Four smart home innovations for peace of mind on your travels

PHOTO: Unsplash

Do you constantly worry about home when you travel?

The smart home is here, and it is never more useful than when we are away from it.

Phone apps are the gateway to the smart home, of course, but the floors of the annual IFA consumer technology show in Berlin this year are packed with smart tech that allows everything from remote pet-feeding to controlling from afar the alarms that guard your home.

Here is our pick of the platforms ideal for travellers who want to stay in control while they're away.


Once you have decided on your next destination there is always a big follow-up question; who is going to feed the cats? Retailing for US$429 (S$600), CatsPad is an autonomous food and water dispenser that you can control by smartphone.

There is a water fountain, backed by a tank that holds up to six litres of water, which dispenses water every time your cat approaches the bowl.

There is also a barrel for kibble - it holds a generous 1.6kg that can be set to gradually dispense its contents throughout the day.

CatsPad isn't just for one cat, either. Put tiny RFID radio devices on up to five cats' collars and CatsPad will identify, and feed, them all.

Veritable Connect smart garden

Nobody likes to return from a long trip away, only to find their house plants looking brittle - or dead.

A smart garden from French company Veritable, Connect is a self-contained system that takes care of aromatic herbs, edible flowers and baby vegetables all year round, needing almost no input from you.

PHOTO: Instagram/veritablegarden

The unit automates the amount of light, nutrients and water the plants get, with the water tank lasting for about three weeks before it needs to be filled up manually.

Designed for growing sweet basil, curly parsley, chives and cherry tomatoes (all seeds come in the box), Veritable Connect costs US$302.

Netatmo Smart Alarm System

Boarding pass? Got it. Gate number? Sorted. Just realised you left a window open at home? Oh. Launched at IFA and on sale at the end of this month, French company Netatmo's Smart Alarm System comprises a camera (US$200), siren (US$80) and window sensors (US$100).

They all pick up movement, of course, and send notifications to you via an app. However, the window sensors can also be set to alert you if the windows are left open for an amount of time, or after a specific time.

The camera is even smarter; it has a motion sensor that detects movement, but can recognise the faces of your family and friends. So a friend can visit to feed your cat without you being told there's been a break-in. That is just as well, because the smart siren gets to 110 decibels! Lucky, then, that you can switch it off via the app.

Minut Point Smart Home Alarm

Have you ever fitted a burglar alarm system, then, while on holiday, received a phone call from a neighbour asking you what the code for your alarm is? It happens, hence the Swedish-designed Minus Point (US$159), a smart alarm system that does not involve any cameras or cables.

PHOTO: Instagram/minuthq​​

Instead, it is a system that relies entirely on sound. The concept rests on a circular sensor that looks like a simple smoke alarm, and installs just as easily, usually on a ceiling. Once in place it can detect sounds, motion, temperature, air pressure and humidity. If it hears an intruder, it sounds a 90-decibel alarm, but crucially, it can be silenced from your smartphone, so no PIN code is required.

Minut Point also listens out for other alarms, including smoke or carbon dioxide alarms, and tells you about them via an app for Android and iOS.

Amber Personal Hybrid Cloud

Lastly, what happens to a family's holiday photos when they return home? Nothing, usually. Too often they remain on everyone's smartphones and never get united.

Cue Amber Personal Hybrid Cloud, a kind of "private cloud" that not only backs up each family member's photos invisibly and wirelessly, but uses artificial intelligence and facial recognition to group them into categories - for example, by GPS location or according to the people in the photos.

PHOTO: Instagram/myamberlife

If you are not travelling with your family, you might wonder if there is anything Amber (US$550) can offer you. After all, what's wrong with Google Photos, which is free and backs up everything to the cloud? Not only does Amber keep all your photos in their original high resolution (Google downscales them unless you pay fees), but it keeps your private data away from the internet. It can also cast videos straight to your TV.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.