We think of homes as unchanging things that have always followed the same basic format – kitchen, living room, some bedrooms, and bathrooms.
But the truth is, the home is an evolving concept. And the latest evolution is here: The smart home.
By using connected technologies, the smart home lets you automate a ton of small tasks around the house, from cleaning, to entertainment, to turning on the coffee machine. And the modern wave of AI-powered assistants makes it even easier.
Here are our picks for turning your dumb home into a smart home.
Speak(er) to Me
Your first stop is going to be a smart speaker. This is the heart of the smart home; it connects to your phone via app. But any good smart speaker will also allow voice control. Obviously, it’s good for music, but you’ll typically be able to connect it to other smart devices to control them as well.
A smart TV is a good example of this synergy – connecting the two allows you to watch TV remote-free, just by using voice commands through your smart speaker.
If you’re interested in starting your smart home journey with a connected speaker, there are a few options:
This speaker might seem small – it’s less than 10cm tall and wide – but it is mighty. It comes with Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, on board. Computational audio makes sure that you’re heard clearly, and that it’s heard as well. Obviously, it will play nicely with other Apple devices, but it’s perfectly capable of speaking to a wide variety of other smart home tech.
You can get the Apple HomePod Mini for a cool R230 a month with a Rentoza subscription.
They’ve been making waves ever since they were first released, and the fifth generation of Amazon’s Echo Dot is no different. Bundled with the Alexa virtual assistant, this speaker boasts lossless audio, so you’re always getting the fullest sound experience when you’re using it. Like the HomePod, it comes with a wide range of integrations, so it’s easy to run devices from different manufacturers from the same place.
The Echo Dot is R160 on a monthly Rentoza subscription.
The big G’s contribution to the smart speaker world is called, simply, Home. Full integration with Android means you get access to a wide range of Google-approved and developed tools – including built-in Chromecast, so it’s easy to stream to other devices. Multiple far-field microphones mean it can hear you from further away, so you don’t have to trek over to the thing to get any use out of it.
The Google Home Smart Speaker is R160 a month with your Rentoza subscription.
Having made a name for themselves with smartphones, Xiaomi has applied their same great value philosophy to smart speakers. The Mi Smart Speaker comes with Chromecast integration, and is DTS Professional tuned, so you know you’re getting solid tunes from this guy.
You can put the Mi Smart Speaker on your shelf for just R120 a month with a Rentoza subscription.
Once you’ve got the core of your smart home sorted, you can start looking at ways to smooth out life's little bumps. One great way to do that is with a robot vacuum or mop.
Like these ones.
That’s right, it’s Xiaomi again, and this time with two options:
The S10+ Robot Vacuum Cleaner comes absolutely stuffed with cool tech, including Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support, LDS laser navigation, and 3D obstacle avoidance. That means it will play nice with your smart speaker of choice, while playing nice with your furniture (no knocking over that expensive vase).
Meanwhile, the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop Pro does exactly what it says on the tin – it vacuums and mops, so no spill is safe from this dust destroyer. While it doesn’t have quite the smarts of the S10+, it does have Alexa and Google Assistant support, so you can get this one going hands-free.
The S10+ is R760, and the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop Pro is R630 on a monthly Rentoza subscription.
An absolute do-it-all swiss army knife of a cleaner, the Legee 7 offers a whopping seven different cleaning modes, all accessible from the app, or the integration with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Actually, that’s wrong; there’s a custom mode, too – make that eight cleaning modes. It polishes, it deep cleans, it’s even got a mode just for pet hair.
Get the versatile Legee 7 from R760 per month with a Rentoza subscription.
The Next Step
OK, speaker sorted. Vacuum… vacuuming. What’s next? The really cool thing about smart home tech is its versatility. It’s easy to build a setup that works for your needs specifically. But to take that next step, you’ll need some smart plugs.
These WiFi enabled gadgets plug into your wall, then you plug whatever gadget takes your fancy into that. The WiFi connection means you can control the plug from your smartphone – or smart speaker. Want to boil the kettle? Do it from the couch. Or on your way home from work.
And that’s just the beginning. In an age where personalisation is king, smart home tech lets you craft your environment to respond to your needs, as and when you want it to.
In some ways, that’s a bit like Rentoza: We’re all about giving you the access to chart your own tech path. Upgrade, downgrade – we don’t mind, as long as you’re living your best life, we’re happy.
Now that’s the smart home life.