Whether it's smart security cameras, smart locks, smart thermostats, smart assistants or smart sensors, we're pretty obsessed with the stuff around these parts, and the best smart home gadgets of CES 2021 did not disappoint. There was weird and wonderful kit, notable upgrades to older equipment, and smarts being put in places you wouldn't imagine smarts to be, all for the betterment of your home.
For our top five we've selected that smart home gear which impressed us the most; this is a selection based on function, form, and those items which raised eyebrows. Don't think for a second that means we missed some other notable examples: T3's honorable mentions include TP-Link's sure-to-be affordable Kasa Smart Video Doorbell, the Origin Hex whole-home security system, and the Roborock S7 smart vac, a combination vacuum and mop which can automatically switch between the two modes.
1. Arlo Touchless Video Doorbell
Arlo's smart offerings netted the company a pair of CES honors in the Smart Home category – one for the Essential Indoor Camera, which includes a physical privacy shield which reassuringly blocks its eye when disables, and one for this, the Arlo Touchless Video Doorbell.
It takes person detection to its logical conclusion, working out when a visitor gets near and ringing the doorbell without them needing to do anything – an audible chime and light lets your confused guest know that the bell has been activated. Though its person detection algorithms are really rather good and it promises to have special proximity detection, we'll need to test it fully to know if Arlo has got the coding right here, and this may not suit those who live with a door right on a busy road.
2. Kohler Whole Home Water Monitor
Kohler's smart bathroom revelations at CES 2021 were pretty varied. It unveiled the square-shaped Stillness Tub spa bath, which includes fancy lights, aromatherapy elements and even fog for everything you need for a super-relaxing bath (bar, maybe, a nice glass of red); we also saw a very on-the-nose touchless tap, as well as the Innate, the latest in the company's line of bananas intelligent toilets.
Kohler's collab with Belkin spin-off Phyn tickled our smart home muscles the most, though: you can install it yourself, and it'll keep constant tabs on your plumbing, detecting leaks before you do. A higher end model also includes an auto shut-off function, something which will absolutely pay for itself if water starts interacting with your floors while you're away from home. The models are pegged at $300/$500 respectively, and we're hopeful for a UK release too when they launch later this year.
3. LG WashTower
LG's cool rethinking of the traditional washer/dryer combo is a double-stack single unit, with the dryer on top and the washing machine section on bottom, which cleverly saves floor space. Its washing and drying cycles tie into LG's rapidly expanding ThinQ network, giving you a remote view of where you are in the wash cycle on your app, and it can detect what fabrics you've loaded in and tweak its modes to match.
When you're done washing, the inherent connection between the two halves tells the dryer precisely what the last wash was and what needs doing to it next. A properly cool washer/dryer – something we didn't see ourselves saying before CES. MSRP is $2,500 in the US, with no work on elsewhere just yet.
4. Zobi Hedgehog
The Hedgehog doesn't switch on your lights or answer your questions. In fact, you'll not interact with it much at all. But it could be one of the most vital elements of a growing smart home: it's a stylish, smart cybersecurity device, designed to monitor all of your house-wide online traffic, use AI to work out what's normal, and block anything that isn't acting as it should. Yes, you should be keeping your individual smart home devices up to date and password protected, but with so many devices now part of the Internet of Things – a concept that is, however you spin it, inherently carries some risks – the Hedgehog fills a niche that really needs filling fast. The device comes in at £199 (around $260), with a monthly subscription based on the level of cover you want.
5. Samsung Bot Handy
Certain companies continue striving for that classic 'home of the future' deal for the smart home, and we'd put good money on Samsung's Jetsons-esque efforts being the first to actually make it to market in some form. The company, as is tradition, showed off some new robots at CES, including the Samsung Bot Care, which can work out how you're feeling and behaving and offer assistance and care, and this, the Bot Handy.
It's an AI-enabled robot arm bot able to analyse and pick up objects of various sizes, shapes and weights. We think the idea is that it'll scurry around the kitchen and fill your dishwasher or pour you drinks (big tick there) but Samsung also suggests it'll be able to clear up a messy room. No word on price or release date as yet, but rest assured that when it does arrive it'll cost just about as much as you'd expect something this advanced to cost.