Home automation refers to a wide array of products and technologies that can operate partially or fully without user intervention. At one time the rarefied domain of the well-to-do and futurists, recent advances have opened up the home automation space to ordinary homeowners. Besides pre-configured, comprehensive systems, many devices are on the market today that allow you to put together your own DIY project. By so doing so, you can make your living environment more comfortable while enabling remote control of your home systems.
Smart devices are capable of automating a number of different elements around your house including thermostats, security systems, lights, and locks. Most of them use wireless communication technology to interoperate with other devices, and a lot of them allow you to access their functionality from your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile interfaces.
The Ecobee3 smart thermostat by Apple can control your HVAC equipment based upon the actions of the people on the premises. The product uses Apple’s HomeKit and Siri technologies so that you can speak to the unit and give it instructions. Over time, the thermostat learns what your personal schedule is like and will automatically adjust temperatures throughout the day. The thermostat and an additional motion sensor cost $249, but extra motion sensors are available for purchase.
The iSmart Alarm aims to be a fully-featured DIY security setup. Several components, including motion sensors, cameras, contact sensors, and a control unit, can be placed around your property. With the optional smart switches, you can plug in virtually any appliance and incorporate it within the system. There are iPhone and Android apps available, letting you control system operation from your smartphone. Packages start at $199, but there are more expensive options that contain more components.
Building upon its success with an earlier model, Nest has released the second version of its Nest Protect alarm. It detects smoke and carbon monoxide just as a normal smoke alarm does. Unlike traditional alarms, the Nest Protect will alert you to problems via an app on your mobile phone. It also has the ability to test its own alarm by using a built-in microphone. Nest Protect costs $99.
With the Belkin WeMo Switch, you can extend the functionality of the regular electric sockets in your home. Simply plug the WeMo Switch into any outlet, and then you can plug a device into the WeMo. You’ll now be able to control anything – televisions, heaters, clocks and more – that’s connected to the WeMo using your iOS 5+ or Android 4.0+ device. You can even input a schedule for all your devices that will turn them on and off automatically at specific times. Each WeMo Switch sells for $49.99.
Even as humble an instrument as your doorbell can be integrated into a smart home system. The SkyBell is a smart doorbell that will let you see who’s at the door before you open it. It comes with a video camera, motion sensor, speaker and microphone, so you can talk to whoever is there before granting them access to your house. If you’re not at home, you can video chat with visitors through your phone. The SkyBell will set you back around $199.
The traditional parts of a residence, including lights, heating and cooling systems, and security alarms, are now metamorphosing into more feature-rich, customizable accessories. By undertaking DIY home automation projects, using widely available consumer electronics, you can enhance the technology in your home while configuring it in the way that you deem best. As costs go down in coming years, you’ll be able to do more for less and may even get a chance to transform your entire residence into a smart home that caters to your every whim.