Four favourite smart-home gadgets

Jonathan Margolis finds an outstanding robo-vacuum cleaner, portable cinema – and more

iRobot Roomba i7+ vacuum cleaner, £879.99
iRobot Roomba i7+ vacuum cleaner, £879.99

iRobot Roomba i7+ vacuum cleaner

The iRobot Roomba i7+ solves the key problem that besets autonomous cleaning appliances: being compact enough to move nimbly around under sofas and so on, while also having enough space onboard to store dirt. The i7+ is automatically emptied by a base unit when it returns for a battery recharge, which it does every 90 minutes or so. Plus, there’s a secondary (very loud) cleaner in the base unit to vacuum out the mobile machine while it’s having its pit stop. What’s more, the base unit can empty the robot 60 times before it needs attending to by a human. So now, you can programme the robot to clean an entire floor of a house or a big apartment twice a week and you still shouldn’t need to empty the main dust container more than once a month. Using its “smart mapping”, the i7+ also knows which room it’s in and, via its phone app, you can instruct it to clean or leave out specific parts of your home. Outstanding gadgetry. £879.99, irobot.co.uk

Meural electronic picture frame, from £833 (subscription £70 a year)
Meural electronic picture frame, from £833 (subscription £70 a year)
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Meural electronic picture frame

This picture frame comes preloaded with artworks, and you can subscribe to a massive library of more than 30,000. Its anti-glare matte display (with an ambient light sensor to keep it at the right luminescence level even in daylight) is absolutely superb. My preference would be to use it as a display for my supposedly arty photography, although it would be hard to choose whether to hang it landscape or portrait, because portrait photos (or indeed painted portraits) look a bit lame in a landscape frame and vice versa. It does need a mains connection, which means you either have to accept that the lead will be visible or have it embedded in the plasterwork – but an easy workaround is to find a shelf or sideboard to place the frame on. From £833 (subscription £70 a year), netgear.co.uk

Viewsonic X10-4K projector

The idea of being able to turn any room or outdoor space into a cinema is both enchanting and rather practical. The two features to look for in a projector are portability and the ability to project an image from really close to a wall. ViewSonic’s X10-4K is an absolute banger of a “short throw” machine, pulling off the light-bending miracle in style, with built-in Harman Kardon speakers that deliver exceptional spatial sound. The X10 has a real luxury finish, with leather covering the carrying handle and many other parts. I know it’s not essential, but it makes it feel like this is tech its designers believe in. £1,350, viewsonic.com 

Viewsonic X10-4K projector, £1,350
Viewsonic X10-4K projector, £1,350
Waterlock leak sensor, £350, including installation; additional sensors, £25
Waterlock leak sensor, £350, including installation; additional sensors, £25

Waterlock leak sensor

A water leak is the most democratic of perils. You can invest in anti-intruder security, fireproofing, sprinklers and alarms and significantly reduce your chances of theft or fire damage. But a burst pipe is a great leveller: as “comfortable” (my parents’ favourite word) as you may be, there is almost nothing you can do to stop a leak turning into a flood if you’re out of the house. Waterlock, from a Cambridge company, is at once the most boring and awesome smart-home product I’ve come across. Its proposition is simple. You can place satellite sensors in all the vulnerable spots in your home – under washing machines, cisterns etc – and whenever it detects water leaks it electronically shuts off the stopcock, hence the water supply, and informs you by text or email wherever you are, be that in bed or on the other side of the world. Genius, imho. £350, including installation; additional sensors, £25, geotogether.com/consumer

@thefuturecritic

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