I want to turn my lounge into a home cinema but don't want pitch darkness. What's the smartest smart lighting I can get?
The true home cinephile seeks darkness in its purest form for his black velvet dungeon room (it's the only way to experience classic movies like Sharknado and Police Academy 6: City Under Siege). But Gadget Guru takes your point – most folk feel more at ease with a little light when watching the telly. What you need, sir, is something called Ambilight. Yes, that's the halo of light you get around Philips TV sets, that changes colour in sync with the on-screen action.
The Philips 55PUS8601 (£1,700) projects coloured light pools on all sides, luring your eyes, rather like confused moths, towards the UHD screen itself. And the slightly psychedelic effect is ampliﬁ ed somewhat when you add a few Philips Hue smart bulbs around the living room (presuming the TV's in the living room). They, too, can be trained to dance in sync with your telly screen, simply by selecting Ambilight in the companion app. The effect is to make the movie the centre of attention while subtly illuminating the room – and, just as importantly, impressing your guests.
Can I use my iPhone to control the water fountain in my garden?
Evelyn, it's your lucky day. Assuming the water feature in question uses an electric pump and not gravity – or, indeed, witchcraft – it can be brought online with the addition of a Belkin WeMo Switch (yours for around £40). Just plug this device into a convenient wall socket that's within range of your Wi-Fi network, and plug the water pump into that. When you download the accompanying app, it'll help you to get your switch online and then enable you to turn the power on and off from anywhere in the world (pretty much). Or why not use the IFTTT app to have the fountain come on whenever you boil your smart kettle? Cool, huh.
I have a Sonos system, but I'm a vinyl man. How can I drag my record player online, kicking and streaming?
What you need, my plastic-loving friend, is a phono stage. The Sonos amp is already compatible with turntables with in-built pre-amps, but for anything with a moving magnet (mm), or a moving coil (mc), you'll need to ﬁ rst boost that quiet analogue signal. The Cambridge Audio Azur 651P (£100) works with both kinds of turntable, while the less-expensive Pro-Ject Phono Box (£40) is good for moving magnets. The alternative is a new record player like the coming-soon Sony PS-HX500 (£400), which can convert your vinyl into digital Hi-Res Audio ﬁles.
I have a Parrot Flower Power to remind me to water one pot, but what about the rest?
So you only perform a task when an electronic device tells you to? OK, I have just the thing. Meet Mother (£250), a hub that pools data from smart sensors called Motion Cookies, which attach to non-smart devices like a watering can. Whenever any of these things change, or move, a signal is sent to Mother and interpreted within the app. If a routine, like watering your pots, changes, you'll get a gentle reminder to do so. And when Mother tells you do something, you do it.
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