Monday, December 9, 2019
New technology is a great Christmas gift idea for someone you love, especially “the person who has everything.” Such a person probably doesn’t have an Amazon smart oven ($250) because, while Amazon unveiled the hot new product at its annual product launch early this fall, it’s not shipping orders until Jan. 3.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) seems to expand the functionality of common household devices every few weeks. That makes IoT gifts fun, but not without wide, reliable network bandwidth. Those who have come to rely on streaming services for their shows, movies and sports entertainment know buffering wheels take the adventure right out of the digital frontier.
There’s a reason that, along the spectrum of all IoT gifts, voice-interactive screens and speakers top most IoT bestseller lists. Today’s video calling devices feature screens as small as 5.5 inches that shoot HD video (1,280 pixels across or better). They are powered by AI and begin at under $100. (And no list of smart home gift ideas is complete without them.)
Excepting home security cameras, these will be the biggest bandwidth hogs on a typical home. By one measure, we should count each HD video stream as a 5 Mbps draw, whether entertainment or a face-to-face phone call. Of course, for any camera, that’s a bitrate upload (as opposed to streaming television, which is a download draw). Unless your home has symmetric fiber broadband, that taxes the the thinner bandwidth lane.
Samsung has dubbed its top of the line smart refrigerator the Family Hub. The series features a large touchscreen with functionality pretty similar to a tablet. Flip between a recipe tab, interactive calendar and shopping list. Inside the app, users can see their shopping lists from any device and even see present-time images of the inside of their refrigerator. Then, as you put away staples, the AI will update the shopping list, marking items off as new food is put away! (It will know you got milk.)
This is without question one of the best IoT gifts of 2019, helped in large part by the generosity required. Each of the four models in the series retails for between $2,000 and $3,200.
If you want to go big but not quite that big, consider the Amazon smart oven.
The newest addition to the growing list of IoT products for the home, the smart oven is a microwave, convection oven, and air fryer all-in-one that interacts with Amazon’s Alexa AI. With the Scan to Cook feature, you can use Alexa or the Echo Show to start scanning prepackaged foods from stores like Whole Foods and automatically program the oven to cook.
Amazon, the retailer turned manufacturer, has tagged the device “Certified for Humans.” It’s unclear whether that’s tongue-in-cheek. With Scan to Cook as well as a digital thermometer, Amazon is eyeing a not-too-distant future when the worst decision a head of household can make about dinner is to get involved in the cooking.
For gift givers on a budget, and especially for recipients just migrating to IoT, consider a robot vacuum.
The Roomba series — the name has become synonymous with the device, like Kleenex or, better, Hoover — from iRobot is still a critical darling, with best-in-class maneuverability, and now WiFi interactivity that allows you to spring it from its trap with the press of an app.
For low bandwidth consumption, the refrigerator, and especially the vacuum, are great IoT gift ideas. The touchscreen refrigerator, like any screen, can be used to stream HD video, but otherwise consumes only 1 or 2 Mbps, and then, only when in use.
Here’s a small item with a heavy bandwidth appetite — video doorbells. The popular Ring (Amazon) and Google Nest Hello video doorbells are two of the hottest-selling home security installs of the year. Now, there’s Canary indoor and outdoor cameras on sale at Kinetic retail locations starting at $50.
It’s one of the more popular smart home gift ideas because maturity and competition has driven the price down, according to PC Mag. The median entry point is roughly $150. A Canary All-In-One Indoor starts at $47.90. These cameras are battery powered, and the doorbells are as easy to install as hanging a picture frame. They’re WiFi-enabled and interface with a smartphone or tablet. All of them have night vision.
Motion-activated and pairable with other devices (such as home hubs and smart speakers), these cameras bolster home security and are easy to deploy in community crime solving efforts.
Less convenient is the upload bandwidth an HD video stream consumes. Before buying this for a parent or sibling, ask about their network connection. Encourage them to invest up, and if that’s tricky, consult an expert.
The new year is around the corner, and atop every list of new year’s resolutions is a riff on exercise more, lose weight.
One of the most intriguing IoT gift ideas last year that only got more attention this year is the Mirror workout system. This interactive workout device looks like little more than a full-length mirror, but it both reflects and displays workout motions, metrics and progressions. One reviewer called it “pricey upfront,” but loaded with “strenuous workout classes for all lengths and types.”
But at 40 inches displaying in 1080p, the Mirror may consume as much as 10 Mbps a workout.
Nothing’s worse than working up a sweat, soaking up that well-earned rush of endorphins, only to have your virtual workout freeze mid-set, side-swiped by a buffer wheel.
How much bandwidth do you or your loved ones need? That’s a question not only of how much is used now, or at specific moments in a day, but how you will grow into it. For instance, with service that topped out at just 10 megabits per second (Mbps), we knew that streaming television in HD happened after the tablets were put away, not during, and certainly not during a FaceTime with grandma. Now, with Kinetic Internet with speeds up to 1 gig, we enjoy folding several connected activities together — YouTube videos and Hulu, Internet research and cellular hunting camera live feeds.
So while the year 2019 has added several new IoT gifts, there’s still the connection part. Kinetic by Windstream spent the year building out the bandwidth to beat the IoT rush. Hundreds of thousands of homes in the company’s footprint — 71,000 in north Georgia alone — enjoy new high-speed Kinetic Internet ample enough to take on a Mirror, a camera, a Show and more.
Make sure your smart home gift ideas don’t get a dumb pinwheel reception. Get the fastest, most reliable internet available. Get Kinetic Internet.