Sunday, 27 January 2013


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10 Ways to Utilize Your Smartphone to Control Your Home
By Rick Delgado,
Freshome, 25 January 2013.

Your smartphone is only as good as the apps you have, right? Of course I know there are other components to a quality smartphone than just applications. Things like cameras, Internet connectivity, file storage, or whatever you want to use it for, but when you get a hold of the right applications you can do more then you think. In fact, with the right tools your smartphone might even pay for itself.

Let’s explore some ways we can use our devices to manage our homes. You see, we live in an age where home appliances are becoming “smarter” everyday. That means they have more powerful computer chips installed within their plastic/stainless steel bodies and they can talk to each other and to your smartphone via Wi-Fi connectivity. Here are 10 ways you can utilize your smartphone to control your home.

1. Smart thermostats

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The cool little device called, Nest, is getting a lot of buzz lately. Remember the iPod? Yeah well, the guys who designed the iPod created a really neat thermostat. This thermostat has Wi-Fi, and it comes with an iPhone application. That means you can control the temperature of your home from anywhere! Do you want to save money by turning the temperature down while you’re gone, but you don’t want to come home to a freezing house? No problem. Use your smartphone to turn up the temperature before you get home.

Once you start using Nest it will learn your schedule and program itself to optimally save lots of money on utilities. That means it won’t be long before Nest is already changing the temperature automatically for you when you leave, and turning it back up when you get home.

2. Motion activated security cameras

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Having a motion surveillance system for your home is almost better than cable TV. There are nifty applications on the market coupled with compact, yet high-quality security cameras which allow you to be aware of anyone in your home. These cameras don’t record everything, they simply wait for motion to be detected and then switch on. It can alert you on your phone that it’s turning on and you can be anywhere in the world and still watch live footage from your home. Talk about a vacationers dream! You can also adjust the security settings with your smartphone, and if you couple that with some other home automation systems, you can control almost everything from your phone!

3. Security system

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Remember that home security system you had installed a few years ago with the control panel strategically placed by the garage door or master bedroom? Now with the availability of mobile computing, you can ditch the old control panel and program everything through your smartphone. You will also be able to receive instant notifications of any foul play.

If you have the newest smart key technology on the market called Lockitron, you’ll be able to lock, un-lock, and send time sensitive smart keys to your family and friends if they need to get in your house. Not only does this make life more hassle-free, but it also takes the worry out of giving your neighbour the key to your house while you’re on vacation, so he can feed your dog. All you do is give him a digital key that only works during the time you designate for it and your house locks up once the time expires.

4. Pet feeder

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If you’re like me, you love your pet, but you’re super busy and it’s not always convenient to be home at scheduled feeding times. There are several applications on the market you can download that allow a visual confirmation with a camera and a remote food dispenser. Pintofeed is one of a few new feeders using this cool new technology. We can all thank them for taking some hassle out of owning a pet. Now if someone would just invent an automated pooper-scooper…

5. New improved lighting

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Phillips makes a smart light bulb called Hue, which allows you to easily control all the light bulbs in your house. This makes a lot of sense if you don’t want to completely retrofit to new lamps or light switches. Simply buy these smart bulbs and you can change the colour of the lights, how bright or dim you want them to be, and of course turn them on and off…so much for the clap-on and clap-off lights.

6. Coffeemakers

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Sure, some coffeemakers on the market are already fully programmable, but how many are connected to your smartphone? Can they correct if you want to make a change? If you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel like having the normal cup of java, and you want to get your day started with an espresso, instead of trekking across the entire house just to make the switch before the coffee pot turns on, just do it from your smartphone. Scanomat is leading the way in this amazingly useful trend.

7. Smart keys

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Using traditional lock and key deadbolts to open doors is so 2012. Upgrading your lock and key system means a lot of security like never worrying about somebody making a carbon copy of your key to enter your home when you’re not around. It also means that you can see which doors are unlocked or open at any time. You can also make temporary keys for people who need to get inside on a short term basis. But for me, and most importantly, this means you don’t have to carry clunky keys around in your pocket anymore to open your home. As I mentioned above, Lockitron is leading the way in this exciting technology.

8. Electrical outlet upgrades

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If you’re not looking to go around buying a dozen new appliances that have Wi-Fi capability that talk to your smartphone just so you can turn on your coffee pot, you can retrofit old outlets with smart outlets that are app friendly. Simply plug in your appliances into these new outlets and you can control them with your phone. Best of all, they’re very cheap compared to buying all new appliances!

9. Remotely start your vehicle

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There are several applications on the market which connect your smartphone to your vehicle, allowing you to remotely start it and turn on your heater. This is especially beneficial when you live in climates which, well let’s just say, aren’t friendly for wearing shorts all year. Running outside in 10 degrees below to warm up the car is brutal and unnecessary. One company I found that has great reviews and an innovative product is Viper.

10. Home automation

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It is true that you can Do-It-Yourself most of these applications? Yes, you certainly can, but the problem you will find is that when you piecemeal all of these processes you might come up short by not being able to cover absolutely everything in your home. In addition, you might have to download dozens of applications which talk to dozens of devices or appliances to make this all work. Talk about confusing.

Consider a third party solution to automate your home by retrofitting old appliances, lights, security systems, and even solar panels. If you live in North America, consider using Vivint. They’re considered by many third party reviewers as the best “bang for you buck”. If you live in Europe, consider using Quby. I’ve read good things about them as well. If you just have a few small pet projects then DIY and test it out, but if you are thinking big and have the budget then automate with a professional.

[Source: Freshome. Edited. Some images added.]

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