Smart home services and ‘the Internet of Things’ have been buzzphrases for a few years now but 2014 has been the year of the smart home, hands down.
Apple has thrown its hat into the ring – always a reliable indicator that something in tech world is about to get serious – with HomeKit and Samsung has followed suit, announcing it’s own Smart Home ecosystem and buying up SmartThings. The likes of British Gas and Climote have announced plans for their smart heating hubs to eventually control other devices in the home.
Established connected TV systems like Sky and Virgin Media TiVo have announced and rolled out extensive upgrades of their services while Chromecast, Fire TV and Roku devices carve out another niche in the market – the mini streamer.
But what’s been the most disruptive and significant smart home appliance of 2014?
For our money, it’s got to be Chromecast. Google has tried and failed to crack the smart TV market numerous times. Firstly with the expensive and bulky Google TV set-top boxes, which buyers avoided in droves and secondly with the odd-looking Nexus Q, which could have been great – had Google actually bothered to release it properly.
Enter Chromecast. The inexpensive little streaming stick is not only dead easy to use, it’s also well supported by a growing number of apps and there’s plenty else it can do besides put Netflix and co on your TV screen. It’s also dirt cheap.
Following Chromecast we’ve seen the mini streamer section of the market, previously occupied by the likes of Roku and Apple TV, explode.
Amazon has muscled in with the powerful Fire TV streamer and Roku has launched it’s own Streaming Stick, copping some of the Chromecast style. They’re not the only ones either – the Mozilla-powered Matchstick smashed its Kickstarter goal in just one day and Amazon has seen fit to develop a Stick version of its Fire TV box.
Chromecast is Google’s first real smart TV success and it’s paved the way for the arrival of Android TV and eventually the Nexus Player – a souped up smart TV device that will let you do everything Chromecast does and more. But will it cost just £30? We doubt that.
The nominees for Best Smart Home Product of 2014 were:
- British Gas Hive
- Nest Learning Thermostat
- Honeywell Evohome