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What Is Smart Home Technology?

What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, door bells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It's not science fiction; it's the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's a key component of home automation and smart homes.

Smart Home Hubs and Controllers

Smart devices are electronic devices equipped with wireless protocols that allow them to be controlled and activated by voice command, or more commonly, through mobile app technology that can be accessed through a smartphone or tablet.

Smart Home Surveillance Cameras

Wouldn't it be great to know what's happening at home, anytime, from anywhere? It's easy to do with a smart video camera. Just take out your phone, open your app, and you have an instant view of activity inside or outside your home.

Smart Locks and Home Security Systems

While lock technology has always evolved, only recently did it become smart enough to ditch those keys altogether. Thanks to smart home security technology, we can now enjoy keyless convenience with better awareness and control of who enters our homes.

Smart Heating and Cooling

Smart temperature-control devices — such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures — are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

Smart Lighting

When we talk about a smart light bulb, we’re referring to an internet-capable LED light bulb that allows lighting to be customized, scheduled and controlled remotely using a smart phone, tablet, or smart home automation system via an app. The app enables you to change the brightness of the bulbs, and if the bulbs have colored LEDs you can change their colors, too.

Smart Home Show

22 September 2019

Host Michael Wolf as he explores the smart home universe. The Smart Home
Show features interviews with smart home leaders, analysis of the latest
smart home news and even the occasional Q&A and product review.

Business & Home Security Installations

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A Twitter user’s claim to have tweeted from a kitchen appliance went viral but experts have cast doubt

A resourceful teenager appeared to have taken the rise of increasingly powerful smart home devices to its logical conclusion – tweeting from her family’s smart fridge after her mother confiscated her phone.

An Ariana Grande fan known only as “Dorothy” tweeted last week to say she was barred by her mother from using her phone but said she managed to find a number of innovative ways to reach her thousands of followers – a handheld Nintendo device, a Wii U gaming console and, finally, her family’s LG Smart Refrigerator.

I do not know if this is going to tweet I am talking to my fridge what the heck my Mom confiscated all of my electronics again.

— dorothy (@thankunext327) August 8, 2019

hey guys omg. my mom is at work so i’m looking for my phone. wish me luck. lov u #Mii #MiiMaker #WiiU pic.twitter.com/BaaAWUUjoV

— dorothy (@thankunext327) August 6, 2019

This story was updated on 15 August with additional reporting casting doubt on the accuracy of Dorothy’s claims, including the analysis of Luca Hammer and Igor Brigadir. It also includes fresh comments from LG.


High street bank says Google Home trial could let you do the banking as you make a cuppa or iron a shirt

Get ready to say: “Hey Google. How much do I have in my bank account?” NatWest is to begin voice-only banking that will give customers direct access to their accounts by talking to the Google Home smart speakers now in millions of British homes.

The trial – the first by a UK high street bank – will let customers ask Google “What’s my balance?”, “What’s my latest transactions?” and “What’s my pending transactions”. Google devices will answer verbally, and also flash the answers up on the customer’s smartphone.

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Whoever takes over at the UK’s biggest energy provider must do more than just deliver gas and electricity to consumers

Would any other chief executive have done things differently? The question has been the topic of conversations in the energy industry since Iain Conn, Centrica’s chief executive, said last week that he would step down.

The boss of British Gas’s parent company will move early next year, leaving a company shaken by seismic shifts in Britain’s energy industry and facing an existential crisis.

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Camera shutter, tap gesture, better speakers and 5.5in screen make for an appealing smart alarm clock

Amazon’s latest Echo Show 5 Alexa smart display is smaller, cheaper and has improved privacy, but is a £79.99 5.5in screen with a camera ready to replace your alarm clock in the bedroom?

The Show 5 isn’t the first Alexa smart display aimed at being your bedside clock. The Echo Spot, with its pleasingly round screen and ball-like shape, was released in 2018 and is still available for £120.

If you don’t quite manage to swipe upwards on the display far enough to dismiss an alarm you end up snoozing it, which is really irritating.

The quick access panel is responsive, but there’s a noticeable delay when you tap into one of the sections.

Swipe down from the top to access brightness control, activate the “do not disturb” mode, get to the settings app, go to the home screen or view the currently playing music.

You can choose from a few wakewords, including non-gendered ones such as “Echo”, but the voice is always female, which is a shame.

Pros: relatively compact, sounds good, Alexa, good smart home control, 3.5mm output, extra clock and alarm features, relatively low cost

Cons: too small to...

She livestreams her dates, once became a real-life Alexa and built a light that dims in boring company. As AI: More Than Human opens at the Barbican, meet an artist for the tech age

In a gallery in downtown Manhattan, people are huddling around four laptops, taking turns to control the apartments of 14 complete strangers. They watch via live video feeds, and respond whenever the residents ask “Someone” to help them. They switch the lights on and off, boil the kettle, put some music on – whatever they can do to oblige.

The project, called Someone, is the latest in a series exploring our ever more complicated relationship with technology. It’s by the American artist Lauren McCarthy and is a sort of outsourcing of Lauren, an earlier work in which she acted as a real-life Alexa, remotely watching over a home 24 hours a day, responding to its occupants’ questions and needs like a flesh and blood version of Amazon’s voice-operated virtual assistant.

You get things like Facebook because Silicon Valley people just don't know what it means to be a person

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The latest smart speaker with screen looks better, sounds great and has built-in smart hub

The new second generation Echo Show is bigger with a better display, but is size enough to keep Amazon ahead of stiff competition from Google?

Since the original Echo Show launched last year the software has been refined, but the experience is broadly the same. The Show is a voice-first Alexa speaker, with touch interactivity as an additional input rather than the core experience. If you never wanted to touch the screen beyond the initial set-up ,you wouldn’t have to.

It routinely got stuck on one particular photo in my library, showing it for hours on end.

If you’re listening to music while cooking, the Show will just display recipes and steps without interrupting via voice.

You can’t turn off the tips of things to try through Alexa that show at the bottom of the screen when just showing photos, which is very annoying.

You can disable the camera entirely if you want to, but if you don’t trust Amazon with your data you shouldn’t be buying an Alexa device.

You can use the Echo Show as a Bluetooth speaker or connect it to a Bluetooth speaker.

Despite the screen, shopping on the Echo Show is still...

A new generation of devices featuring a host of clever features will make conventional alarm systems obsolete. We review four of the best

The days of alarms and floodlights being the only choice for home security are behind us with the growing availability of more intelligent and flexible options, such as smart cameras.

Placed outside or within the home, these internet-connected cameras offer a live view of what’s happening from practically anywhere, send alerts when they detect motion – and some can even recognise friend from foe. They promise full control and piece of mind through your smartphone, tablet or smart display.

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Firm will install devices in homes of elderly, disabled and ill people for monthly fee

British Gas owner Centrica is planning to put motion trackers in the homes of elderly, ill and disabled people as part of a service aimed at easing the concerns of millions of unpaid carers.

The company has already built a connected home business selling smart thermostats and other devices to more than a million households. In the latest sign of how the UK’s biggest energy company is diversifying away from traditional electricity and gas supply, Centrica’s Hive unit is launching a subscription service to help unpaid carers keep track of those they look after.

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Privacy policy reference to collecting audio alarmed Sleep Number’s customers

An American mattress company has sought to reassure customers that it is not hiding microphones in their beds, after alarmed snoozers noticed references to audio recording in the company’s privacy policy.

Under a heading explaining which personal information Sleep Number collects, the company, which makes smart mattresses with adjustable firmness, said it “may” collect “audio in your room to detect snoring and similar sleep conditions” as well as sleep-related data such as “movement, positions, respiration, and heart rate while sleeping”.

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Facebook, Google and Amazon are eager to get their new devices under your tree. But will they give away your privacy?

If you’ve so far withstood the temptation to install a smart speaker in your home, worried about the potential privacy pitfalls and a bit embarrassed about the notion of chatting aimlessly to an inanimate object, brace yourselves. This Christmas, the world’s biggest tech giants, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, are making another bid for your living room, announcing a range of new devices that resemble tablets you can talk to.

Facebook’s is called Portal, Google’s the Home Hub, and Amazon has unveiled the second version of its Echo Show. You can still speak to the digital assistants embedded in these devices, but their screens enable hands-free video calling (apart from the Google one), can act as a control pad for various smart devices you may have around your home, such as thermostats or security cameras and (this feature is on heavy rotation in all the promotional material) you can use them to prompt you through a recipe without resorting to smearing your buttery fingers over your phone or laptop. And they’re on sale just in time for the festive...

This gadget is your Google Assistant, smart-home dashboard and digital photo frame in one – and it’s good for cooking, too

The Home Hub is Google’s first own-brand smart display, combining Google Assistant, advanced smart-home control and a digital photo frame into a neat and tidy package.

Google isn’t the first to market with smart displays. Amazon’s Echo Show put the company’s Alexa on a screen a year ago, while Google Assistant smart displays made by Harman, Lenovo and LG were released a few months ago.

The screen can be set to turn off or go very dim in darkness

Swipe from the left edge to go back one screen

Some answers are accompanied by sound effects, such as birds tweeting for sunny weather predictions

Manual tweaking of brightness, low-light mode and display settings are buried in a menu on the Google Home app

There’s a night mode you can schedule to reduce the volume of responses and block notifications apart from alarms and timers

You can use it as a Bluetooth speaker

The Home Hub can show you the video from any linked smart cameras

Pros: great touchscreen, minimalist design, Bluetooth, Google Assistant, can hear you well, excellent smart home control, great recipes, cheaper...

Heating controller cheaper than previous model and consumers will not require a boiler engineer to install it

Google’s latest smart-home product is a cheaper smart thermostat that anyone can install themselves without the need for a boiler engineer.

The new £199 Nest Thermostat E is a two-part system consisting of a battery-powered heating controller called the Heat Link E, which replaces an existing wired thermostat or heating controller, and a smart thermostat that can be placed somewhere else in your home.

Nest Learning Thermostat third-gen: the simple, effective heating gadget

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Excellent smart device comes with optional 24/7 video recording with facial recognition – and works as a doorbell too

Google’s new Nest Hello is a video doorbell that aims to be smarter than the rest with constant recording, face and object recognition.

The Hello is a direct replacement for a wired doorbell, working with an existing chime and requiring constant power, making it one of the high-end options for smart doorbells.

The Nest app runs you through full installation instructions that you can’t skip, even if you’ve had an electrician install the doorbell for you. Tedious.

The hyperlapse effect of scrolling through a full day’s video is really beautiful, watching the sun streak across the sky

I received far too many notifications for people passing by without a Nest Aware subscription, meaning I had to turn them off

Shadows of people walking are identified as people, setting off the alert even if the person isn’t actually in your motion zone

The Hello is weather-proof, but the backplate doesn’t fit all that tightly to the wall, so water can get in behind it if it’s exposed to torrential rain or similar

You’ll need a strong wifi signal for the doorbell and an uncapped broadband...

Crafty and creative hacks, apps and bits of kit to use with your Amazon Echo and its avatar

Smart speakers are taking over British homes. A recent YouGov survey found the number had doubled in three months, with around 10% of Brits owning one – and that 75% of these were Amazon Echo devices. The overwhelming majority are used for basic tasks like playing music and answering general knowledge questions – but with the right tips, tricks, skills and accessories you can get the Echo’s digital assistant Alexa to do just about anything…

The Paloma’s Bedtime skill sings lullabies and reads stories. You have to like Paloma Faith – but children frequently do

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The energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry

It was just another moment in this long, increasingly strange summer. I was on a train home from Paddington station, and the carriage’s air-conditioning was just about fighting off the heat outside. Most people seemed to be staring at their phones – in many cases, they were trying to stream a World Cup match, as the 4G signal came and went, and Great Western Railway’s onboard wifi proved to be maddeningly erratic. The trebly chatter of headphone leakage was constant. And thousands of miles and a few time zones away in Loudoun County, Virginia, one of the world’s largest concentrations of computing power was playing its part in keeping everything I saw ticking over, as data from around the world passed back and forth from its vast buildings.

Most of us communicate with this small and wealthy corner of the US every day. Thanks to a combination of factors – its proximity to Washington DC, competitive electricity prices, and its low susceptibility to natural disasters – the county is the home of data centres used by about 3,000 tech companies: huge...

As most digital devices are installed by men, it is former partners, not hackers, who pose the greatest threat to women’s welfare

Standing on a tube platform the other day, I found myself looking at a huge ad for the Nest Hello, “the doorbell you’ve been waiting for”. Apparently, “it makes other doorbells seem like dumbbells”. That’s because it “lets you know who’s there, so you never miss a thing. It replaces your existing wired doorbell and delivers HD video and bright, crisp images, even at night. It’s designed to show you everything on your doorstep – people head to toe or packages on the ground. And with 24/7 streaming, you can check in any time. Or go back and look at a three-hour snapshot history to see what happened.”

The Nest doorbell fits neatly into the emerging narrative of networked devices that will make your home “smarter”. The company already markets the Nest Learning Thermostat – “an electronic, programmable and self-learning wifi-enabled thermostat that optimises heating and cooling of homes and businesses to conserve energy”. It’ll go nicely with your networked lightbulbs, your Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod or Google Home.

Victims of this kind of abuse reported...

System would allow Facebook to identify what adults and children are watching based on ambient noise

Facebook has filed to patent a system that can remotely activate the microphone on someone’s phone using inaudible signals broadcast via a television.

The patent application describes a system where an audio fingerprint embedded in TV shows or ads, inaudible to human ears, would trigger the phone, tablet or long-rumoured smart speaker to turn on the microphone and start recording “ambient audio of the content item”. The recording could then be matched to a database of content to allow Facebook to identify what the individual was watching – like Shazam for TV, but without the individual choosing to activate the system.

Related: Facebook creates Orwellian headache as news is labelled politics

Related: No, Facebook isn't spying on you. At least not with the microphone

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Smart home appliances send data to manufacturers and third parties, Which? warns

British homes are vulnerable to “a staggering level of corporate surveillance” through common internet-enabled devices, an investigation has found.

Researchers found that a range of connected appliances – increasingly popular features of the so-called smart home – send data to their manufacturers and third-party companies, in some cases failing to keep the information secure. One Samsung smart TV connected to more than 700 distinct internet addresses in 15 minutes.

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Nest Hello promises to recognise friends and family at the door, but could provoke privacy concerns

Google’s facial recognition video doorbell, the Nest Hello, is launching in the UK to challenge Amazon’s Ring.

Initially released in the US in March, Nest Hello is the first of Google’s new home security product lineup to make it to the UK, ahead of its Nest Secure alarm system.

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Church of England’s Alexa skill offers prayers and answers questions such as ‘who is God?’

Alexa, who is God? Or: Alexa, read the Lord’s prayer, say grace, explain something about Christianity, find a church near me.

The Church of England has launched an Alexa “skill” to complement a range of apps it has produced as part of a digital drive over the past few years. Other faith organisations are also harnessing technology to allow people to access prayers, readings and worship on the move or in their homes.

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Can a robot fold towels? Could your toaster turn against you? And will Amazon know when you’re hungry and drone-deliver a Chinese takeaway directly to your mouth? Find out as we step into the home of the future

If the invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck, as the French philosopher Paul Virilio suggested, then what does that make the invention of the Nest learning thermostat? As our homes fill up with more connected devices, funnelling every aspect of our lives into the great cloud of big data, the answer could be something much more alarming than just a few more faulty appliances cluttering up our cupboards.

This is one of the unsettling questions at the heart of The Future Starts Here, an exhibition about to open at the V&A in London. It promises to be less of a showcase of Tomorrow’s World-type gadgetry than a thought-provoking probe into where exactly this new generation of smart technology is taking us. “People seem scared of the future at the moment,” says Rory Hyde who, with co-curator Mariana Pestana, has spent the last two years trawling university laboratories and touring Silicon Valley to gather 100 hot-out-of-the-factory innovations, from a...

We have no signal and so I knew it wouldn’t work ... but it went ahead anyway

Last February our electricity provider, Scottish Power, asked to install a smart meter. I immediately told it we have no trace of a mobile signal here, and, as result, it would not work. But it insisted, and in February someone called to install one. After a few seconds he concluded that it wouldn’t work, and left without undertaking the work.

Since that day, Scottish Power has insisted the meter was changed. It claims that the reason it cannot read the meter is because some gadget is in the wrong place. It insists that we must move this non-existent gadget nearer to the non-existent smart meter.

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Retailer celebrates by slashing prices on smart doorbells, while deal includes transfer of customer data to company

Amazon’s reported $1bn acquisition of video-doorbell maker Ring has closed, giving the company a significant lead over rival Google in the potentially lucrative home security market.

The deal, announced in February and closed today, means Amazon now owns a leader in DIY video security systems. Ring makes popular wireless doorbells with cameras and a range of home security cameras, recently launching a wireless home security system with keypads, contact sensors and motion detectors.

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Each month energy suppliers are putting 400,000 smart meters into UK homes. But 1m are needed to hit the 2020 target

‘Get smart” urges the website of EDF, one of the UK’s largest utilities firms. It tells customers that a free smart meter will help them manage their gas and electricity bills “the hassle-free way” and promises those who book an installation that “we’ll help you get smart about the energy”. The deal is part of a government target to offer every householder a cost-saving smart meter by 2020. The technology provides real-time information about energy consumption, but many of those who accept the invitation are left not smart but smarting.

London pensioner Lara Sykes* has repeatedly tried to book an installation with EDF. “It keeps urging me via online promotions to hurry up and book an appointment, but each time I try I’m told it is not servicing my area yet,” she says. “This has happened more than six times. I was told that it was still training engineers. It is unable to give even an approximate timescale.”

On the last call EDF said it had a backlog of 200 installations in my area alone


The company acknowledged the issue after some reported their devices had developed an unsettling new skill

The robot wars are coming, and Alexa will have the last laugh.

Amazon acknowledged on Wednesday that some of its Alexa-enabled devices have developed a new skill: creeping out their owners with unexpected and unwarranted bursts of robotic laughter.

So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me. pic.twitter.com/6dblzkiQHp

Lying in bed about to fall asleep when Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot lets out a very loud and creepy laugh... there’s a good chance I get murdered tonight.

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The firm’s latest Alexa-powered addition to its Echo range adds a clock and touchscreen interface to the mix

Amazon’s new Echo Spot is one of the most novel takes on a smart speaker yet, and while it is certainly more than just a smart clock, that’s what it’s best at – an attractive voice-assisted smart desk or bedside-table accessory.

Pros: attractive, clear screen, Alexa, can hear you well, Bluetooth, video calling, excellent smart home control, lots of clock faces to choose from

Cons: always-listening object in your house, no web video support, expensive compared to Echo

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This smart doorbell connects to your phone – but you might want to disable notifications when at work

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 adds the convenience of a front-door intercom to pretty much any home, and with minimal DIY skills required, meaning it’s never been easier to get rid of doorsteppers.

There have long been wifi-connected doorbells, for those envious of flat-dwelling friends with video intercoms adding that extra barrier between them and the outside world, but most of them require some sort of wiring to install.

Pros: easy to install and set up, solid app, great as basic doorbell, great as a camera from your door, attractive, no wiring required, lots of accessories and options

Cons: battery needs charging once a month, can’t use local storage for video, quite large for some door frames, expensive for a doorbell

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Voice assistants were in everything at the trade show, suggesting the future is smart – but does anyone actually want to talk to their toilet?

The annual trend-setting tech extravaganza that is CES International in Las Vegas is drawing to a close, having suffered through torrential rain, blackouts and a few uncooperative robots. And it’s clear that your voice is more important than ever.

CES 2018 rammed home that big technology thinks voice is the next major evolution in computing. First we had the computer, then the smartphone and now voice assistants.

Get a closer look at the #Volocopter, the Intel-powered autonomous air taxi that took flight at #CES2018 pic.twitter.com/XQUhIxx6cQ

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Amazon and Google believe they’ve struck gold with their voice-controlled speakers while Apple and Microsoft struggle to catch up

Move over smartphones. The battle now raging between the big technology companies for consumer cash is focused on the voice-controlled smart speaker.

Having already conquered the pocket with the ubiquitous smartphone, big tech has been struggling to come up with the next must-have gadget that will open up a potentially lucrative new market – the home.

Related: Amazon Echo, Google Home or Sonos One: which smart speaker should I buy?

Related: Amazon Echo Show review: smart speaker with a screen has great potential

Related: Google Home Mini review: a brilliant little £50 voice assistant speaker

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Security flaw in latest iPhone and iPad iOS 11.2 software meant hackers could potentially gain remote control of lights, cameras and locks in smart homes

Apple has been forced to fix a security hole within its HomeKit smart home system that could have allowed hackers to unlock users’ smart locks or other devices.

The bug within iOS 11.2 permitted unauthorised remote control of HomeKit-enabled devices. Such devices include smart lights, plugs and other gadgets, but also includes smart locks and garage door openers.

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For the homeowner who wants everything: a 19th-century cottage with original beams and a brick fireplace that can deal with modern electrical demands

People will pay more for a period property. For years, this baffled me. “Why pay extra for a house that has a downstairs bathroom, needs endless repairs, and has had someone die in it?” I’d wonder. “Nostalgia must be one hell of a drug.”

I now know that many homebuyers think about resale value, and the joy of waking up in a high-ceilinged room flooded with daylight from sash windows. For buying to let, there are generous room sizes and the potential for modification to maximise occupancy. But what these future landlords don’t think about enough is plug sockets. How is any modern human meant to survive with only two double plug sockets per room? Don’t get me wrong, I like an ornate fireplace, but the mounting tension in the living room over who unplugged whose phone puts its beauty into perspective.

Related: All the places I’ll never live: a flat without a whodunnit mystery

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Hi-tech features concealed throughout this 50s seaside house in East Sussex make it highly energy efficient – and make life easier for its owners

Picture a tech-savvy home and you will probably envisage a slick, white cube where the blinds whirr up at a preset hour and sensors turn on the shower. But a smart home doesn’t have to be robotic and flashy. “We wanted to use technology to make life easier,” says Gigi Sutherland of the home she and her partner, Matt Sellers, redesigned in East Sussex. With walls clad in basic building materials, the mood here is far from futuristic. The rough and ready aesthetic has hidden depths, though, from concealed speakers and motion sensors to app-controlled energy and security systems.

The house dates from the 1950s and, while the building itself is not so special, it backs on to Camber Sands. “It was just a set of boxy rooms and two garages,” says Sutherland, a stylist. “We wanted to join up the spaces and integrate the garages into the house.” The pair rebuilt the interior from scratch. Walls are made from OSB, a type of chipboard, and plaster-like dark grey Artex. “It creates a tadelakt-style finish with a nice chalky texture,” says...

Home automation

Home automation or domotics is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house. ...
A home automation system will control lighting, climate, entertainment systems, and appliances. ...
It may also include home security such as access control and alarm systems. ...
When connected with the Internet, home devices are an important constituent of the Internet of Things. ...
A home automation system typically connects controlled devices to a central hub or gateway. ...
The user interface for control of the system uses either wall-mounted terminals, tablet or desktop computers, a mobile phone application, or a Web interface, that may also be accessible off-site through the Internet. ...