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Best Products of 2015: Home

Amazon's Echo finally makes it easy to have a smarter home

best of 2015 homeWinner
Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo started off as a Bluetooth speaker and voice-control assistant with a few smart-home tricks up her sleeve. The cylindrical device appeared most useful for finding out fast facts (“Hey Alexa, what’s the weather like in Portland today?”) and putting on your dance-party playlist. But then Amazon started adding more and more capabilities, and now Alexa can dim your lights, tell you sports scores, and help you shop online, in addition to playing your holiday tunes.

The best part is, all you have to do is ask. A lot of people keep the Echo in their kitchens. That’s because if there’s one place you need hands-free information the most (besides maybe the bathroom), it’s the kitchen. If you’re in the middle of making Moroccan chicken and find you’re out of paprika, you can say, “Alexa, what’s a substitute for paprika?”

Amazon has added all sorts of third-party compatibility – including Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink devices – and this is only the start.

Amazon wants to live inside your home, and it’s found the perfect way to invite itself in.

In June, Amazon opened up an SDK to developers, in the hopes that they’ll bring Alexa to all manner of devices. Right now, you need the Pringles-can-like speaker to find out the weather, but eventually you could ask your alarm clock.

While the Echo is a great hands-free assistant, it’s also designed to sell you more goods (via Amazon, of course). Its Dash technology — which lets you reorder goods at the push of a button or automatically does that for you when your coffee machine senses your running low on beans — isn’t incorporated into the speaker yet. If you want to order your pet’s favorite food, you can ask Alexa, but you’ll still need to take a few more steps to get it from your Amazon cart to your doorstep. But give Alexa the power of the Dash button (without having to stick plastic, branded buttons all over the house), and you’ll never be in short supply of paper towels or water pitchers filters again. Amazon wants to live inside your home, and it’s found the perfect way to invite itself in.

Runners up

Roost Smart Battery for Smoke Alarms

roost

The Roost Smart Battery is pricier than a typical 9-volt, but it may make your home safer. The Wi-Fi-connected battery sends you an alert if your existing smoke detector starts sounding. That means you can snooze it if you’ve simply burned your dinner or call the fire department if you’re not home. Anyone with a smartphone and a stepstool should be able to set it up, too.

LG SideKick Pedestal Washer

LG-SideKick-Pedestal-Washer

Look out below! The LG Twin Wash is a pedestal you put below your regular washing machine with a built-in washer. That means you can do two loads at once — one for your delicates and heavy-duty one for your sheets, for example — or just use the Twin Wash to take care of a small load of gym clothes or baby-goo-covered onesies.