by Joe Henry | September 24, 2018
It seems these days that everything is wired to the Internet, and every appliance has been imbued with a level of intelligence designed to make the homeowner's life that much easier. The home automation craze that began a few years ago is still picking up steam, but it can be daunting knowing where to start. 

It's no wonder that Amazon-branded products do so well -- namely the Echo and the Dot. Both are digital speakers powered by Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated operating system. Functionally, they're almost identical though the Dot has a much smaller form factor -- it's about the size of a hockey puck. But for sound quality, pick the Echo, whose 360 degree speaker system can literally run rings around the Dot's less powerful Bluetooth setup.

Regardless of which one you choose, both Echoes and Dots are mainstays in corporate incentive programs and can be found in the catalogs of numerous merchants, like Hinda Incentives

One of the reasons Echoes and Dots do so well is that they connect with most other popular home automation products, including Google's Nest, which tracks temperature preferences and makes automatic adjustments. The Nest, available through suppliers like Capitol Sales, is now in its third generation. 

Like Amazon's home automation products, Google is also vying for control of the home. While the Nest originated as a smart thermostat, it now functions as a hub, hooking into other smart products including Nest home security and smoke detection products. And, it wirelessly connects to other smart devices using either WiFi, Zigbee or Bluetooth protocols.

If there's one company though whose smart devices seem to sit in their own category, it's Apple. Apple might not be the biggest proponent of an open ecosystem, but that hasn't stopped products like the Apple Watch and Apple TV 4K from exploding in popularity, according to Maritz Motivation Solutions, a leading incentive provider. All Apple products are category leaders and can be found at numerous incentive providers, according to the company. 

Apple TV 4K has all the bells and whistles of earlier Apple TV setups, but it is also designed to accommodate the next evolution of television: 4K brilliance. It gives you much higher picture quality than standard high-def TV, and Apple's app store gives you access to plenty of content, such as major league sports, SlingTV, DirecTV and many others.