Easy-to-install smart home gadgets

Installing new smart home features used to be a difficult chore. The top technologies often involved isolated ecosystems that only worked with components from the same manufacturer and came with complicated set-up instructions and keypads. Smart homes, it seemed, required not only smart devices but smart owners -- tech nerds, really -- to keep them running.

Not anymore. Many new smart home gadgets are built for everyone and can start saving time and money almost as soon as they're unpackaged. From simple electrical plugs and switches to more advanced robotic cleaners and security cameras, the era of the plug-and-play smart home is here.

In addition, today's new smart speakers and smart displays, including the Lenovo Smart Assistant and Lenovo Smart Display, can take a smart home even further. The same virtual assistants that run the speakers and displays (Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, etc.) also integrate with popular smart home products -- even if they come from different companies and use different commands. This enables centralized control similar to that provided by dedicated smart home hubs.

What are the best smart home gadgets for me?

First, we should define what we mean by a smart home gadget. For purposes of this FAQ, a smart home gadget is something that makes a home smarter as soon as you plug it in, turn it on, or set it on the table or countertop. It's something so simple that you can buy it at the hardware store (or have it delivered) in the morning and be enjoying its benefits by this afternoon.

With that, here's a quick list of today's easy-to-install, high-impact smart home gadgets:

  • Smart light bulbs, plugs and switches

    Perhaps the simplest smart home devices to install are smart plugs, smart light bulbs and smart wall switches. They merely have to be plugged or screwed into place -- replacing your standard bulbs or switches -- and whatever's connected to them is immediately under smart control. Depending on the model and manufacturer, you can illuminate your space on a pre-set schedule, using voice commands, and/or whenever people are present (if the device is equipped with motion sensors).

  • Smart doorbells and security cameras

    If smart bulbs and switches are the easiest gadgets to set up, today's smart doorbells and security cameras (which are nearly as simple to install) may be the most popular. The market for these products has exploded in recent years, and for good reason -- they can tell you when the delivery driver is at the front door, what's happening in the baby's room, and who's in your back yard when they shouldn't be. It's all viewable via your smartphone or integrated smart display.

  • Smart vacuums and lawn mowers

    Are clean floors your "thing" but you lack the time (or energy) to do the work yourself? A smart vacuum could be the answer. With just a few basic set-up steps, these robotic devices will navigate through your home, suck up loose dirt and debris, and map the best path for future sweeps. Similar technology has been extended to lawn care, too, with smart lawn mowers that -- once you help them learn your property lines -- can trim the grass so quietly your neighbors won't even hear it.

  • Smart thermostats and environmental controls

    It's one thing to set your thermostat to change temperatures at particular times of the day. But how about one that will change settings based on what it learns about your activity over time? That's what a smart thermostat, or learning thermostat, can do. Say you've set it to turn up the heat at the time you typically awake each morning, but your habits change and you start rising earlier? A smart thermostat with motion-sensing capabilities can notice the change and adjust accordingly.

These are just a few of the easy-to-install smart home devices we've found. There are many more. Robotic pet sitters keep your dog or cat occupied while you're away. Smart trash cans remind you when it's time to empty them. Smart window blinds move up and down with the movement of the sun. The right easy-to-install smart home device for you is no farther away than your local home improvement store or favorite shopping website.

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