Philips Hue Lighting System
Why would anyone pay nearly $300 for a trio of "smart" light bulbs (and a hub that connects those bulbs to the net)? The reason: With Philips Hue, you're buying a system you can customize completely—from which bulbs turn on and when to how bright they burn and in what color. Part of the appeal is that you can control the system from anywhere in the world via smartphone. Hue also lets you automate lighting, so when you enter or leave a room, bulbs activate and deactivate automatically. Still, for all the practical benefits of the Hue system, homeowners love it for a different reason—how it enables you to create unique lighting effects and design your own ambiance for every occasion. Available at Amazon; $196.32.
Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller
For years, watering the lawn was a tedious, time-consuming manual process. That's why, when automatic sprinkler systems first came on the scene, homeowners rejoiced. Nowadays, if you're lucky enough to have a sprinkler system, you don't even have to think about watering, as the sprinkler controller runs the system on a precise pre-set schedule. The problem? The controller keeps the same schedule no matter what—even on days when it's pouring rain. Enter the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. Informed by up-to-the-minute local forecasts, the Rachio unit enables the option of a flexible, weather-sensitive schedule, not only able to prevent wasted water, but also keep water bills as low as possible. Available at Amazon; $199.99.
Automatic/Touchless Garbage Can
What goes into a kitchen garbage can but a mix of dinner trimmings, old leftovers, and household trash? This often-smelly mixture is hard to contain in a traditional trash can, which either leaves trash open to the air, or covers it with a lid that gets easily smudged by your grimy hands when you go to throw something away. The inventors at simplehuman have reinvented the trash can, answering these problems in the process. With the wave of your hand, the simplehuman touchless garbage can opens and closes, so you can throw away your garbage quickly and cleanly. A liner rim keeps the trash bag neat and secure, and inside a liner pocket stores extra bags and dispenses them one-by-one for a faster change. Now we just need it to learn to take the trash out for us. Available on Amazon; $149.99.
BeatsX Wireless In-Ear Headphones
Wireless headphones seem to be the way of the future, and having a good pair makes all the difference. Top notch sound-quality and comfort makes the BeatsX Wireless In-Ear Headphones an excellent and reliable choice. The headphones come with multiple ear tip options for a personalized fit that's both comfortable and secure. Unlike some wireless ear buds, these are connected with a flexible cable so you don't have to worry about losing one while running errands or jogging. The best thing about the BeatsX, though, might be its battery life. The headphones can be used for up to 8 hours—and if you don't have time to fully charge before hitting the road, power up with the Fast Fuel feature, which will give you 2 hours of playback on a quick 5-minute charge. Available on Amazon; $149.95.
Do you want to become a better chef without attending culinary school? Then pick up the Vitamix Certified Reconditioned Program Blender, which can create high-quality meals at the push of a button. The blender easily whips up the traditional smoothie, but it also goes above and beyond to make anything from hot soups to nut butters to frozen desserts. With 10 variable speeds and a coveted pulse feature, the Vitamix blender is precise and customizable. Users will love the locking lid, durable stainless steel blades, and a BPA-free plastic pitcher. Available at Target; $599.
iRobot Roomba 650
No homeowner enjoys the repetitive and tedious chore of vacuuming their floors. But with the iRobot Roomba 650, eliminating dust and debris from your carpet or hardwood has never been easier. The robot vacuum relies on sensors to navigate throughout your home, implementing a three-stage cleaning system of agitation, brushing, and suction. Users can preset the Roomba for scheduled cleanings, or start the system with the push of a button. The automatic vacuum automatically docks and recharges, so it will always be ready to tackle spills and messes! Available on Amazon; $299.99.
4K UltraHD Television
Trendy new 4K television screens boast the highest resolution—4,000 pixels—and most impressively realistic graphics available on the market today, making them a must for gamers and movie aficionados alike. (If you're binge-watching or hosting movie nights on a Full HD model currently, that's a difference of four times the resolution!) Fortunately, though the category includes screens costing thousands of dollars, Samsung created the 50-inch MU6300 Ultra HDTV at a more affordable price tag. More than just good looks at a good price, this television features "smart" capabilities including voice navigation and easy connection to your favorite streaming services. Talk about an upgrade! Available on Amazon; $679.99.
Hi-Res Sound Bar
Satisfy all of the senses by enjoying audio that sounds as good as the action across the screen of your 4K TV looks. The Hi-Res sound bar from Sony puts out studio-quality sound for whatever your choice of your entertainment: party playlists, video games, blockbuster movies, and more. Plus the sleek package comes with the ability to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth or through any number of ports—three HDMI inputs, one HDMI ARC output, a USB input, as well as digital optical and analog connections—so that you can listen to music from nearly any device and even continue to build out your home theater. Available on Amazon; $798.
Rimowa Topas with Electronic Tag
Frequent travelers know the agony and inconvenience of standing in a long line at the ticket counter only to check a bag to their final destination. Now, how much would it be worth to you to never wait in that line again? The Rimowa Topas with Electronic Tag puts a price on this convenience. Their state-of-the-art technology allows you to check your baggage with a click of a button, and their built-in screen displays your luggage tag, so all you need to do is drop it off with one of a select number of airlines before cruising through the security gate. Available on Zappos.com; $1305.
Dyson Animal Vacuum Cleaner
What can a high-end vacuum do that an $80 model cannot? A lot, it turns out. The Dyson DC65 Animal Complete Upright is designed to pick up dirt that's hiding deep between carpet fibers, but you'll find just as much innovation in the included vacuum attachments. The turbine is practically guaranteed not to tangle; it's counter-rotating heads beat pet hair, and loose threads that would stop up other vacuum cleaners. The other tools all swivel and bend to reach under the couch, atop high shelves and everywhere in between. Available on Amazon; $594.55.
Money-saving, time-saving—and yes, sometimes even life-saving—the latest and greatest smart home technologies span from self-programming thermostats to voice-activated TV controls to video doorbells and beyond. Raise your home's IQ!