Live “The Jetsons” Lifestyle
Remember Rosey, The Jetsons’ robot maid?
She did everything—from cooking to cleaning—at the push of a button or a simple voice command. In fact, that futuristic family had an array of enviable technology at home. The bad news is that Rosey doesn’t really exist. The good news? Loads of innovative home gadgets and gizmos do! The future is now!
Safe and Secure
Some of the most popular home automation products are related to home security. Gone are the days of simply having window sensors and motion detectors to protect against unwanted entry. Now, homeowners have access to more comprehensive systems that can be used in tandem with other popular technology for personalized, round-the-clock monitoring.
“The technology available today provides homeowners with an affordable means to be protected and connected,” says Jim Callahan of Ackerman Security Systems. “The ability to use technology we are all familiar with—such as smartphones, tablets and computers—provides a new gateway of accessibility for homeowners.”
From providing live video and allowing you to manage your home’s locks and lights remotely, today’s security systems can be paired with almost any device to give you a new level of control from anywhere in the world (provided you have Wi-Fi, of course). “The security portion of these systems is about life safety,” Callahan notes. “The automation portion is about lifestyle. These devices and services not only protect your home, but they also give you the opportunity to know what is going on in your home as often as possible.”
In addition to whole-house security systems, there are innovative individual products that up the security factor for your home. Kevo by Kwikset ($199) is the first door lock to turn your smartphone into your key, giving you hands-free access to your home. The battery-operated deadbolt lock, which requires no hard wiring and boasts a simple DIY installation, pairs with your smartphone and comes with an additional key fob.
“Once you have the Kevo installed, you enroll your fob and your phone via an app. It’s quite simple, and it offers great convenience and security for homeowners,” says Marty Hoffmann of Kwikset. What’s more, you can send eKeys to other people’s phones, giving them different levels of access to your home, from between certain hours of the day to unlimited access.
Home automation has even brought standard outlets to a whole new level. Leeo Smart AlertTM ($99) is a small device that plugs into the wall and connects to all of your currently installed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; if any of them go off, the Leeo will call your smartphone with a recorded clip of the alarm. If you don’t pick up, you can program the Leeo to call backup phones on an emergency contact list. It can even call 911 for you. It works with iOS and Android, and it doubles as a nightlight, letting you choose any color to illuminate a hallway or bedroom.
Dollars and Sense
Another benefit of home automation is potential energy savings for your home. And saving energy equals saving money!
With many of today’s products, you can save on electricity bills by having much more control over the devices and appliances in your home. A popular place to start is with the Nest Learning Thermostat ($249), which uses a combination of sensors and algorithms to teach itself the temperatures you like, when to turn off if nobody is home and more.
It can be installed as a DIY project and takes about a week for it to program itself. In the meantime, the thermostat also allows you to control the temperature of your house from your smartphone. According to Nest, “The Nest Learning Thermostat has been proven by third-party researchers to save people, on average, about 10 to 12 percent on their heating bills and about 15 percent on their cooling bills.”
The savings don’t only apply to your home’s interior, of course. You can save on your water bills with the Rachio Iro smart irrigation system. In addition to giving you control over your sprinklers through your iOS phone, Android device or laptop, the Rachio Iro tunes itself to your particular yard, assessing sun exposure and using national and local weather data. This will help you adjust your watering schedule so your plants and lawn never receive too much or too little water. And it’s affordable! An eight-zone Rachio Iro costs $249, while a 10-zone device costs $299.
Open and Close
Have you ever wanted to open and close your window coverings by remote control? Thanks to Hunter Douglas, now you can. Its Platinum App, which works with nearly all of the company’s product lines, allows you to use your smartphone to control how and when you open and close your shades. You can program it to open your bedroom blinds slowly in the morning to wake you gently or close the shades in a sun drenched room in the late afternoon each day.
According to Robin Vance of Enhance Floors & More, Hunter Douglas window coverings can be installed with a satellite pack in the headrail that then connects to the Platinum App. The one-time investment will cost around $500 per window, but it’s an amazing feature to enjoy for years to come.
LiftMaster’s entrance into the home automation market has given homeowners control over something they often forget about: the garage door. The company’s MyQ®-enabled garage door opener allows you to operate your garage door or property gate remotely from your iPhone or Android device. It also provides a new level of monitoring, as you can check the status of your garage door on your smartphone. It will even alert you when your garage door opens or closes. All you need is a module ($59) that connects to your currently installed LiftMaster garage door opener, and you’re on your way. “One module can control multiple garage doors,” reveals Tim Yeager of Precision Garage Door Service. “It has become a very popular technology because it is so helpful and useful.” And for those homeowners who don’t have a LiftMaster garage door opener, a universal module is available for $159.
Hip and Hands-Free
And now it’s time to put your feet up and enjoy some really cool hands-free devices that have taken the home automation industry by storm. For years, the iRobot Roomba Vacuum Cleaning Robot has been slowly cleaning its way through homes across the country.
The company recently released the iRobot Roomba® 800 Series (starting at $509), which features the new AeroForceTM Performance Cleaning System. The device now removes up to 50 percent more dust, debris and hair from your floors by using AeroForce Extractors instead of traditional bristle brushes. The press of one button allows you to enjoy hands-free vacuuming on carpet and hardwood, and the Roomba docks and recharges itself when it’s done.
“Alexa!” You’ll be calling that name out often thanks to the Amazon Echo ($179.99), a hands-free device that lets you ask for information, music, news, weather and more from across the room. It uses voice recognition technology and answers instantly.
Want to hear your favorite tune? Ask Alexa to play it for you. Want to know the latest news? Alexa will give you a news flash briefing from your favorite media outlets. Worried about your commute? Ask Alexa for the best route to work each morning. It’s an incredible technology that uses the Cloud and Amazon Web Services to get smarter and more functional all the time.
(Come to think of it, maybe Rosey the Robot does exist today?)
Safe At Home
Home Automation Products for Home Security
Sometimes things are so high tech they are “scary.” Technology that tracks our heartbeats! Speakers you, um, actually speak to? Makes you wonder what’s next. An app that breaks up with your boyfriend for you?
Then again, sometimes we come across high-tech gadgets that make the world feel a bit less scary. Here are a few great products designed to provide you and your family with some real peace of mind.
The concept is simple. And simply awesome. When someone rings your doorbell, your smartphone instantly shows you who is standing at your door. Even if you are on a different floor, around the corner or even around the world! Better still, you can hear the visitor and speak to them! A built-in motion detector records activity by your front door, even if the bell isn’t rung. Starts at $199. See more at Ring.com.
Protect America Smart Connect App
This is just one of many home security systems that allows you to control everything—right from your smart phone or wireless device. You can turn on or dim lights, arm or disarm your security system, lock and unlock doors or simply check camera feeds if something goes bump in the night. All from the comfort of your own bed! See more at ProtectAmerica.com.
Ackerman Security Systems | AckermanSecurity.com
Amazon | Amazon.com
Enhance Floors & More | EnhanceFloors.com
iRobot | iRobot.com
Kwikset | Kwikset.com/kevo
Leeo | Leeo.com
Nest | Nest.com
Precision Garage Door Service | PrecisionDoor.net
Rachio | Rachio.com