Home, “smart” home

By Marc Saltzman

Chances are, you’ve likely never spent so much time hanging around at home as you have recently, so why not add convenience, entertainment, and productivity to your mornings, noons and nights?

Inside or out, here are a handful of some of my favourites:

Screen dream

Just because you’re relaxing outside in the hot tub on a summer evening doesn’t mean you need to miss your favourite television shows.

The extra bright SunBriteTV outdoor televisions—from $1,999 for the 43-inch Veranda Outdoor LED HDR TV to $12,999 for the 75-inch Signature 2 Outdoor LED HDR 4K TV—feature an all-weather exterior that protects internal components from rain, dirt and insects, along with a quad-fan airflow system that keeps the them cool and dry, (in temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius and as low as -31 degrees).

The cable entry system is also waterproof, to keep the cords dry, so is the wireless remote and optional stainless- steel wall mount. Slender and anti-glare they feature High Dynamic Range (HDR) for better contrast and brightness, (up to three times brighter than indoor TVs, as you might expect), fast refresh rates to smooth out fast motion, and some models even have built-in 20-watt speakers, (or the option for a 20-watt speaker sound bar).

Shower power

Your next smart speaker may be embedded in your shower- head. As shown at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Kohler is retooling its Moxie Shower- head, with Alexa smart assistant who’ll be at your beck and call and a speaker for listening to “her.”

While you’re getting ready for work, ask her to turn up your morning playlist, listen to your favourite podcast or check the news for the latest (if you still want to know that is). You can ask Alexa how long it will take to get to work (she’ll give you an accurate look at the roads by taking traffic into account), to order you more shampoo and charge it to your Amazon account, or use your voice to call up your daily calendar appointments. Battery life tops five hours between charges. And yes, it’s waterproof with its 1PX67 rating.

Moxie’s detachable speaker, which charges wirelessly on a cordless dock, costs $229.

Barbie like a chef

Whether you’re new to grilling, or a seasoned outdoor cook- ing expert, the Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub ($169) is a first-of-its kind device that’ll turn any grill into a “smart” grill. After downloading the Weber Connect mobile app, simply insert its meat probes into your food.

They’ll wirelessly show vital real-time info on your app; grill temperature and desired doneness of your meat for a start. You’ll also receive timely notifications on the app that give step-by-step instructions for everything from grill set- up, when to flip your food or alerts that will remind you to change the temperature. You’ll also have access to Weber tips and techniques that’ll help earn you accolades as the family barbeque king.

Nice curves

Lenovo has just introduced the world’s first foldable PC, called the ThinkPad X1 Fold (from $3,499).

Created in collaboration with Intel, this new form factor can be used in sever- al modes, such as unfolded to its full 13.3-inch size to stream a movie or play a game on its OLED display. Use the Bluetooth Mini Fold Keyboard to type out work documents, or you might use the stylus (“Active Pen”) to sign legal documents. When bent you can hold the Fold like a novel to read ebooks. Or watch a video on one side of the screen while online shopping on the other. You get the idea.

At 2.2-pounds this Windows 10 device is small enough to slip into a bag or purse when folded.

Cut it for me

Why mow your lawn when you can have someone else do the job for you? Enter the automower.

This is the year to sit back in your Muskoka chair with a cold one in hand while your robot—the Husqvarna Auto- mower 450X ($4,199) cuts your grass, quickly and quietly.

The top-of-the-line in the Husqvarna family can cover up to 5000 square metres before it needs recharging. Thank- fully, it’s smart enough to return on its own to the charging station, power up and, while you’re having a nap, continue mowing.

Powered by GPS-assisted navigation and by following a guide wire that you’ll have placed along the perimeter of your property, the weather-proof automower can even handle awkwardly shaped lawns, steep slopes and obstacles. Along with the app, those who own a Google or Alexa smart speaker can use voice commands to start and stop the robot.

If you have a small property at 0.4 acres or less, the similar Husqvarna 115H ($1,999) will do the trick, for less. Definitely, a cut above!

Let’s rock

Spending more time in your backyard, (or at the cottage), these days? If you’re into music, you can do much better than a Bluetooth speaker.

Klipsch’s AWR-650-SM speaker ($449) are single 50-watt stereo speakers—measuring 27.9 x 38.1 x 43.2 cm apiece. They look like large rocks and are designed to be enjoyed in large listening environments, such as a spacious backyard or by a poolside. Each speaker is coated with a durable U.V. and weather-resistant lacquer finish on top of a reinforced, colour-matched polyresin enclosure. Even if the outer coating becomes chipped over time, the material underneath is the same colour and will maintain its authentic rock-like appearance.

Available in grey granite and sandstone these two-way speakers each house a 6.5-inch dual voice coil polymer woofer and dual 3/4-inch polymer dome tweeters. Geek speak aside, these speakers sound great.

Looky here

You might not want your mirror to be too critical but if you believe information, (not ignorance), is bliss, then the HiMirror Slide smart mirror might be for you. It can scan your face, analyze skin issues, (including dark circles, red spots, fine lines, and so on), and offer personalized tips and product recommendations.

Available for just $169, this attractive eight inch mirror has a built in face light and also lets you watch videos, such as makeup tutorials on YouTube, and copy techniques plus the “slide”-able panels and foldable stand rotate between portrait and landscape view.

HiMirror Slide is also Alexa-powered, so you can use your voice to access the daily weather forecast, listen to your favourite morning TJ or stream music from your play list.

Virtual house calls

Anyone remember Star Trek’s “Tricorder”—a hand-held medical device that can scan a person and diagnose what ails them? While still not up to its science fiction cousin, the MedWand—due out later this year for $599 (pending FDA/ Health Canada approval), may just be the next best thing.

About the size of a computer mouse, MedWand is heralded as a portable diagnostic tool that can be used by a health- care professional to remotely assess a patient. Simply put, you could be sick in bed or live in a remote town and a doctor or nurse can see what’s wrong with a virtual scan via your computer’s USB port. The second generation is said to be wireless.

How does it work? A telemedicine solution, MedWand is equipped with ten different scopes and sensors, including a stethoscope (for lung exams), an otoscope (for ear exams), an ophthalmoscope (for eye exams), a dermatoscope (for skins exams), a throat illuminator, a pulse odometer (to help measure heart respiratory rates), a thermometer (that doesn’t require skin contact), blood pressure monitor and an electrocardiogram. Move over Dr. Spock.

Trash talk

The latest and greatest in the garbage department…Canadian-invented Townew. While it may look like an ordinary kitchen or bathroom trashcan, this clever new gadget has a few tricks up its sleeve.

For one, it can seal the bag to reduce spills. Yes, when the bag is full, press and hold a button on the outside of the can and it will heat seal the bag for you. Lift the bag out and head for the garbage or the condo trash chute, and the $169 Townew (available in white or teal), will automatically get the next bag ready for you (it stores excess bags in the ring under the lid). Each ring holds 25 bags and refill rings are $5 apiece (a 6-pack for $40). Super smart.

Like other trashcans, the battery-powered Townew has an infrared sensor that detects your presence and tells the lid to open, hands free.

Going with the flow

Speaking of water, Flo by Moen Shutoff has the potential to be a security system for your home’s water supply.

Flo’s smart valve pro-actively identifies problems before they become a headache—a burst pipe, a tap left running or a washer leak. Bingo…Flo automatically turns off the home’s water supply to mitigate damage and notifies you on its app, anywhere you may be in the world.

A Wi-Fi connected device, Flo detects flow rate, temperature and pressure and allows you to better understand your home’s water usage to reduce costs. Think teenagers taking excessively long showers or a toilet running excessively in a spare bathroom.

Flo is now available for $699, and there are no monthly fees. Plus, home insurance providers may give you a 10-per- cent discount of you have one installed.


For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, social media, and automotive trends. You can see him on CTV, Global TV, and as a keynote speaker across North America. Follow him on Twitter @ marc_saltzman.

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