It’s that time of year again, when people’s thoughts turn toward gift giving. Or maybe gift getting. To help our readers out, Kevin and I have chosen a select number of connected products aimed at mainstream consumers, engineers, and even your favorite child. There is truly something in here for everyone, whether you are trying to keep an eye on elderly parents or help your staff build a better connected device. Let’s do this.
For the chef: Joule sous vide cooker from ChefSteps, $179–$199
This is an expensive gift, but one that will pay dividends in your kitchen with delicious food for hopefully years to come. Sous vide cooking involves sealing your food in a plastic bag and then cooking it in circulating water at a certain temperature. It takes longer, but the result is a tender, well-cooked piece of meat; a perfectly cooked egg; or tender but crisp vegetables. This gift will be welcomed by chefs and meal preppers alike. I personally use it to set myself up with different flavors for a week by cooking several chicken breasts in a variety of different spices.
For your kid: Anki Vector, $249.99
Kevin raves about this robot and I think your kids will, too. Anki’s products are well made, and the Vector combines high-tech robotics with a cute personality that will appeal to both girls and boys. It will also soon link to Alexa to give your kid (or you) a playful digital assistant with Vector’s personality and Alexa’s skills. For the tech-savvy, Anki offers a software development kit that lets you program Vector, plus a lot more. Basically this is a fun toy and a STEM gateway drug all in one.
For the home renovator: Delta’s Alexa-enabled touch faucet, $444.60–$519.99
Also in the kitchen, Delta has released an internet-connected, touch-sensitive faucet. I love this product because the connectivity allows you to control your faucet using Alexa. You can tell Alexa to dispense specific amounts or to just to turn the faucet on and off. It’s super useful when you have your hands full or don’t want to get fussy with a measuring cup. And the electronics in the faucet also allow you to turn it on with a touch — a feature I will never give up in my future homes. So for the person who spends all their time in the kitchen and is thinking about a replacement faucet, I love this Delta device. And if you ever need it, Delta has excellent customer service.
For your favorite IoT device maker: Otii by Qoitech, $550
Most engineers building a connected device want to understand how quickly it will suck down juice. After all, many of these devices are battery-powered, and no one wants to change the batteries on a dozen home sensors every six months or recharge their connected toy every 45 minutes. Which is why Qoitech developed the Otii. It’s a device that shows how much battery power your product will use based on the hardware as well as the software. Sure, a testing device isn’t for everyone, but for those in the realm of building connected devices, this is a pretty cool find. Go ahead, expense it.
For your parents: First Alert Safe and Sound, $249.99
This device is expensive, but it also does a lot. It combines a CO2 and smoke detector with an Alexa-enabled speaker. It’s also HomeKit-compatible. The speaker sounds pretty good and the convenience of shouting at Alexa from anywhere in the room is also nice. Better, if your parents’ smoke alarm goes off, it can send alerts to them, you, or any other family members. It also lets them take advantage of voice calls over Alexa, which means that if they are in a room with this device and need help, they can get it using their voices. So while the price tag is high, there are a lot of ways this might be a help down the road. And yes, they could get a regular Echo device for $100, but this one detects smoke and CO2. Plus it shares the air quality information via HomeKit.
For your tech-loving spouse: Google Display, $150–$300
I’m going to be a bit generic here because I think all of the Google Display devices are pretty compelling. The Google-designed Home Hub is the cheapest and smallest, and has everything you might want to control your smart home. It also has the ability to pull in Google Photos, so any pictures or albums you pop into Google Photos can make their way onto this device. If your spouse likes to watch YouTube, a larger 8-inch or even 10-inch display might be better options; we like the Lenovo 10-inch Smart Display for that purpose. The ability to pull in information from Nest doorbells and cameras is also a plus.
For your tech-phobic spouse: Nest Hello video doorbell, $229
Yes, this is a tech product for someone who hates tech. I put it on the list because my husband, who isn’t too keen on the idea of smart home gear, loves having a video doorbell. We’ve had several, but the Nest is his favorite so far, because the facial recognition means he can ignore alerts that don’t matter to him. He also finds that it loads quickly and lets him talk to the person standing at the front door via the door bell without delay. He’s not using the pre-recorded messages, which let you press a button and have phrases like “Leave the package at the door” or “I’m not interested” play at the door. However, I think others might like that feature, just as long as someone else installs the doorbell and sets up those pre-recorded responses in advance.
For the late adopters: Amazon Echo Input, $34.99
This gift is for someone in your life who wants to experiment with the Echo but doesn’t want to sacrifice on audio quality. They can basically use this to connect to their existing speakers and then use it to command Alexa to play whatever music they want. It’s a nice way to give people who love music an easier way to access it. And if they start to order Alexa to do other things, Amazon won’t mind that either.