It's spring! Use tech to improve the outside of your smart home – CNET

The “smart home” often conjures up images of stuff that goes inside a house — an Amazon Echo speaker, a Nest thermostat, a Samsung fridge. But increasingly we’re seeing new technologies and products that can help outside your front door — and your backdoor, too. You can use some of these things year-round, like a doorbell or an LED spotlight; while others are seasonal. And there are even apps that can help.

We’re compiling all of the latest tech for your yard, your garage and beyond. Here’s a look:

Irrigation systems 

Smart gardening used to be focused on standalone plant sensors. Buy a Parrot Flower Power or an Oso Technologies PlantLink, stick it in a pot — or directly in your yard — and wait for it to tell you when to water your plant. These small devices were fairly limited, especially for folks interested in monitoring larger gardens. 

Enter: connected irrigation systems. From Rachio’s latest smart sprinkler set up to CNET’s own homemade drip irrigation system, which we’re using to grow lettuce, jalapeños and Carolina Reapers, these systems help you track a larger space remotely. 

Security cameras 

Outdoor cameras aren’t new, but the variety of options have increased a ton in recent years. Where it was once limited to a standard camera, we’re now seeing cameras built-in to outdoor light fixtures, camera and doorbell hybrids and even battery-powered cameras

We’re most excited about the new LTE cameras that work over a cellular network, which effectively monitor garden pests outside Wi-Fi range. 

Extending your Wi-Fi range

A wireless access point, also called an extender, is a great way to get your Wi-Fi network outside, if you don’t want an LTE camera or simply want to get internet out in the garden. 

An outdoor extender, like the Netgear Orbi Outdoor, can easily handle this. Read our in-depth look at how to cover your yard in Wi-Fi here. 

LEDs and light fixtures 

We’ve covered indoor lighting extensively, but smart outdoor lighting is a relatively new space. Sure, you can control an outdoor light with an indoor wired Lutron switch, but what about smart LEDs that combat the elements?

There’s good news on that front — Philips is leading the charge this year with a complete series of outdoor-rated LEDs and fixtures. We’ll have a story later this week about the very best options for outdoor lighting.

Garage door openers

Yes, a garage isn’t technically “outside,” but it covers that space between your driveway and your home, and for a lot of us it’s where we store the lawn mower and the garden tools. Smart garage door openers let you open and close your garage doors from an app and some even let you use voice commands; they can also send reminders to your phone to let you know when you’ve left a door open. A complete roundup of the latest garage door openers is coming your way at the end of the week.

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The state of the smart garden


Weather-tracking tech

You can track the weather in your area with a quick Google search any time, but smart weather stations are more customized. The BloomSky Sky2 Weather Camera Station tracks temperature, wind speed and rain and air pressure right in your backyard. Whether you’re a weather geek or want to monitor the latest forecast to determine when best to plant, water and harvest plants in your garden, products like this might be a smart investment.

That’s just an overview of the categories we’re excited to cover this spring, but there’s so much more to come — including a robot lawnmower roundup. I’ll update this page to include all of the outdoor tech-related stories we cover this week, so watch this space.