Your house is getting smarter - and your phone is the brain

The technology of today and the promise of tomorrow

Philips Hue

Smartphones are nice and feature-stocked these days, but we know what the phone buying hoardes are like: everyone wishes they did more. Sure, you can tweet from them, but we want them to be able to cook us dinner and take the robot vacuum for a walk.

The good news is that's a future which may be closer than you think.

We're already on our way there, as phones are gradually connecting us more to other devices. For example many smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9, now have infrared blasters, which can be used to control televisions, set top boxes and even air conditioners, removing the need for a separate remote.

But as the internet of things takes off (and the universe of things expands) more devices are becoming smart and connected, more and more potential is being unlocked in smartphones; before long they may be the brain of homes everywhere.

And if your smartphone is the brain, your router is the heart, as most smart devices are connected via Wi-Fi, so your router keeps it all going and keeps everything connected.

Music streaming

A lot can be done already, though in many cases it requires additional setup costs. Apple AirPlay lets you stream or mirror photos, videos and games from your iOS device to your HDTV, allowing you to view your snaps on a big screen, but aside from needing an HDTV there's also a middle man in the form of Apple TV, which is required to make it work. That in itself costs £59 ($69, AU$109).

Sonos is a costly streaming solution

On the music front there are things like Sonos, which lets you use your smartphone to stream music to any room in your house, allowing multiple people to listen to different things in different rooms with ease, or just filling your whole house with music.

But with a basic one room setup coming in at £169 ($299, AU$399) and the price going up substantially for multiple rooms or higher quality speakers it's far from cheap.

On the more affordable side, things like the Unified Remote app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone lets you control a Windows PC from your phone, complete with a mouse, keyboard and custom remotes for media, task manager and more, so you don't have to stay chained to a desk.

Similarly the Xbox SmartGlass app gives you a similar level of control over your Xbox One from your smartphone, meaning you can enter text without having to use a clunky controller.

Yes, this is an iKettle. We are sure Apple has emailed

Appliances are starting to get smart too. There's now such a thing as an 'iKettle' and no, it's nothing to do with Apple. It's a Wi-Fi enabled kettle that you can turn on from your smartphone. It will then tell you when the water has boiled and even keep it warm until you get there.

Even more usefully: it can send a message to your phone first thing in the morning or when you arrive home from a long day at work, asking if you'd like to turn the kettle on, so the water will be boiled by the time you make it to the kitchen. The same firm makes a connected coffee maker too.

Unfortunately the price angle rears its ugly head yet again here, as at £99.99 and £179.99 these are quite a lot more than standard appliances. That's particularly problematic when you consider that most users will be apprehensive about upgrading when traditionally a kettle is a device that only gets replaced once it breaks - you'd have to really want that convenience.

Other appliances are seeing similar features added. For example LG's ThinQ range - both a fridge and an oven are available - lets you do everything from send recipes (to the oven) and get automatic additions to your shopping list (from the fridge).

Speaking of shopping lists, there's no need to write them down any more: you can dictate them to the Amazon Echo or just push a button to have a fresh supply delivered to your door.


And when they turn up, why not cook them on the Cinder Sensing Cooker? Another device now available for pre-order that you can control with your smartphone.