The 13 Best Smart Home Devices & Systems of 2019

first_imgLG was the company to offer Alexa and Google Assistant connectivity in its smart TVs. Best Smart Home Devices Originally published Jun 28, 2019 5:00:00 PM, updated October 02 2019 If you’re just starting to develop your smart home and only want a basic smart TV with integrations to major streaming services, you can purchase an LG TV with 4K, Google Assistant, and Alexa capabilities for between $499 and $900. Amazon EchoPhilips HueTP-Link HS200Ecobee4NetGear Arlo QChar-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with Smart Chef TechnologyPerfect Bake ProEcovacs Deebot N79SLG Smart TV Don’t forget to share this post!center_img 1. Best Speaker: Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)Price: $99.99If you’re looking for a relatively affordable device to cater to your everyday needs, you probably don’t need to look further than Amazon Echo. The speaker connects to Alexa to play your favorite music, make phone calls or send messages, answer questions, and set alarms for you, i.e. “It’s 6 p.m., time to head to your tennis lesson”. It also connects to other smart products in your home, so you can use it as your liaison between you and your sprinklers.The speaker fills your room with 360° audio, and uses noise cancellation technology to ensure you can be heard from any direction. With the Echo, you can turn the TV on, order a pizza, and create a shopping to-do list — without ever leaving your couch.Image courtesy of Amazon.2. Best Lights: Philips HuePrice: $49.99/one bulbThe Philips Hue bulbs enable you to control both intensity of light — dimming or brightening on-command — and the color of your lights. You can create special color-coordinated moods (i.e. choose the “energize” theme on your app for a specific room you’re in, or sync it with your music). You can also set color-coordinated alarms, ensuring you wake up every morning to a bright pink bedroom.These bulbs work with most smart home systems, making them arguably the most flexible option. If you don’t want color, you can also purchase Philips Hue White.Image courtesy of MeetHue.com.3. Best Light Switch: TP-Link HS200 Price: $37.88Philips Hue bulbs and similar smart lights are fantastic and effortless — until someone flips a light switch, in which case, your bulbs won’t work until you flip it back.For true ease-of-use, consider buying smart light switches, which you can control from your phone or smart home whether or not your physical light switch is up or down. Using the app Kasa, you can create scenes and smart actions — for instance, you might tell the app you’re “watching TV downstairs,” and the switches will automatically turn off all upstairs lights.TP-Link HS200 works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but you might need to consider other options if you primarily use Apple HomeKit, Wink, or another smart system.Image courtesy of Amazon.4. Best Thermostat: Ecobee4Price: $249The Ecobee4 allows you to control air temperature with voice commands, but unlike other smart thermostats, it also works as its own Amazon speaker (rather than simply working with an Amazon speaker), so it can do everything your Alexa or Assistant can do, including play music, shop, and control other devices. Of course, if you already own a smart speaker, you might want to consider a cheaper thermostat option.Ecobee4 integrates seamlessly with apps and other home ecosystems like Alexa or Apple HomeKit. Plus, it’s able to control the room you’re in, rather than the room it’s installed.Image courtesy of EcoBee.com.5. Best Security: NetGear Arlo QPrice: $119.94While some of these smart devices are more for convenience and entertainment, the NetGear Arlo Q is a truly useful tool for home security. The NetGear Arlo Q records high-quality video and audio, and even produces exceptional quality images of people in pitch-blackness.You can customize whether your camera automatically records when you’re not home, or set it to a time-based schedule for when you’re at work. While it’s on the pricier side, it offers seven days of video and audio backup for free, making it a worthwhile investment compared to some of the other smart security systems.Image courtesy of Amazon.6. Best Grill: Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef TechnologyPrice: $166.99Anyone who grills regularly knows the inconvenience of it — walking in and out of the house to check the meat, hoping the temperature is hot enough but won’t burn your steak, and adding coals or lighter fluid when necessary. This tool handles all that, alerting you on your smart device when your grill is preheated, what the internal meat temperature is, and when your meat or fish is fully cooked. The 725 square-inch cooking space and four internal chrome racks allow you to grill for both large and small occasions.Image courtesy of Amazon.7. Best Cooking Device: Perfect Bake ProPrice: $86.49If you struggle to figure out what you can make with the half a cup of flour, three eggs, and handful of blueberries you have in your fridge, you might be in luck — this smart device allows you to input what food you have, and then generates recipes you can use with those items.You can autoscale the recipe for the amount of people or even amount of ingredients you have (i.e. “only have ¼ cup of chocolate chips”), or generate a shopping list from recipes you want to make. Best of all, you can use the bowl to measure your ingredients as you pour them in — the smart bowl tells you when you can stop pouring.Image courtesy of Amazon.8. Best Vacuum: Ecovacs Deebot N79S Price: $229.98I’m personally willing to pay triple this price for any device that can vacuum my floor for me, but at $229, the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is a pretty impressive deal. It integrates with smart home systems and other apps, offers a manual steering option, and cleans surfaces surprisingly well. It also has a long battery life.Image courtesy of Amazon.9. Best Television: LG Smart TVPrice: Varies based on screen size and features. With a smart TV, you can connect your streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, your cable box, and other video devices all in one place. Many smart TVs, like LG’s products, also offer voice control capabilities that allow you to ask the TV to search for a movie or show.  In 2019, smart home systems and devices are more impressive and all-encompassing than ever.Using a smart system is no longer just about asking Alexa to tell you the weather or play that new Drake song — now, you can use smart devices to grill chicken at your next family barbecue, turn the lights off in the living room while you’re watching a movie, or vacuum your floors.Your home devices provide a sense of convenience, particularly when they’re ordering pizza or calling your sister, but in 2018, they can also tackle more serious tasks, like acting as your home security system when you’re out of town. In other words, they aren’t just for fun anymore — they also fulfill some substantial needs.Unlock tips, systems & recommended resources to stay ahead of the tech curve.Before we get into our list, let’s define what we mean by smart devices versus smart systems. A smart system is the overarching command center that controls your individual products — think, Alexa or Google Assistant. Essentially, a smart system is what you speak to when you want something to happen. A device, on the other hand, is an individual product that reports back to that system — think, Amazon Echo or Philips Hue lightbulbs.Now, let’s delve into our list of the 13 best smart home devices and systems of 2019, so you can decide for yourself which systems and products will best enhance your life.Best Smart Home SystemsWhen looking to purchase a smart-home system, you want to look into  reviews and its integrations.While the reviews will show you how good or bad the technology is, the integration information will show you how many products you can actually connect your system to. As you’re researching integrations, you should also consider any smart devices you already have that might be compatible or incompatible with the system. Today, most good smart home systems are powered by state-of-the art technology and offer a long list of third-party integration possibilities. For example, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant connect to smart thermostats like Nest of Ecobee4 — not just thermostats made by their own companies.If your devices all connect well together, work well, and are easy to use, your smart home experiences will run much more smoothly.Here are four major smart home systems that we recommend.1. Amazon AlexaWith more than 20,000 third-party integrations, Alexa is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive smart home ecosystems available today. While you have likely heard of using Alexa in Eco-speaker form (“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”), you might not know that Alexa is now built into plenty of other smart products, including thermostats (i.e. Ecobee4) and TVs (i.e. Fire TV).Alexa makes every aspect of your smart home easy to access and control. You can use Alexa to speak to apps like Spotify just as easily as you can ask her to turn off the lights. Since Amazon’s ecosystem is one of the most prevalent in the industry, most smart products integrate seamlessly with Alexa, including products made by Philips, Samsung, Nest, and Schlage — meaning, Alexa can now close your garage, lock your doors, and adjust your home’s temperature. To know if Alexa will work with a certain device, just look for the ‘Works with Amazon Alexa’ tag.Ultimately, Alexa’s ability to integrate and speak to most other smart devices and apps (Alexa has the most third-party integrations of any smart system) makes her one of the best choices for your smart home.2. Google AssistantIf there’s any true runner-up to Alexa, it’s Google Assistant. Even though Google Assistant has less third-party integrations, it can often answer questions and complete commands Alexa can’t, thanks to Google’s major ownership of the search engine space. Research from Dentsu digital agency 360i found Google Assistant was five times more likely to give a correct answer than Alexa. Ultimately, Assistant wins when it comes to understanding how people naturally speak.For instance, if you tell Assistance “I don’t like this song” on Spotify, it will skip to the next one, while Alexa will simply tell you, “Thumbs up and down are not supported on Spotify.” Small differences like this could sway you towards Assistance, since it’s often more helpful (and less literal) than Alexa.Assistant can also integrate with products from most major brands, including Philips, Belkin, August, Nest, and popular apps such as Spotify and Uber.3. Wink Hub 2Wink Hub 2 is touted as the “first smart home hub designed for the mainstream consumer.” Unlike Alexa or Assistant, Wink doesn’t have any brand loyalty, allowing you to pick and choose different smart product brands and merge them seamlessly with one another.Wink Hub 2 supports smart home protocols including Bluetooth LE, Kidde, Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and more. If you’re looking to create a fully integrated smart home with kitchen and wall appliances in-sync, this might be your best option. You can also download the Wink Hub app and control commands, like light switches or garage door, from your phone on-the-go.4. Samsung SmartThings HubThis Samsung system unites a wide variety of smart devices from different brands including smart thermostats, Wi-Fi router, lightbulbs, and security devices. Users with the smart system get a SmartThings Hub wall mount and can get full access to the smart devices connected to the hub through the SmartThings IOS or Android app.Samsung’s SmartThings Hub has been growing its own smart-device offerings for the past few years. In fact, the Hub’s product lineup recently grew with the addition of the SmartThing Wi-Fi plug, SmartThings Lightbulb, and a SmartThings Cam.Through the SmartThings Hub, you can also set compatible smart devices to do various actions like turning on or off when you walk in or out of a room. While you can give voice commands to the SmartThings wall hub or app, you can also integrate and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to the system.  One of the most affordable models we found was the LG Class 4K Smart UHD TV with AI ThinQ®. This model runs between $499.99 and $699.99 depending on screen size. For those who don’t have Alexa or Google Assistant, the TV comes with LG’s voice control software called AI ThinQ.Image courtesy of LG.last_img read more

Border control efforts must not encroach on needs of asylumseekers – UN

7 January 2011The United Nations refugee agency today voiced concern that States trying to prevent the entry of irregular migrants into their territories are doing so without establishing guarantees to ensure the protection of those in need. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it has received inquiries about recent statements by Greece about the possibility of building a 12-kilometre fence along its side of the border with Turkey in the Evros region.“While every State has the right to control its borders, it is clear that among the many people crossing Turkey toward the European Union [EU], there are a significant number who are fleeing violence and persecution,” said Melissa Fleming, the UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.“Establishing border control mechanisms which are sensitive to the needs of people seeking protection is therefore vital,” she said. Ms. Fleming said that building fences rarely solves the underlying problem of migratory pressures, including those of people seeking protection. There is a risk that those requesting asylum will resort to even riskier routes to safety – a reason why large numbers of asylum-seekers find themselves in the hands of groups that smuggle human beings, she added.The problem in Greece is compounded by the fact that the asylum system is still not functioning properly, despite ongoing reform efforts, according to Ms. Fleming. UNHCR is working with government partners to establish a fair process for assessing the claims of asylum-seekers. Currently, thousands of asylum-seekers are “living in limbo in Greece,” she said.In Turkey, the Government continues to implement a geographic limitation to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a move that will allow the country to take responsibility for granting asylum only to refugees who come from European countries. However, most asylum-seekers in Turkey originate from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, Ms. Fleming said.Claims of asylum-seekers of non-European origin in Turkey are assessed by UNHCR and those who are found to be refugees are permitted to remain, pending resettlement to a third country.However, the number of resettlement places falls short of the needs and at present there are approximately 10,000 refugees awaiting resettlement from Turkey.“UNHCR is encouraging more countries, and in particular EU Member States, to show solidarity with Turkey by participating in the resettlement effort,” said Ms. Fleming. read more

Did Justin Trudeau unfairly smear small business owners as tax dodgers

OTTAWA — “I think small businesses should be paying less taxes, we just have to make sure that it’s done right … We have to know that a large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes and we want to reward the people who are actually creating jobs.” Justin Trudeau, in an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, broadcast on Sept. 8.The Liberal leader’s political adversaries have pounced on that comment, accusing Trudeau of maligning the businesses that create the lion’s share of jobs.NDP MP Malcolm Allen demanded that Trudeau apologize “for smearing small business owners as tax cheats.”“He simply doesn’t understand the reality facing mom and pop shops — hard-working small business owners who create the vast majority of new jobs.”Defence Minister Jason Kenney chimed in via Twitter: “Small business are the heroes of our economy, but J Trudeau says ‘a large percentage’ are just tax dodges for the rich.”Both the NDP and Conservatives are promising to reduce the small business tax rate to nine per cent from 11 per cent. Trudeau has made the same commitment, but with some “tweaking” to ensure it’s not being used as a tax dodge.Did Trudeau unfairly malign small businesses or was his assertion correct?Spoiler Alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney.”This one earns a rating of “a little baloney” — it is mostly accurate but more information is required.William Watson: What will they do on Day 500?Canada’s rebounding economyHere’s why:Various academic and think tank studies have found that reductions in the small business tax rate disproportionately benefit wealthy individuals who incorporate their businesses in order to reduce their personal income tax burden, split income with family “shareholders” and avoid capital gains taxes.In a 2011 paper for the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, economists Jack Mintz and Duanjie Chen concluded that reducing the small business tax rate actually discourages the growth of companies and, therefore, of job creation.Among other problems, they wrote: “Many small businesses are created to enable individuals to reduce personal tax rather than grow companies … With corporate organization, it is easier to split income among family members holding shares of a corporation.”The duo also argued that preferential tax treatment for small businesses creates a negative “threshold effect,” wherein a small company “may stop growing simply to preserve the tax savings associated with the definition of smallness.” And it could result in larger companies breaking up into smaller units in order to save on taxes.Another study, co-authored in 2014 by Michael Wolfson, Canada’s former assistant chief statistician, found that the wealthiest Canadians disproportionately take advantage of the preferential small business tax rate.From 2001 to 2011, that study found that fewer than five per cent of Canadian taxpayers in the bottom half of the income scale owned at least 10 per cent of the shares in at least one Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC). By contrast, as much as 80 per cent of taxpayers in the top 0.01 per cent of income earners were CCPC owners.In another study soon to be published in the Canadian Tax Journal, Wolfson and economist Scott Legree linked personal income tax returns to corporate returns. They found the federal treasury lost at least half a billion dollars in tax revenue that would have been paid had individuals not been able to funnel their personal income through corporations.And that’s a conservative estimate because the study did not include families who funnelled income through corporations to children no longer living under the same roof.“The popular rhetoric is that the special low small business tax rate that is available to CCPCs is designed to support small businesses, in part because they face greater challenges than large businesses in areas such as financing and because they are believed to be major sources of job creation and entrepreneurship,” concludes the study.“However, our analysis suggests that roughly half a billion dollars annually is foregone in ways related primarily to income splitting, where no such benefits are generated.”THE EXPERTS:Based on his research, Mintz told the Huffington Post earlier this year that “60 per cent of the small business deduction goes to households with more than $150,000 in income. That’s because you tend to have a relatively high number of high-income households who own small businesses.”However, Wolfson said about 70 per cent of what the tax act defines as small businesses are owned by the bottom 90 per cent of income earners.Still, he added: “A highly disproportionate number is owned by the top 1 per cent and the top 0.01 per cent. So like most things, a bit of nuance is required.”Trudeau’s concern about an untargeted reduction in the small business tax rate being used by wealthy Canadians to save on their tax bills is warranted, in Wolfson’s view, but one could quibble about his assertion that a “large percentage” of small businesses are doing so.“If you’re saying it’s bigger than 50 per cent, I don’t think so” Wolfson said. “If you’re saying is this something that really should be zero and even one or two per cent would be offensive — and in fact it’s five or 10 per cent — then that five or 10 could be a large number. So it depends on your frame of reference.”THE VERDICT:Trudeau’s concern about the wealthy using the preferential small business tax rate to avoid paying personal income tax is warranted. However, saying “a large percentage” do so is open to debate. He would have been on safer ground had he been either more precise or more vague — the studies would have supported saying “many” or “too many” small businesses are tax scams.For these reasons, Trudeau’s assertion earns a rating of “a little baloney.”The Canadian Press read more