Stories & Features

5 ways smart tech can keep your summer on track

Image of a family of hikers at North Vancouver's Dog Mountain
There's more than a month of summer left, which is more than enough time to get outside, spend days relaxing, or hit the road. Whatever your plans are this month, we've rounded up a few ways that smart tech can help.

From savings to security, a few suggestions

Whether your summer plans are of the "lay in the sun" or "challenge yourself on the trail" variety, we've rounded up some suggestions of smart tech that can help you make the most of these longer days.

1. Grab a 'juicebox' for those summer hikes, day trips, and car rides

If you're heading out for the August or Labour Day long weekends, chances are you're bringing your smartphone. Whether your plans involve a hike, a day trip, or a road trip that will take you farther afield, don't get caught with a low battery. These days, portable chargers (also known as power banks or juiceboxes) can charge your smartphone, tablet or even your laptop on the go. Many of them offer high-speed charging, can charge multiple devices at once, and deliver more than a single charge. And because they're portable, you're more likely to take them with you – meaning that you won't leave them plugged in at home, drawing power. Check out reviews from techradar.com on the best portable chargers for your needs.

2. Do your Netflix-binging on a tablet, not a game console

If a few days off means that you finally have time to catch up on Stranger Things or dive into The Staircase, you can save energy if you settle in with a tablet instead of streaming from another device, such a smart TV or a game console. While most smart electronics these days offer built-in connections or apps to streaming services such as Netflix, you'll get the best energy performance if you use devices for their primary purpose, which for consoles is gaming, not streaming. You'll use way less energy if you do: an ENERGY-STAR® certified tablet uses only 10% of the power that a game console does to stream content.

Tablets are also a great energy-efficient way to keep track of your electricity usage – log in to MyHydro to see how much electricity you use, down to the hour, without booting up your desktop or laptop.

3. Ditch the stove and oven for a smart small appliance

There's a reason so many of us opt for suppers of salad and something from the grill in the summer – who wants to turn on the stove or the oven when it feels like you're already baking inside? But just because it's hot outside doesn't mean you have to give up on delicious baked goods, simmered sauces or good old-fashioned pulled pork. Enter the newest wave of small appliances: smart devices you can control from your smartphone, precisely tuning your recipe to your exact specifications, all without heating up your kitchen or standing over a hot grill. Both Crock-Pot and Instant Pot offer popular smart WiFi-enabled versions, but even the regular ones will save you from sweating in the kitchen, with just a little extra hands-on time. The same goes for toaster ovens and microwaves: summer is a great time to think small when it comes to your appliances.

4. Consider smart home security before you hit the road

We've talked about the benefits of smart locks before, but summer is a great time to consider your home security. That's because most residential burglaries occur in the summer months, during the day. It's more likely that people are away from home, normal routines are disrupted with kids out of school and changing commutes. If you've been considering an upgrade to your home security, don't miss out on the benefits of smart tech. Nowadays, you can get smart cameras, motion detectors, and alarms that all connect to your smartphone so that you can keep an eye on things. Vacation is a great time to unplug – but maybe not from your home security.

5. Deck out your deck with smart tech

Nothing says summer like enjoying the long days on your deck or patio. Whether you're settling in with a book or having friends over for a barbecue, you'll want to create the right mood, particularly when the sun eventually starts to set and it's getting a little dark. Opt for super efficient LED outdoor bulbs in any fixtures; they use 75% less energy than standard bulbs. Smart bulbs can be controlled by your phone, dimmed, connected to motion sensors and more. When it comes to music, there's no need to invest in pricey wired-in systems to keep the party going on the patio. Consider a portable Bluetooth speaker instead: they're compact, deliver great sound from your smartphone or other device, which is perfect if you use streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify. And if the kids are playing in the sprinkler or you're lounging by the pool, not to worry. There's probably a waterproof version that will suit your needs. Start with this round up from techradar.com to find one that works for you.