen from across the room and can continue to monitor baby even if you are on your phone. The Vizio can also be used as kids grow to watch them in their playroom or playing outside.
Smart Speaker: Smart speakers are one of those things that will probably wind up in every home sooner or later. If you don’t have one yet, know that once you get one you will never want to go back to a time before smart speakers. With smart speakers like the Amazon Echo Spot you also get a visual display and touchscreen. What’s so great about these? Without moving an inch you can ask your speaker to tell you the time or weather, order from Amazon, play music, set an alarm, look up a recipe, facts, or song lyrics, find out movie times, etc. With the Echo Spot you can also make video calls and more. With the increasing number of smart devices available for your home, you can also use a smart speaker to control your thermostat, monitor security cameras, turn lights on and off, etc.
Smart Art: When it comes to your party and home décor don’t settle for what’s available. Even non-crafty families can become more creative and get exactly what they want with a Cricut. This is another device that will easily pay for itself over time – not to mention you will get exactly what you want instead of what's just available.
Which of these smart devices would you most like to have for your home? What tech for families have you purchased?