Five ways to incorporate smart technology into your patio this year

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Every year around this time, I take on the task of opening a patio to welcome spring. I took out the chair cushions, dusted them off, opened the umbrellas, and put all the hanging baskets in place. Of course, there's also the need to clean your outdoor grill and keep your lawn looking tidy. This year, all of my new products will be smart products because the market is flooded with smart technology specifically for the outdoors.

Make outdoor spaces adaptable to weather changes

For years I have dreamed of a pergola that would provide shade over a thermal dome and keep out rain and snow in the winter. While patio covers with louvers that open and close are not new, automation through an app is. Smart pergolas and cabins are now a reality and are only getting smarter. The app can control the blinds and even control them in response to a rain sensor or wind sensor. The shades on the sides of the pergola can also be automated, and Struxure, the company that makes these pergolas, says that by the end of the summer, they will launch a new app experience that will let you control the lights, fans, heaters, and, gentlemen, the pergola. Anything (just blinds now). These pergolas don't come cheap—according to a dealer in Indiana, a 10x10 pergola starts at $20,000, and prices can go up quickly. Cabana X is a more discreet version with a 10 x 10 footprint that can be configured online and expanded to the largest footprint required. Cabana X starts at $7,497, and both the Pergola X and Cabana X are available through Struxture's website, which connects you with local dealers.

A more practical option is the High Altitude Series Smart Umbrella. Although there is no app experience, the remote control will open and close this patio umbrella, and the wind sensor will automatically open and close it for you when the breeze gets a bit strong.

  • High altitude smart umbrella , $599-$699

Light up the courtyard

Lighting a space isn't just about creating ambience, it's also a safety issue. Keeping your patio well-lit at night means no trips and falls that could bring the party to their knees. Beyond this, lighting is another architectural detail that can be used to highlight a space and transform it at night. It's crucial for presenters to be able to discreetly turn on these lights or change them with the touch of a button on their phone. There are three ways to implement smart outdoor lighting: through smart outdoor plugs, smart plug lighting or smart solar lighting.

Ring has launched smart solar path lights, and frankly, I had low expectations for them. Solar street lights tend to be fragile and rarely last a full year. But the ring light is a solid, sturdy light that even my Doberman can't take out yet. They can run automatically on a schedule or simply light up when activity is detected, and I was incredibly impressed with how they lit up in sequence as my dog ​​trotted past them at night. Even in partial shade, they get enough sunlight to recharge.

Smart plug-in lights are all the rage: Last week, I gave an overall positive review to the new Nanoleaf outdoor string lights. I've tried a number of smart outdoor plugs over the past few years, and I'm happy to say they're becoming more and more reliable. I have been using the GE Cync outdoor plug for the past few months and it has delivered reliably. I'm also excited about the upcoming Eve Outdoor Outlet , which completely eliminates the need for outdoor smart plugs.

  • Nanoleaf Outdoor String Lights , $129.99

  • Ring Smart Solar Channel Lights , Set of Four, $139.99

  • GE Cync Outdoor Plug , $16.80

Fill the space with sound

I'm still impressed by the small portable speakers produced in the past five years, from the Wonderboom to the JBL Flip. They do a great job of packing big sound into a small package, including impressive bass. But there's no denying that Sonos has its place in the market -- I just prefer Wi-Fi over Bluetooth because Bluetooth's beat isn't interrupted by notifications and phone calls. While many people, myself included, have found workarounds for taking regular Sonos speakers outside, they now offer outdoor speakers and portable speakers. This means you can hear a consistent sound as people walk in from outside.

  • Pair of Sonos Outdoor by Sonance speakers , $549

  • Sonos Move 2 Bluetooth speaker , $449

  • Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker , $99.99

  • JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth Speaker , $89.99

Smart technology reduces time spent standing on the grill

Now, every major grill brand has a way to offer smart technology as part of the experience, whether it's built into the grill like Masterbuilt or a bolt-on unit like Weber. Even if you don't have a smart grill, a smart thermometer like Combustion lets you monitor the condition of your meat as it cools around the fire pit.

  • Smart Grill Built by Masters , $697

  • Weber Connect Smart Grill Hub , $89.99

  • Combustion Smart Thermometer , $199

Keep your plants alive

Buying plants and flowers for your patio is rarely a problem. Keep them fresh and beautiful all summer long – that’s the secret. A smart watering system can help alleviate a care problem. Of all the devices I've tested, I think the Rachio is the best choice for a smart hose valve if you buy it through Amazon instead of the Rachio (I had a pain trying to return a defective device); hook it up to some basic plumbing and emitter will keep you watered all summer long.

  • Rachio Smart Hose Valve , $77.72