internet connected gadgets

As technology advances, new gadgets are appearing and more items around the home are starting to offer the ability to be controlled remotely via the internet.

Your child may become interested in Smart watches and toys, so rather than specific reviews, this section will give you more information on how the internet may be taking over both our homes and our children’s playtime.

Wearables

Wearables are gaining in popularity. Learn more about smart watches and virtual reality.

Smart toys

Even toys are becoming smarter. Learn about the toys your child might be asking for.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Home gadgets are now part of the IoT. Learn more about them below.


Emerging Trends

Here’s some more information on existing and new trends in online gadgets with information to help you keep up with your child.

Smart watches

Wearable devices such as smartwatches have become more popular in recent times even though they generally require a smartphone to work.

Now that the Apple Watch has been officially revealed, more people are aware of smartwatches, although there are plenty already on the available to buy for all tastes. Each usually goes hand in hand with a certain type of mobile phone as they require connection to a smartphone to operate effectively.

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Android Wear watches, such as the LG Watch Urbane and the Moto 360, needs an Android phone to connect, while the Apple Watch needs to be wirelessly connected to an iPhone through Bluetooth.

Smartwatches generally offer similar functionality, with downloadable apps available that can perform many of the same tasks on the watch screen as you can get on a smartphone.

Parental controls also work in the same way, with Apple and Google app stores for respective devices having rating systems and strict submission guidelines for apps. However, if   you require extra control over content it will normally be available to set through the linked smartphone rather than directly on the watch itself.

Robotic toys

More and more toys are being designed to come alive through the use of technology and the internet. 

Robotic Ball Sphero

A number of toy makers have started placing technology at the heart of their products to give children a more interactive experience when playing with the toy.

These toys can be used for educational purposes. Some examples include a programmable robotic ball ‘Sphero’, and a build-it-yourself 4ft robot Meccanoid, from traditional toy maker Meccanno.  

It’s not all about learning though. Other toy makers like Anki Drive and Real FX are giving kids a 21st century take on Scaletrix with cars that have their own artificial intelligence and can be controlled using a  tablet or smartphone.  

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Smart toys

Many of the biggest toys your child will want for their birthdays and Christmases to come will be filled with technology and may even connect to a smartphone or the internet.

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This means that you should be aware of exactly what a toy does before handing it over to your child in order to ensure that it is safe. Last year’s hot Christmas toy, for example, was My Friend Cayla, a doll that connects to the internet and can respond to vocal requests for information through search functionality.

There were reports that some internet hackers had been able to control the doll and change the types of things it said, but there was no evidence that this could be done remotely, so the doll is considered safe for children.

Other smart toys that will be popular in 2015 include robotic animals, such as Miposaur, although the smartphone app that accompanies the toy works more to remotely control the artificially intelligent dinosaur rather than allow it to connect to the internet.

Virtual reality (VR)

Virtual reality headsets are not on general sale yet but they are expected to be the next big thing in gaming and home entertainment.

VR headsets are worn over the eyes and ears and enable children to enter a virtual 3D world that is often but not exclusively an interactive game. The headset tracks where the child is looking so it can move the in-game camera responsively.

Some more basic VR headsets are already available on to buy that use a smartphone combined with dedicated apps to provide the screen. The phone generally slots into the front of a headset. Google Glass and Samsung Gear VR are two examples of some of the devices available.

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Other VR headsets that will be available to buy already have screens and work through connection to a separate PC or games console. The most famous of these is Oculus Rift, which requires a hi-tech computer to work. Its release is due in early 2016.

Another is Sony’s Project Morpheus, which is similar but links to the PlayStation 4 console.

There are others from mobile phone manufacturer HTC – the HTC Vive – and various games companies that are also expected to release others in 2016.

Activity trackers

Also known as “fitness bands”, activity trackers usually look like a bracelet and  are used to track the amount of steps you take in a day and/or the amount of calories you’ve burned, helping  you to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

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Almost all activity trackers link to a smartphone or tablet application to present the information they monitor. This includes steps and calories, heart rate and other biometric readings.

The information gathered can also be stored in remotely in the cloud, allowing the phone or tablet to connect to the internet to access the  information. And there are child-specific fitness bands, although these tend not to be internet connected and instead feature games and tasks to encourage children to be more active. One example of these is the LeapBand by LeapFrog.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The ‘Internet of Things’ is the generic name for all appliances and devices that you connect to your home network. This can include everything from your washing machine to your TV.

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IoT is the umbrella term that refers to smart washing machines and fridges, smart TVs, cameras that can monitor your house and other devices connected to your home network. Smart appliances and devices connect to the internet, much like your computer, which means that you can control them even when you’re not at home to start your washing cycle or turn on your heating. The idea is that they will eventually be able to talk to each other.

The devices under IoT can mostly be controlled via an app on your smartphone, but many require a password so your child won’t be able to turn the heating up or down without knowing your code.

Smart cameras also fall under the Internet of Things. Several companies offer smart cameras that allow you to remotely monitor what’s going on in various rooms in your house, depending on where they’re situated. The apps used to control them are password protected, meaning you should still be safe from someone without permission viewing what’s happening in your home.