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Best smart home tech of IFA 2019: Smart soundbars, hipster Hue lights, and more

All the hotness out of Berlin

The best smart home tech of IFA 2019
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It's well established that when David Bowie sang of "twenty thousand people" in his Berlin love letter, Where Are We Now?, he was describing the throngs of tech lovers at the Messegelände, clambering over one another to admire the latest and greatest gadgets.

IFA has long been a hotbed for new tech, and 2019's show was no different. In fact, this year was particularly big for the smart home.

Read this: The hot smart home startups to watch this year

From Sonos to Philips Hue, Google to August, many of the big names made a splash in Berlin this year, and below we've rounded up the best of what we saw. Enjoy.

Hoover brought the kitchen Candy (and a smart vacuum)

Hoover Candy brought a bunch of new smart kitchen gear to IFA: ovens, vacuums, washing machines and more. Some felt a bit... gimmicky, if we're honest, not least of all its smart vacuum cleaner, which will count your calories while you're doing the housework.

There was also the Candy Rapido, a washing machine that adds a new feature in the app where you can take a photo of your laundry load and have it determine the appropriate program. Sadly that one didn't work too great in our demo, even though we like the idea.

Read more about Hoover's IFA splurge here.

Lenovo's new smart speaker finds the sweet spot

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Lenovo's hardly short on smart speakers, but its latest addition might finally get the measurements right. The company announced the Lenovo Smart Speaker 7, which boasts a 7-inch display and puts the Google Nest Hub directly in its sights.

We had a short demo with it, and we definitely prefer it to the company's 10-inch speaker. And as much as we love the Lenovo Smart Clock, it's limited by its diminutive proportions. So yeah, we're on board with this. Look out for a full review soon.

IFA 2019: The smart home tech we expect to see in Berlin

Smart soundbars take center stage

The success of the likes of Sonos' Beam and the Polk Command Bar have proven the usefulness of putting smart assistants into soundbars. Amazon has decided to take some of the market for its own, working with Anker to create the Nebula Soundbar Fire TV Edition. The soundbar packs a Fire TV system into its internals, negating the need for a separate streaming box or stick.

You can also add the soundbar to a multi-room music group in the Alexa app, making it part of your smart speaker set up in its own right. Amazon isn't yet supplying technical details of the hardware, though. The Nebula Soundbar is available to pre-order now for $229.99, ahead of shipping on 21 November.

Roku isn't getting left behind - announcing the Smart Soundbar, which effectively rolls a Roku Ultra into a soundbar. It will do everything the box version can do - 4K streaming and all, running on the Roku OS. However, unlike Roku's wireless TV speakers, the soundbar will work with any TV, connecting via the HDMI ARC port (or optical audio if you don't have ARC privileges). All of which is to say, the Roku soundbar can turn any "dumb" TV smart and give it an audio upgrade at the same time. Clever.

Read more about Roku's IFA announcements here.

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Bosch gives Google some loving

Bosch went big on smart home kit at IFA 2019, with new devices announced, user improvements, bolstered appliances and Google Assistant thrown into the mix.

Starting with the new devices and there’s a new smart thermostat, designed for underfloor heating systems. The thermostat lets you program custom scenes and settings for a long press, double tap and so on - and is also compatible with Alexa.

It’s not just Alexa though, Google Assistant is finally part of the Bosch smart home setup. You'll be able to configure the digital assistant through the revamped Bosch Smart Home app. Part of that revamp means that the Twinguard smoke detector can now be fully integrated into a Bosch smart home system.

IFA 2019: The smart home tech we expect to see in Berlin

August heads to the UK – as a module for smart locks

More than six years after it launched its first smart lock in the US, August announces it's coming to Europe – inside a small module you'll attach to an existing smart lock.

August is arriving under the Yale Access brand, with the Yale Access Module, you can attach to any existing Yale smart lock to give it August's range of additional features. Those features include remote control of your door, creating temporary access for guests, auto-unlock when you approach the door, and automatic locking. You can also use your lock with Google Assistant and Alexa, which can both be used to lock the door, as well as integrations with SimpliSafe and Alarm.com.

Read our full report on August's IFA announcement here.

IFA 2019: The smart home tech we expect to see in Berlin

Amazon's new Fire TV Cube helps Alexa cut through the noise

The Cube, Amazon's TV streaming box with an Alexa speaker built in is getting a refresh, the company announced at IFA.

The refreshed model looks identical but gets a few upgrades under the hood. One of the biggest updates is the new six-core processor, which Amazon says will make jumping between apps and zipping through movies and TV shows much faster, and will support 4K and Dolby Vision HDR content up to 60fps.

While this marks the second generation of Fire TV Cube for the US, it will be the first to finally launch in Europe, costing $119.99 in the US and £109.99 in the UK, coming 10 October.

Alongside this, Amazon has also announced a range of new Fire TV-branded smart TVs, some of which will be coming to the UK for the first time. There's also a new Fire TV soundbar, which Amazon has built with Anker.

Read our full report on Amazon's IFA announcement here.

IFA 2019: All the biggest smart home tech from the show so far

Google's new Ambient Mode

Google didn't have a huge presence at the show this year; rather it used its third-party partners to unveil a new feature called Ambient Mode, which will transform Android tables and phones into Google Smart Displays when they're docked. The new feature is launching on Lenovo's latest tablets and a couple of Nokia phones, but expect it to roll out to other devices before long.

IFA 2019: The smart home tech we expect to see in Berlin

Sonos goes on the Move at last

We knew Sonos would be making waves at IFA, and sure enough it used the timing of the show to launch its first ever portable Bluetooth speaker – Sonos Move. It's big, it's loud, it's not quite black. It's also the first Sonos speaker to showcase the company's new Auto Trueplay technology, which lets the speaker analyze the way sound is bouncing around the room and adjust itself to sound as good as it can.

That will only work indoors; for the outside, Sonos has built a fixed sound profile it believes can carry in any outdoors setting – the result of two years of R&D.

We got our ears around it, and can certainly attest to the volume of this thing. Sonos says it sits between the Sonos One and Play:5 in terms of quality. But that wasn't all from the audio company, which also unveiled its new Sonos One SL speaker – a Sonos One without voice assistants – and the new Sonos Port.

IFA 2019: All the biggest smart home tech from the show so far

Philips Hue's filament bulbs

An absolute slew of Philips Hue announcements came out at IFA this year, but the top pick is one that hipsters (and let's be honest, everyone else) have been craving for years: filament bulbs.

Burying all of their tech in the base, there's no giveaway that these Hue bulbs are connected at all, but they work just like any Hue bulb, through a Hue Bridge or Bluetooth connection. A range of options start at $24.99, all with 2100K of power at 530 lumens.

If that wasn't enough, though, Hue dropped the very tiny bomb that had long been rumored - its first smart plug. Controllable from the Hue app and Bluetooth-enabled, it supports HomeKit as well as Alexa and Google Assistant, making it a versatile new entrant.

IFA 2019: All the biggest smart home tech from the show so far

Netgear brings art to the table

You know Netgear as the home network experts who can give your Wi-Fi the strength of a thousand suns if you're willing to invest in it, but it's also been the brains (and money) behind Meural, a smart art display that could turn your living room into a mini Tate Modern, with the right choices.

At IFA this year it's announced a second version of the smart canvas, Meural Canvas II, with faster upload speeds, better displays and a range of size and framing options. There's nothing like a bit of art on the wall to spruce a home up, and we're even bigger fans when the art itself can be part of our smart home.

But Netgear hasn't abandoned its roots, and also saw fit to unveil the sixth generation of its Orbi Wi-Fi Mesh network system, which should be future-proofed against the advent of 8K streaming, for those of us living somewhere that's remotely likely - maybe the UK will get there one day.

TAGGED    smart home

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