IF YOU THOUGHT your smartphone was the
only gadget in your home with brains, how about
a washing machine that will text you when the
load is done, LED lights that will turn off when you
leave the room, a smart thermostat that will know
if someone is home or not and a water sensor that
will alert you to a leak in your basement.
OK, so we might still be a few years away from
a domestic robot that can wash dishes and make
our beds. But today’s smart home products are
designed to make your living space safer, more
energy efficient and easier to maintain. And most
are controlled via a free smartphone or tablet app
(many with voice support).
Here’s a look at a few product categories to
bump up your home’s IQ.
Smart security cameras
Keep an eye on your family, your home and
its contents—wherever life takes you. Easy-to-install video cameras are linked to your Internet
connection, letting you log in on a phone, tablet
or computer, at home or on the go. There are many
kinds of cameras to choose from, so you can go
with a single cam or a complete set (usually four
or five cameras), indoor or outdoor models, wired
or wireless, and some with night vision and/or
Some cameras are connected to memory
cards, a DVR (hard drive) or an online cloud
account to archive surveillance video. Many of
these cameras can send a photo or video clip to
your phone whenever they detect motion or sound,
such as when the kids come home after school, to
give you peace of mind.
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t
mean you want anyone to know. Install one of the
new Wi-Fi-enabled video doorbells, and whenever
someone presses it—a courier, mail carrier or,
dare we say it, a burglar looking to see if anyone
is home—you can answer on your smartphone or
tablet from anywhere and give the impression
you’re at home (you can see them, but they can
only hear you).
Another handy feature is an integrated
motion sensor that detects movement and
instantly sends you alerts. Recorded footage is
often stored to the cloud, so you can see it from
anywhere on your mobile device.
Some of these Wi-Fi doorbells include a loud,
wireless chime (or two) to place somewhere in
Smart garage door openers
When you hear the word “technology” you
probably aren’t thinking “garage doors,” but new
Wi-Fi-connected products may change your mind.
Simple to install and use, these systems show you
if your garage door has been left open and let you
close or open it from anywhere in the world via a
You can also set custom alerts if the garage
door has been open for a specific period of time,
or schedule it to close one, five or ;; minutes after
you leave your home.
Some of these new systems offer a battery
backup, so your garage door opener will still work
if the power goes out. Other features, including
anti-burglary technology and optional synchronization with lights, will illuminate your home
when you open the garage door.
Setting it all up
Not only can these DIY smart home devices
save you money through automation and remote
access, but they don’t cost a lot to buy and they’re
super easy to install.
Most involve plugging them into a power
source, downloading the free companion app and
then following the step-by-step instructions
within the app to link the gadget to your Wi-Fi
network. You might want to tweak a couple of
settings to personalize the device to your specific
needs, and you’ll likely be prompted to do so
during the setup process.
Technology always gets better with time. We’re
just scratching the surface of what smart homes
can do. The more popular these products become,
the better they will get. And maybe that domestic
robot will arrive soon. C
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of more
than ;; books. He’s on
Twitter at @marc_saltzman
Saltzman will answer selected
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