5 great AI-powered home devices that will improve your life today

It’s time to make every home a smart home

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the tech buzz phrase of 2017 and it will only continue to snowball in 2018. Honor's latest phone has a chip specifically for AI, but it's in the home realm that AI assistants are really pushing to replace your PA, dog and family in your affections.

These are T3's current favourite AI products; there's nothing artificial about our love for them.

1. Amazon Echo Show

The current range-topping device with Alexa lets you do everything from checking on relatives in the next room or the other side of the world, to keeping abreast of your daily schedule to buying pants from Amazon

The 7-inch screen allows you to make video calls to other Show users, which is cool enough, but also to get a brief peak at, for instance, the Show of an elderly relative (with their permission, of course), without the need to disturb them. Great for peace of mind.

Amazon’s Alexa AI not only intelligently provides you with music based on a range of sophisticated voice search terms  — “Play sad pop songs from the 1980s”, for instance — it also learns to understand you better, the more you use it.

2. Nest Learning Thermostat

One of the first truly ‘smart’ smart home devices, Nest’s stylish heat wrangler is now onto its third generation. 

A breeze to set up, Nest lets you control your heating remotely. However, the real genius of it resides in the way that, over time, it reduces the need for you to control it at all. By learning when and how you use your heating, Nest’s Thermostat helps you use your heating more economically and effectively.

Allow it to use your phone’s location and Nest will also shut the heating off automatically when it knows you — and other members of your household — have left. This geofencing feature can also automatically arm your Nest camera, if you have one. 

As well as working with other Nest products, the Works With Nest family includes dozens of third-party devices, from Google Home and Amazon Echo to Philips Hue.

3. Google Home

Google’s direct rival to the Echo suite of smart speakers shares various characteristics with its Amazon rival. Home is great for music, news, weather and checking your (Google) calendar appointments. 

It’s not as much use for smart home control at present (although it will probably catch up) nor can you use it for shopping for consumer durables, although it does offer a full suite of music and movies, via Chromecast. 

However, it scores over its foe with the ability to tap into Google Search and Google Assistant, to answer questions from the trivial to the essential. 

Google Home can also recognise more than one voice, allowing you and your partner to access your own calendars and Google Play favourite accounts, as long as you haven’t developed identical speaking voices.

4. Netatmo Welcome and Presence

Nest offers comparably smart security cameras for your home, but Netatmo is a great innovator in this field. It introduced facial recognition with its Welcome cam years ago and has been developing it ever since. This lets you know not just that there’s someone in your home, but also precisely who it is. So you know when your kids are home, when the cleaner arrives and so on. Naturally, it also notifies you when a stranger calls, and starts busily grabbing your vauables.

The Presence camera for outdoors drops facial recognition but adds the ability to discern between people, pets and vehicles, notifying you accordingly and deploying a bright spotlight as  a deterrent when required.

5. Sonos One

Amazon Echo speakers are great, but they don’t have the most amazing sound quality. 

Thankfully, Amazon is more than happy to licence its home AI tech to others, resulting in excellent, music-focussed speakers such as UE’s waterproof one, and Sonos’ more audiophile offering. 

All of Alexa’s usual skills are included, but with greatly boosted sound quality, and compatibility with all Sonos’ other multi-room speakers.

Sony’s LF-S50G pulls a similar trick, albeit to slightly less impressive effect, with Google Home, putting the AI into an attractive speaker with better sound than Google’s own device, not to mention adding a clockface. 

From what we’ve heard so far, Panasonic’s SC-GA10 may prove to be an even better option when it finally launches, but there’s no word yet on when that will be.

AI Week is brought to you in association with Honor.

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."