Home Automation Gadgets You Shouldn’t Live Without
While the truly smart home with fully integrated built-in automation systems may be inaccessible to most people, any home can be smart with the right aftermarket add-ons. Whether you want to automate energy efficiency or security, pet care or entertainment, your lighting or even your grocery shopping, there are plenty of smart home solutions out there that you can DIY with easy-to-find tech and supplies.
Consider the Nest thermostat, a programmable temperature sensor and controller that eventually learns a homeowner’s preferences, schedule and habits. Now common, the Nest has been many people’s introduction to the smart home concept. Berg Insight predicts sales of home automation systems will reach $12.8 billion in less than three years, suggesting that a lot of people think the smart home is a very smart idea.
That’s not surprising considering that home automation technology has been steadily dropping in price as apps and mobile devices take on more of the heavy lifting and one-stop hubs like the SmartThings Hub let homeowners control everything from lights to locks from a single point of control. For anyone who wants to jump right in and take full advantage of the potential of home automation, a hub with wide product compatibility is a must. Install it and suddenly your coffee maker can start the brew cycle when you actually wake up, your dog can tell you when he’s hungry, lights turn themselves off when no one’s in a room and you get alerts whenever certain doors, windows and even cabinets are opened.
Installing a hub can be a big step for anyone new to home automation, however. There are plenty of ways to explore the emerging smart home phenomenon without a big commitment. TCP’s Connected system doesn’t require a financial splurge or a fat how-to guide. The budget-friendly starter kit is up and running in about five minutes – just screw in the bulbs and plug in the hub – and the app that serves as the control center is fairly intuitive.
The August Smart Lock is all about security and ease of use – it works with your existing deadbolt so you’re not upgrading your entire locking mechanism and there are no keys or codes necessary. Instead, homeowners can set invitees (think dog walkers, service professionals and good friends) who can use specified doors at specified times. The lock recognizes anyone with permission and opens automatically. And unlike some other smart lock makers, August offers free, unlimited e-key distribution.
As with many home improvements, the complexity of any one home automation system will depend on a homeowner’s needs. From the simple WeMo Switch that plugs into any outlet to let you control a single appliance with your smartphone to Honeywell’s full-service, voice control enabled Tuxedo Touch automation and security system, there are smart home gadgets and systems for every budget and every apartment, home and condo. Chances are what’s on the market today is only the beginning. Expect to see more learning systems and less need to interact with those systems for home automation that’s increasingly automated.