Decades ago, there were lots of big predictions made about what our houses were supposed to look like and do today (think: The Jetsons), but we still don’t even have machines that can make us a sandwich. What we do have, though, is something called “the Internet of things,” which is the trend of having more and more products that are connected to the web. The real home of the future isn’t necessarily one with a lot of different robotic devices—it’s one where you’ll be able to control almost everything through your smartphone, tablet, or PC. Best of all, devices like these are making it easier to do this without hiring an expensive professional.
Probably the most famous is the Nest thermostat, which you can install yourself, and which lets you control temperature through your smartphone, PC, or tablet—from pretty much anywhere. Even better, it actually learns your habits and begins to adjust itself.
Also well-known are Belkin’s WeMo and their competitor Ninja Blocks. What are these? Imagine an automatic timer for your lights, and then imagine one that works with anything, that you can control with your smartphone, and can be make motion-activated. Plug the box into your outlet, then plug any appliance into the box—it’ll monitor power consumption and give you control from anywhere you like via an app.
There is also a growing trend of smart locks—locks that you can unlock with an e-key held on a smartphone rather than physical one. Some of the most famous of these are the August, the Goji, and the Kevo. Some of them allow you to lock and unlock your house remotely, others are Bluetooth-based and depend on you being close by.
Finally, for anyone looking for a more centralized solution there are a variety of hubs, like this one from SmartThings, that allow you to connect devices like the ones above to a central station which you can access on your phone or computer. If you are going to install a wide variety of home automation technologies, it’s probably a good idea to go for a hub as well.
Home automation is getting more affordable and accessible every year, and though these products are currently pioneering the field, more will come. The more tech-savvy you are, the wider your range of options will be. If you don’t mind spending more money on a professional installation, there are some pretty incredible options out there that can give you a very highly integrated home, but the future is still within reach for the more budget-conscious. For more home automation ideas check out Modernize.