• App-connected smoke and burglar alarms can keep your home secure
  • Voice-controlled smart gadgets save time and money
  • A few simple steps can keep your home network safe from hackers

Smart alarm systems

Smart locks could one day replace the traditional key, meaning no more lost keys and expensive calls to the locksmith. Some, like the August lock pictured below, work via a Bluetooth connection to your phone, unlocking as you approach, while others rely on contactless key fobs or PIN codes.

You can turn your August lock on or off, allowing you extra security if you want to use your original key.

The August smart lock being deconstructed while on the door, to allow you to see the components that make up the lock.

Smart burglar alarms and security systems, meanwhile, can record video and send notifications of any unusual activity to your phone. What's more, app-connected smoke alarms like the Nest Protect, which also features a carbon monoxide sensor, can help to you keep your home safe. From smart locks to alarms, there are plenty of home security inventions that should be on your wishlist.

Smart bricks 

Like internet-connected gadgets, innovations in building materials could help to keep your home and possessions safe from damage. One such bit of tech is the Smart AirBrick.

Traditional air bricks are made with holes drilled through them, allowing air to circulate underneath timber floors to prevent rot. However, in the event of a flood, they can leave your house vulnerable to water damage. These smart bricks feature ball-shaped valves that automatically float up and shut off the holes, blocking the flow of water.

The smart brick is just one example of how construction companies are getting involved in clever home technology. Construction firms like Mason Lord are also working to integrate smart technology from the outset, so it is wired into the very fabric of their buildings. This is something that we are likely to see far more of in the future.

Voice assistants

The smart home of the future could well include robo-butlers that do the housework for you – but in the meantime, virtual assistants could be the next best thing.

Gadgets with virtual voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, 24.5 million of these voice-powered products are due to be sold this year, according to a report from voice control software firm VoiceLabs.

'While early innovation is about taking phone and mobile app use cases and porting them to voice-first platforms, in 2017 we will see unique voice-first experiences that will take the world by storm,' says the report. 'Get ready for always communicable family members, a personalised home assistant that makes life easier, and a conversational device that anticipates your needs'.

These AI-powered assistants can save you time by responding to voice queries about the weather, sports scores and news. They can also be used to control smart home energy devices, such as smart thermostats, helping you to keep energy costs to a minimum.

Both Alexa and Google Home are rumoured to be adding internet-based voice calls by the end of the year. If that happens, it could mean the end of the traditional home landline, which could result in big savings.

Amazon's Alexa placed on a kitchen table

Energy efficiency

Connected appliances like smart fridges can save you money, helping you to buy and store food more efficiently – but it's also important to look at energy ratings.

'When choosing energy-efficient appliances for your home, look for the energy ratings label and consider the size of the appliance you need,' advises Aled Stephens, energy expert from consumer organisation Energy Saving Trust (@EnergySvgTrust). 

'Energy ratings are generally given to products based on their size category. This means that two differently sized appliances with the same energy rating may use quite different amounts of electricity'.

Keeping your smart home secure

Tech-savvy millennials are leading the charge in smart home tech, with 36% currently controlling devices in their home with a smartphone, tablet or computer, according to consumer data firm GfK.

However, with so many smart products connected to the internet, it's important that we all know how to stay safe from hackers and cyber criminals. So, as well as making sure you have the right cover for your home and possessions, make sure you protect your smart home devices.

'There are some basic practices that should be followed by everyone, from individual consumers to the largest global enterprises,' says David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab (@kaspersky). 'These include: using strong passwords, regularly checking for and installing software updates, and implementing appropriate security software.'

The world of internet-connected devices and smart home innovations can save you time and cash as well as keeping you and your property safe – just do your research and be vigilant with your passwords and privacy settings. 

For more stories around smart technology, follow Libby on Twitter @LibbyPlummer.