Chill: Samsung’s smart fridge tracks food expiry dates
Fridges that order eggs when you’re running low; doorbells that let you see and talk to visitors before opening the door; security cameras that beam pictures to your mobile while you’re on the beach.
Welcome to the smart-home revolution. Within a few years, experts expect most new household appliances will be controlled by our phones and be able to ‘talk’ to one another.
Sales of smart-home products at John Lewis were up 106 per cent last year, and are on track to double this year, the retailer says.
The most obvious sign of smart technology infiltrating homes is the rise of Amazon Alexa devices.
Alexa — like Apple’s personal assistant Siri or Google Assistant — can be programmed to answer any question. You can ask her for train times from Bristol to London, or for a recipe for chocolate brownies.
Amazon doesn’t disclose sales figures, but experts have forecast sales of 29 million devices in 2018 and 39 million in 2019.
So how can investors tap into the smart home trend?
The next big thing could be fridges. The newest version of the Samsung Family Hub fridge is available from this month.
Cameras take pictures so you can view its contents from your phone and know when to stock up. It even tracks expiry dates and suggests recipes based on what you have left.
Its Bixby voice control lets you talk to the fridge. Ask: ‘Hi Bixby, what’s new today?’ and it will provide a read-out of news, weather and calendar updates tailored to the user. It will cost from £2,999.
Samsung has pledged that by 2020 every product it creates will be able to connect to the internet.
The firm recently launched Samsung Research, with plans for ‘artificial intelligence centres’ across the world.
For savers looking to invest, Darius McDermott, of broker Chelsea Financial Services, tips the Schroder Asian Alpha Plus fund.
It puts £3.02 of every £100 in Samsung, and has turned a £10,000 pot into £16,663 in five years.
Personal assistant: The Amazon Echo Spot is one of the firm’s latest Alexa-powered devices
Another of the fund’s smart home picks is Hikvision, which makes video surveillance products and spy cameras, accounting for £2.10 of every £100 invested.
Mr McDermott says: ‘The key is to spot companies which have products with staying power. The best investments are sometimes in the components that make well-known products work.’
An example is Mulesoft, which provides software for interconnecting apps, data and devices.
The Baillie Gifford Global Discovery fund, also tipped by Mr McDermott, invests £2.27 of every £100 in Mulesoft and has turned a £10,000 pot into £22,774 in five years.
Ryan Hughes, of broker AJ Bell, tips Axa Framlington Global Technology. The fund invests £8.77 for every £100 of saver’s money in Alphabet (the Google parent company), £7.50 in Apple and £2.41 in Amazon. It has turned £10,000 into £28,335 in five years.
As an alternative, Ben Yearsley, of adviser Shore Financial Planning, tips Pictet Digital. Of every £100 in the fund, it invests £4.08 in Alphabet and £3.18 in Amazon. It’s turned £10,000 into £24,308 in five years.
Ring video doorbells let you talk to people at your door using a smartphone, even when you’re not home
In April, the fund bought into Ring, a manufacturer of ‘video doorbells’. Its bell comes with a camera that lets you talk to people at your door using a smartphone, even when you’re not home.
It’s one of the devices coming out that let you see what’s going on around your house while you’re at work, or even on holiday on the other side of the world.
The Nest Cam sends security camera feeds of your home to your mobile. Google paid $3.2 billion in 2014 for Nest, which also makes thermostats and smoke detectors.
Some housing developers are using smart technology as a selling point. Swedish building firm Trivselhus has fitted 39 homes near Milton Keynes with Apple’s HomeKit, so families can programme the lights to come on, the heating to hit a desired temperature and even the kettle to boil as they pull on to the drive, all from their iPhone.
Blinds can be set to open and the bathroom towel rail to warm up when you wake.
ARM Holdings is the firm behind many of the chips in smart devices. It is now owned by SoftBank, held in the Majedie Global Equity fund, tipped by Laith Khalaf of Hargreaves Lansdown.
The fund puts £2.79 of every £100 in SoftBank and has turned £10,000 into £14,509 in three years.
Ryan Hughes, at AJ Bell, tips Invesco Asia Trust, which invests in MediaTek, a Taiwanese chip maker for smartphones.
Its Helio P60 chip utilises the company’s ‘Neuro-Pilot’ AI technology, which enables smart imaging and video, as well as face detection.
The fund invests £3.20 of every £100 in MediaTek, and has turned £10,000 into £17,238 in 12 months.
Mr Hughes says savers could also consider a new fund from technology experts Polar Capital.
The Automation & Artificial Intelligence fund, launched late last year, looks for companies that can provide or benefit from automation and AI.
Among its top holdings are Alphabet, Microsoft and Aspen Technology, a U.S. software firm.