My phone buzzes. It’s my home security system telling me the motion detector has picked up something and the alarm is about to go off. I check the app and can’t see anything on either the still photos or the live video camera. I remotely reset the alarm and get back to work.

That was something that actually happened to me while writing this article. Then, because I was going to be late home, I set my entrance lights and electric blanket to turn on. Again, all from my phone.

This is known as the “internet of things”, devices that are connected to the internet and controlled by you through your phone or computer.

Security and convenience

The range of everyday appliances that can connect to the internet is growing at an amazing rate. Non-connected “dumb” appliances can also be smartened up by using smart power plugs that let you remotely control them.

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Lighting

WiFi-connected lights can connect through either the light bulbs themselves or with a smart switch. Become a paying Consumer member or log in to find out more.

If this then…

IFTTT, which stands for “If This, Then That”, is a free website and app that uses “recipes” to control your devices. It works with hundreds of websites, apps and devices. Recipes are written as “if X happens then do Y”. They can be as simple as “if I post a photo on Instagram, then also post it on Facebook”, but when you add in home appliances it gets really fun.

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The cost of convenience

However, none of this is cheap. A WiFi-connected set of light bulbs can cost over $200. A home security system much more than that, especially if you pay for video data to be stored online.

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How to set it up

Each smart device you connect will have a different set-up depending on which manufacturer it comes from, but they all have a few things in common. For example, you will almost certainly need your phone or tablet connected to the same WiFi network the device is on.

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WiFi

To use these systems you need a reliable home WiFi network. Check out our test of wireless routers to see which one gives you the strongest network.