Five gadgets for the connected home
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Some speakers sit on shelves, others are mounted on poles or embedded in the ceiling, but the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A9, now in its fifth generation, is literally part of the furniture. Its exterior can be customised to your decor, while its electronics give a rock-solid bridge to your WiFi network. Yes, you can use it via Bluetooth if you really must, but given its high-spec connectivity (branded “Mozart” by Bang & Olufsen) that would be like hammering out Chopsticks on a Bösendorfer grand piano. WiFi (or cabled ethernet if you prefer) provides you with Airplay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, B&O’s own software – and, if you’re lucky enough to have two A9s in a single space, native stereo pairing.
Anyone (like me) who sweats profusely when assembling flat pack furniture will appreciate the ease of set-up; you screw in the three legs while it’s still lying face-down in the box, and as you lift it by the handle it naturally swings into a standing position. Plug it in, detect it via the B&O app, and it’ll quickly do a tonal sweep of the room to establish frequency peaks and troughs, adjusting its EQ accordingly.
If you peek behind the removable (and machine-washable) cover, you can see what’s happening speaker-wise, with a stereo pair set into the left and right edges of the convex disc, angled slightly away from each other. At the back is an 8in woofer and another pair of full-range speakers, giving exceptional room-filling sound. You can adjust the balance of that sound via the app, but the initial tonal sweep does a superb job and it doesn’t really need adjusting. Volume can obviously be boosted remotely, but also by swiping across the top of the disc. (It takes three swipes to reach maximum volume, thus removing the possibility of accidentally annoying the neighbours.)
You’ll find all kinds of customised covers online, but if you want your A9 to have real artistic pedigree, a collaboration with Ssense yielded a beautifully conceived combination of blasted aluminium and Danish Kvadrat wool. Now that’s musique concrète. Bang & Olufsen Beosound A9, £3,199
Until relatively recently, bringing WiFi to every corner of your house – or even flat – was blighted by tortuously complex network configurations and dropped signals as you moved from room to room. The Orbi provides the ultimate mesh network for the home and garden, covering up to 695sq m for a maximum of 200 smart devices, which is, needless to say, plenty. In my own home, one Orbi router and its two satellites handled a job normally done by five relay units scattered around the property, and they introduce some neat features, too: app notifications when a new device joins the network, separately configurable guest WiFi and a built-in VPN for the privacy-conscious. Netgear Orbi 960 Series, £1,699.99
Keep it clean
Air purifiers generally use HEPA filters, a fibre mesh that captures any small particles daring to float by. The Aaira combines one of these with a carbon filter (to neutralise noxious odours) and an HOCI generator, which uses a scoop of table salt dissolved in tap water to produce a weak acid (think along the lines of lemon juice), which in turn zaps a range of bacteria and viruses that might be lingering. This top-of-the-range model stands around waist-high, but quietly deals with rooms measuring up to 43sq m. It’s WiFi-enabled, so you can ask Alexa or Google Assistant to turn it on and off, or up and down, while a dedicated app gives you control over timers, schedules and more wherever you are. DH Lifelabs Aaira + HEPA, £799.99
Read the room
Most central heating radiators have thermostatic valves, but as a nation we often set them to “max” and leave the temperature of every room to be dictated by a single thermostat. Tado regards this as wasteful; its product range includes this smart thermostat along with a boiler programmer and smart radiator valves, which all hook up to your network to give control of your heating on an hour-by-hour, room-by room basis. So a single radiator can call to the boiler for more heat if it senses the room is cold, but if it’s not, it won’t. With an optional subscription, the app keeps tabs on energy use, and the business of decarbonising one’s home becomes slightly addictive. Tado Wired Smart Thermostat V3+, from £179.99
People are squeamish about smart locks on their property for one main reason; they fear that subcontracting the job to a smartphone will mean being locked out when batteries die. The collaboration between Ultion and Nuki dispels such concerns immediately by providing a manual override, allowing us to concentrate on the plus points: remote locking and unlocking, automatic unlocking as you approach, electronic guest keys and logs of comings and goings in its app. It can be retrofitted to pretty much any front door (the appearance from the front doesn’t change) and whenever I thought, “But hang on, what about X?”, Ultion and Nuki had already thought of it. They’re security companies, after all. Ultion Nuki Plus, £545