Combine the "do anything anywhere" appeal of smartphones with the latest home automation technology and you wind up with powerful and compelling possibilities. It's amazing how much control we can exert over our homes using those little pocket devices we've come to depend on for just about everything.
Whether you're walking up your driveway or sipping Margaritas at a pool bar in Aruba, home control options abound and apply to primary residences as well as vacation homes and rental properties. Here are seven of the most common things you can do.
1. Energy Management
A variety of systems exist for managing household air conditioning and heating systems in ways that can help conserve energy. Check the current temperature and adjust the thermostat if it's too high or low, activate energy saving schedules, and receive text alerts when the temperature goes above or below a preset level. Energy-management systems also learn about your energy usage and can make money-saving changes.
2. Home Access
The ability to lock and unlock doors remotely and monitor who's coming and going (and when) can come in handy — especially for parents of latchkey kids. Access control systems use smart keypad locks to determine when doors are opened and closed and by whom.
In the above scenario, parents would receive a text or email alerting them their child is home safe; many systems even include cameras so you can see who is coming and going. Other features include the ability remotely lock and unlock doors to provide access to unexpected (but welcome) visitors or create temporary codes for contractors.
Having remote control over lighting offers several benefits, the most compelling of which is being able to turn lights on and off to make it look like someone is home while you're away. How many times have you forgotten to leave the porch light on when you're going out for the evening? Lighting systems can even be integrated with motorized shades so both can be controlled via the Internet.
4. Security and Cameras
Mobile connectivity extends to home security in the form of remote arming and disarming, checking system status to verify that sensors are working, and receiving a text, email or phone call the moment the alarm or smoke detector is triggered.
Cameras bring another dimension to security, allowing you to see what's going on in and around your home when you're not there with the option of recording and archiving video. Video doorbells are a great advancement in this universe.
Moving to a broader notion of security is technology that protects our homes in other ways: Imagine a sensor that triggers a text alert when it detects water so action can be taken to prevent your basement from flooding.
Forgot to set your DVR to record "The Walking Dead"? No problem. Apps that let you schedule recordings are readily available. And while you're at it, why not download an app that lets you control your TV and AV gear so you can put away those old-school remotes cluttering your coffee table?
You probably never expected to receive a text from your washer, but smart appliances that send notifications when the laundry is done do exist; they can also communicate with smart meters to pinpoint the most cost-efficient time of the day to do the wash.
The latest generation of washers, ranges, refrigerators, and robotic vacuums offer "smart control" so you can do things like start a load of laundry before leaving the office or check the refrigerator's food inventory before stopping at the supermarket.
7. Health Monitoring
Internet-based home health systems use wireless sensors strategically placed throughout the home to monitor the health and well being of the elderly, disabled and people with chronic health conditions. Motion sensors can be used to alert family caregivers if an elderly relative doesn't get out of bed in the morning, while an Internet-enabled medicine cabinet monitors whether medication is being taken and issues appropriate notifications and reminders. Ultimately, today's digital health systems can be customized to address a wide range of needs.
To learn more about the many ways in which you can control your home from a smartphone, tablet or laptop, consult a home automation professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.