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5 'Internet of Things' gadgets you didn't know existed

5 'Internet of Things' gadgets you didn't know existed
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
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It used to be that a cellphone was for making phone calls. Then it got the ability to send text messages, and now you can't imagine a day without posting to Facebook, checking emails, playing games, taking pictures, or any number of other activities on your smartphone.

As it turns out, that's the tip of the iceberg. Soon, you'll be controlling many of the devices in your home, from thermostats to lights and much more, with your smartphone. Every day, an average 5.5 million smart, or "Internet of Things," devices are being connected in homes around the world, according to research firm Gartner. It further estimates there will be 6.4 billion connected devices by year's end, and 20.8 billion IoT devices by 2020.

You might already have some of these smart gadgets in your home. Odds are, you already have an Internet-connected smart TV or a streaming media player device, like Apple TV or Roku. (Note: Before you buy one, check out streaming media player specs at the exclusive Komando Streaming Media Player Comparison Chart.)

However, there are more types of IoT gadgets than home media or appliances. There are IoT devices that help you sleep, keep you safe, improve your cooking and more. Here are five IoT devices that might surprise you, and how to get started turning your house into a smart home.

1. Sleep better

You know getting a good night's sleep is critical to maintaining optimal physical and mental health. That means you need 7 or more hours of good quality, deep sleep.

Yet, you never quite know if you slept like a rock, or tossed and turned all night. Samsung's soon-to-be-released IoT gadget SleepSense can help.

It's shaped like a paddle and goes under your mattress to monitor your sleep habits. It detects vibrations, and can measure your heart rate, breathing and movement. SleepSense uses a Bluetooth connection to send the information to your smartphone.

Each morning, it gives you a sleep "briefing," to let you know how well you slept. It gives you a sleep score that you can use to compare your sleep patterns over time, along with advice to sleep better from a Harvard Medical School professor.

That's good for your health. But SleepSense has a bonus feature that's just cool.

When you connect it to Samsung's SmartThings Hub (Amazon affiliate link), SleepSense can detect when you're falling asleep. When you are, it'll turn off the lights and TV, and crank up the A/C. When you wake up, it'll turn on the coffee maker. That sounds pretty awesome.

Sleepsense

Note: Some fitness trackers that you wear around your wrist or clip onto your clothes monitor how well you sleep. Before you buy one, check out the exclusive Komando Fitness Tracker Comparison Chart.

2. "Turn on the lights"

How many times have you come home later than expected? You're at an after-work event or your kid's football game and it's running late. It was supposed to end at 6 p.m., but it's dragging on past 8 p.m.

It's dark outside and, of course, you didn't leave the lights on at home. Sure enough, you get home and everything is dark. You struggle to get the key in the door and, once you open it, you have to feel around the wall for the light switch. Then, room by dark room, you repeat those steps.

Wouldn't it be easier to tap an app on your phone, to turn on all the lights? That's possible right now, thanks to the Internet of Things.

Lightbulb makers sell lightbulbs that you can link to the rest of your smart house. For example, with Philips' Hue LED lights and Philips Hue Bridge (Amazon affiliate link) smart home device (see photo), you can remotely turn on and turn off dozens of lightbulbs in and around your house.

These are smart lightbulbs. You can dim them from your smartphone app. Plus, you can program your lights to gently wake you up by slowly turning on in the morning.

You can sync your lightbulbs to your streaming music or movies. Say you turn on Netflix, your Philips lightbulbs can be programmed to automatically dim, for optimal viewing.

Bonus: "Hey, Siri. Turn on the lights." You can connect your Philips Hue lightbulbs to Apple's IoT hub, the Apple HomeKit. With it, you can use Apple's voice-activated assistant, Siri, to turn on or turn off your lights.

Phillips Hue Bridge

3. Keep your family safe

If you've got a connected car, you may already be remotely turning it on or unlocking your doors without even touching your key ring. Cars are increasingly equipped with Internet-connected technology, so you can do things like unlock the doors when you've got an armful of groceries.

The same concept is at work in IoT homes. For instance, you can remotely lock and unlock your doors. Smart locks, like Kwikset's Kevo (Amazon affiliate link) are Bluetooth-connected, too. (See video below.)

With Kevo and its smartphone app, you can program your home locks, so only your family members can unlock the doors. You can set the times of day when they can unlock the doors, and you can give your house guests temporary access to your home. No keys required.

Once your family, guests and you have downloaded the Kevo app to your smartphone, you don't even need to take it out of your pocket or purse for it to unlock your doors. Just touch the lock with your finger, and it'll unlock.

4. Keep it fresh

If you roll your eyes whenever someone tells you that you'll soon have smart appliances, like a refrigerator, that's understandable. Why would you need to communicate with your fridge over the Internet?

Well, think about this one application, SmartDiagnosis. If your LG smart appliance is on the fritz, for instance, it will connect you with LG's customer service department by phone, or with a smartphone app. They'll tell you what's wrong with it, and help you get it fixed.

Plus, if you've got a smart refrigerator, it will keep track of the food you have in there, alert you when you need to restock an item, and tell you which items are about to expire. Note: Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator has cameras inside, so you can remotely check what's on its shelves, while you're out grocery shopping.

Watch this exclusive Komando.com Report about five mind-blowing home products that were at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, including a smart fridge.

5. Cook it to perfection

If the idea of making a home-cooked meal terrifies you, or simply sounds like an inconvenience, IoT cooking gadgets can help. With your smartphone and app, you can remotely control what you're cooking at home, by turning it on, monitoring it while you're at work or driving the kids all over town. Then, get a smartphone alert when it's done.

For example, coming soon, KitchBot is a Bluetooth connected thermometer that you stick into your slow cooker. You have to prepare the food, like vegetables, meat and broth. Then stick in the KitchBot thermometer. When your food's done, no matter where you are, KitchBot will send an alert to your smartphone.

Another smart tool that'll be available soon is SmartyPans. The Bluetooth-connected pan can be synced to your smartphone app. You can use it to follow recipes. It'll tell you how much of each ingredient to put in the pan, and when, and for how long to cook it.

Not only that, it'll give you an idea of how many calories your meal contains, as well as nutritional information. (See video.)

Bonus: Smart-home hubs

Just reading about five Internet of Things devices probably has you feeling overwhelmed. How many apps, smart gadgets and devices can one person keep track of?

It's a good question, too, because from now on you're going to see many more IoT devices hitting store shelves. And, we're not even talking here about the apps and devices you'll need for your connected car.

That's why a lot of companies are vying to become your smart-home hub, whether that's through your TV set, your smartphone, or another device. Companies like Google, Cassia, HomeGenie and many other companies have, or are developing, smart-home hubs.

Instead of tapping an app to unlock your door, then another app to put on your lights, and yet another app to turn off your home security system, you just do all that from a single hub. Suddenly, IoT doesn't sound overwhelming, at all. It sounds great.

Watch this video to see more smart gadgets for your home:

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Komando Staff. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners, including Amazon. 

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