By Clair Urbain
“Home is where the heart is” may be a classic saying—but add-on technologies that make home life easier give new meaning to this oft-repeated phrase. Simply put, they make you love your house—and your life within it—even more.
The biggest trend in whole-home automation this year are smart hubs that accept voice commands or take cues from smartphones. Powered by Google (Google Assistant), Amazon (Alexa or Echo), Apple (Apple HomeKit) or other proprietary technologies (Wink’s Hub 2 and Logitech’s Harmony Elite systems, to name a few), can automate and remotely control lights, heating/cooling systems, garage doors and even kitchen appliances with a simple voice command or a tap on a smartphone screen.
These cloud-based systems are highly customizable, but the appliance or home device must be able to have an interface with your particular system. Frequently, those interfaces are built in to the device, making installation and programming practically seamless. Here are just a few of the ways these devices can leverage IoT capabilities around your home.
IN THE KITCHEN
Increasingly, new refrigerators are outfitted with control centers that can help track food use and assist in making grocery lists. The Samsung Family Hub refrigerator has cameras inside of it that allow users to remotely view what’s missing or getting low while at the supermarket. The family can also use it as a connected message site that can share calendars, photos, notes and more between your refrigerator and your family’s smartphones.
LG offers the SmartThinQ system that connects its smart appliances to your smartphone via Google Assistant.
IN THE BATHROOM
Technology is taking trips into the bathroom to interesting levels. KOHLER recently introduced the KOHLER Konnect bathroom that boasts voice-activated faucets, showers, tubs, mirrors and toilets that can be customized to the individual. The voice-activated system can set the preferred shower spray and temperature, pre-fill a tub to a desired temperature, provide hands-free toilet flushing and even has feet and seat warmers.
Similarly, the Voice Activated Faucet from Delta and amphiro’s shower meters can help reduce water consumption.
HEATING AND COOLING
As furnace and air conditioning manufacturers continue to improve energy efficiency of models, controlling these systems remotely is also a huge priority for homeowners. While many incorporate this remote technology into their new models, addon replacement thermostats offer remote control and greater efficiency to presently installed models. The ecobee4 and Nest Learning Thermostats offer these functionalities and qualify for a rebate through Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program, making these add-on improvements even more cost-effective. (For details, visit focusonenergy.com.)
Replacement LED bulbs continue to go down in price (they can light anywhere for pennies), improve light quality and last much longer than incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. Philips Hue bulbs can even be controlled via your smartphone or by voice command to change ambient light color or intensity, turn on or off and create routines for your preferred lighting throughout the day.
Similarly, the TrickleStar Motion Sensor power strip can sense when someone enters a room and power up plugged-in devices; when the room isn’t occupied, it will power them down again, saving energy and wear and tear on connected appliances or devices.
Several companies have introduced security cameras, door locks and garage door openers that can be monitored and controlled remotely. As home delivery services are gaining popularity, homeowners with August Access Smart Lock Pro + Connect can issue a PIN to the delivery person for one-time access to the garage or home, then monitor their activity by camera (an additional add-on) while they make the delivery, and then secure the premises once the delivery person leaves.
HOME CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE
Powered floor sweepers and vacuums are growing in popularity as technology improves and costs decrease. Outside, remotecontrolled and programmable devices are keeping up the home’s exterior. The Robomow robotic mower can keep your lawn trimmed while the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller will keep your landscape green while reducing water use. Pool owners will appreciate the new Polaris 96510IQ pool cleaner that connects to a home’s wifi and can be controlled remotely.
For entertainment, Bluetooth speakers can add music to any landscape. Solar-powered path lights are brighter, more appealing and offer a longer life per charge which can light pathways and landscapes with no impact on power consumption.