Everything is connected nowadays. Whether you want to learn something, make your life easier or simply burn time, there is something ‘connected’ with which you can do it. From updates to classic inventions like the TV, radio and phones, to brand new innovations like activity trackers, drones and electronic security systems, there is always new technology around the corner to help enrich your life. Here are some of our highlights.
The basics: smartphones and mobile apps
By now, almost everyone you know likely has a smartphone. Recent reports suggest that a whopping 5 billion people worldwide have a cell phone, of which around 60% or more are smartphones. With brand new models coming out every year from top manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Huawei, hi-tech smartphones are much more accessible than they once were, with luxury additions driving prices down on the slightly older products quickly. The smartphone is the bread upon which the butter of technology is spread.
As well as an array of phone brands and models, there is also a huge selection of apps you can install on your device – around 2 million each on Google Play and the Apple App Store, and hundreds of thousands on other platforms. But while many are silly little games or apps that might make life a little more fun, a sizable proportion are highly intelligent programs which can enrich your life significantly. Assuming you’ve already picked your music, TV and messaging apps of choice, here are some of our favorite mobile app selections.
Lumosity calls itself the “#1 brain training and memory app”, and with over 90 million users, it's easy to see why this just might be the case. The app features hundreds of interesting puzzles and games designed to help keep your memory strong, improve your problem-solving skills, and exercise your brain on a daily basis. You can even track your scores to make sure you’re improving. Lumosity is free, or you can pay $11.99 a month for the Premium service, for more personalization and insights.
Developed by media conglomerate Condé Nast, Epicurious pulls recipes from a range of websites to give users the ultimate digital cookbook, complete with how-to videos, user reviews and photos. Handy features such as Recipe Box, Shopping List and Ingredients Finder help you to make sure you’re prepared for the whole process, and with over 35,000 recipes to choose from you won’t be short of choice!
Old Time Radio USA is a nostalgic app which broadcasts radio shows from yesteryear, going back as early as the 1920s! With more than 35 stations to choose from, you’ll always have a chance to reminisce with old music, dramas and comedies just like it was happening live. The app is completely free and comes with a host of features to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Get healthy: apps for your wellbeing
The use of fitness and health apps has boomed in the past few years. From applications on your smartphone like Map My Run, to wearable fitness trackers like the Fitbit®, the use of health and fitness apps continues to grow. Here are some of our top apps to help you improve your wellbeing:
Apple Watch has been in the news lately for saving lives. The latest wearable works with countless applications and offers many features, including alerting the wearer when the noise levels reach dangerous heights.
Sleep Cycle is the “Smart Alarm Clock.” The app helps to track your sleep cycles, and features an intelligent alarm clock that wakes you up during your lightest sleep cycle. It features detailed statistics about your sleep patterns and allows users to set their own wake-up window.
Strava is an increasingly popular activity sharing app. It allows users to share their runs, rides or hikes with the community of users. The social nature of the app allows you to ask other users questions, congratulate each other on your achievements, and much more.
MyFitnessPal is ranked as the #1 Health and Fitness app on iTunes. With a database of over 5 million different foods, MyFitnessPal helps you keep an eye on your daily caloric intake and provides insight into the nutritional value of your food.
Headspace is a meditation app to help you relax. It includes guided meditations, calming sessions, and more.
Oticon ON allows you to track your hearing throughout the day. Dubbed “HearingFitness,” the
Oticon ON captures data related to hearing aid use, listening environments and other hearing-aid-related behavior. It provides a host of data, including how many hours a hearing aid was used during the day, which settings were used, and more. The information can help hearing aid wearers optimize their hearing devices and maximize their hearing wellness.
Get connected: smart home must-haves
One of the most popular technological developments in recent years is the creation and continuous expansion of the ‘smart home’ concept. First it was a wireless surround sound system connected to the TV, then it was thermostats and lights, and now you can control almost anything in your home or garden with a smartphone! Control your world with the tap of a screen with our top smart home device recommendations.
Smart climate control
One of the most accessible and popular categories of smart home products are thermostats and radiator controls. Thermostats have been around for more than a century, but those controlled remotely over a WiFi connection only came onto the market around 12 years ago. One of the innovators of the tech was Nest, which is still a major player today. Now under the Google Home brand banner, the latest iterations of the Nest smart thermostats allow you to control the temperature of any room in your home from anywhere in the world using your smartphone. The devices can also learn what temperatures you like at what times and set itself at an ‘eco temperature’ automatically while you’re out of the house.
Other brands have also pushed the boundaries of the smart climate control game. The Tado Smart Thermostat can automatically detect open windows and adjust the temperature accordingly, while the brand also offers smart radiator thermostats for even more control. Ecobee, the original innovators of smart thermostat technology, continue to compete with the SmartThermostat with voice control, which has Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa built in to make it easy for anyone to use. The Hive Active Heating Kit, like other leading smart thermostat systems, can remind you to turn the heating off if you’ve forgotten.
Light your world, smartly
Another smart home innovation rapidly gaining popularity with the tech-savvy among us is smart lighting. These systems allow you to turn lights on and off, change the brightness of your lights, and sometimes even change colors, all from your smartphone or with your voice. One of the most widely praised systems is Philips Hue, a full range of lighting solutions including white and colored bulbs, lightstrips and desk, wall and ceiling lamps. The Philips system does require the Hue Bridge hub, but you can connect a whopping 50 lights!
If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, check out LIFX LED smart lights, which can be controlled straight from your device using Apple HomeKit, without the need for an extra hub. LIFX bulbs are long-lasting, brighter than average (70W) and quite affordable, so they’re a good choice for newcomers to the smart home scene. Smart thermostat innovators Hive has also thrown its hat into the smart lighting ring, offering dimmable and color-changing bulbs in a range of shapes and fittings. Smart lighting is not just for inside the home either, with outdoor lighting solutions offered as part of many collections, notably Philips Hue.
Security and creature comforts
Security will always be a concern for homeowners, but like with most things in life, tech has made it easier. Today, you can kit out your house with everything from video doorbells and smart locks to motion detectors and alarms, with packages available at a reasonable price. Plus, once you have the base product installed, many systems will allow you to extend the range of coverage with extra sensors, so you can spread the cost over time.
As well as top electronics names such as Panasonic and Samsung, smart security systems are available from many of the established smart home brands. Hive Motion Sensors and Window/Door Sensors can be linked up with other Hive products to make your automation even more automated, so you can turn on lights or change the temperature just by walking into a room!
has a whole range of security cameras
available, which can alert you to intruders or visitors and allow you to talk to them. Some of the more advanced models even have facial recognition software that can recognize family and friends. Other top security cameras include the Netatmo Smart Indoor Camera
, which provides quality surveillance with no subscription fees, and the Arlo Pro 2
, which can be programmed to highlight certain areas of interest and features a night vision feature.
For the icing on the cake of your new smart home, why not treat yourself to a creature comfort or two? In the world of smart appliances, nothing is more iconic than the iRobot Roomba Vacuum, which has been on the market for more than 15 years now. The latest models not only learn the layout of your house and clean thoroughly, but can also empty themselves. Smart indeed!
For the outdoors, check out Rachio smart sprinkler systems to set up custom watering schedules which automatically adjust according to local weather. Have a big yard? We have the answer for you. Robotic lawn mowers are popular among seniors who would rather spend their retirement enjoying their yard instead of dealing with the grass. Set it up for daily use and give your new "pet" the day off on Sunday.
And finally, if you can’t wake up in the morning without a cup of joe, make sure to pick up a smart coffee machine from one of the top brands, such as the Nespresso Expert, the Breville Smart Grinder Pro or the Philips GranBaristo Avanti.
Other great hi-tech gadgets to check out
Aside from mobile apps and smart home systems, there are a whole host of hi-tech gadgets on the market today that can make retired life much more interesting and productive. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Electric bikes: Despite their high purchase prices, battery-assisted bicycles have become massively popular in recent years. Available in a whole host of designs suited to various applications, e-bikes feature a battery-powered system which helps to reduce the effort needed from the user to pedal, making it easier for seniors to ride. Some e-bikes even come with an extra throttle to take over more of the work. Check out the outdoor category on b8ta.com for a few options.
Activity trackers: Some of the most popular gadgets on the market today are activity trackers. Spearheaded by brand leader
Fitbit, there are now hundreds of choices for fitness and movement trackers from various brands. The
Fitbit Charge 3 allows you to complete goal-based exercises and tracks everything from your heart rate to your sleep patterns. The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is similarly advanced, with numerous program options and long battery life. Get going!
Virtual reality: In the world of gaming and entertainment, nothing is more exciting than a virtual reality headset. Now available from numerous brands, these innovative devices allow you to experience videos, games and simulations like you’re really there. The Oculus Go is the latest offering from the market leader, but there are also top-performing competitors in the form of the HTC Vive and, if you have a Samsung smartphone, the Samsung Gear VR.
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