A typical limitation of intelligent devices based on the use of shape-memory polymers as actuators is linked to the widespread use of distributed heating resistors, via Joule effect, as activation method, which involves several relevant issues needing attention, such as: (a) Final device size is importantly increased due to the additional space required for the resistances; (b) the use of resistances limits materials’ strength and the obtained devices are normally weaker; (c) the activation process through heating resistances is not homogeneous, thus leading to important temperature differences among the polymeric structure and to undesirable thermal gradients and stresses, also limiting the application fields of shape-memory polymers. In our present work we describe interesting activation alternatives, based on coating shape-memory polymers with different kinds of conductive materials, including textiles, conductive threads and conductive paint, which stand out for their easy, rapid and very cheap implementation. Distributed heating and homogeneous activation can be achieved in several of the alternatives studied and the technical results are comparable to those obtained by using advanced shape-memory nanocomposites, which have to deal with complex synthesis, processing and security aspects. Different combinations of shape memory epoxy resin with several coating electrotextiles, conductive films and paints are prepared, simulated with the help of thermal finite element method based resources and characterized using infrared thermography for validating the simulations and overall design process. A final application linked to an active catheter pincer is detailed and the advantages of using distributed heating instead of conventional resistors are discussed.