As social distancing continues, more Canadians are opting to spend cozy nights in with take-out and streaming movies and shows. As we spend more time at home, comfort, Wi-Fi speeds and security have become top of mind for many. The evolution of voice-activated technology like Alexa and video security systems like Ring have contributed to making homes smarter, more convenient and safer for customers looking to upgrade their lifestyle.

Not only do we want them to be useful and smart, we’d love for these devices to also fit into the ‘look and feel’ of our homes. Where do you start? We asked Arren Williams for some direction on how to incorporate the latest technology into our homes seamlessly.   “Art and design have always been part of my life – in fact, I was collecting Art Deco clocks at the age of 12 when most kids were still playing with GI Joe,” said Williams.

Williams has been working full-time in the design world for the last couple of decades, including his interiors featured in House & Home magazine over the years and appearing on Citytv’s Cityline as a Guest Expert for more than 18 years. He was also the Creative Director for Home for the Hudson’s Bay stores and you’ll now find a collection for the home under his name there, covering furniture, lighting, rugs and wall decor. “It’s such a rush to see the pieces I’ve designed in someone’s home!” said Williams.

Arren William’s favourite smart home devices and what they do…

For me, I look at things through both a design and technology lens, so it has to be the all-new Echo. I love the simplicity of the design – it looks so good nestled in with all of my vintage ceramics – and then it’s such a snap to use, so intuitive. We have a slew of smart plugs that we control through it and have set up custom routines to make life nice and easy. Just by saying ‘Alexa, switch on Christmas’ our tree lights up, as do all our exterior lights. We could even have the speaker play Christmas music, too!

Speaking of sound, the speaker in the Echo really is excellent. It automatically adjusts to the space it’s in to optimize sound quality, so we’ve really been blown away by how good our Spotify playlists sound.

Next on the list would be the Amazon Smart Plugs. I love being able to control the lighting in a space, and they make it so easy, especially because they’re part of Amazon’s ‘Certified for Humans’ selected products, which means they offer Frustration Free Setup.

In the same vein as lighting, I have to go with the Philips Hue bulbs. They’re wireless, so if you have one fitted in a lamp you won’t need a smart plug, plus you can set up a custom routine of when you’d like it to switch on and off. Not only that, you can control light levels, whether you want energizing cool white light in the morning or relaxing warm white light at night, or even play with colour.

The Fire TV Stick and Cube get a major thumbs up from me, mainly because if my other half falls asleep with the remote in his hand, which happens regularly, I can use voice activation to put on a show I want to watch. I have to keep up on the latest series of the Great British Bake Off!

The Echo Show 8 has a screen, as well as great sound. I use it in the office and have it hooked up to the Ring Video Doorbell, so I can see and respond to anyone who comes to the front door. It’s also a handy tool in the kitchen, since Alexa can read out a recipe step by step, as well as show it on the screen.

The eero Pro 6 and eero 6 wifi routers are also super helpful if you’re working from home, as well as have kids enrolled in online learning. One of these will help deliver faster speeds and higher performance, enough to handle your Zoom call, the kids’ online school, and playing video games at the same time.