Reno Expert: Home Sweet Automated Home
by Jim Caruk
Futuristic ways to run your house, today
It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, motion-sensor lights seemed like cutting-edge technology. Today’s so-called “smart homes” seem like something out of The Jetsons or Star Trek, with homeowners able to control everything from their furnace and lights to their appliances and home entertainment system, all from their phones or tablets, even if they’re not at home.
Home security systems were among the first “smart” products on the market. With today’s systems, you can monitor multiple security cameras, turn lights off and on, and activate or deactivate the alarm to allow people access while you’re at work or on the road.
To me, one of the most innovative smart products are the doorbells that let you see who’s on your front porch, even if you’re not at home. Some have two-way audio systems that let you speak to a delivery person and ask them to leave your package, or tell a canvasser that you’re busy with something in the house and can’t talk to them.
Smart door locks are great for families with kids who tend to lose their keys, or if you need to let a cleaner or contractor into your house while you’re out. You can pre-set different passcodes so you know who came and went and when.
Once you get into the house, someone’s figured out how to connect and automate pretty much anything you can plug in. In the kitchen there are coffee makers, crockpots, and ovens that you can turn on or off remotely, and fridges with internal cameras so you can see if you need to buy milk or eggs—while you’re at the grocery store!
Programmable thermostats have been around for a while, but the latest versions let you monitor the temperature in individual rooms remotely, or automatically adjust the settings as you move throughout the house.
CAPTION: Photo: Courtesy of Nest
Connected smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors let you know there’s a problem, even when you’re not home. And the sooner you notice a water leak or sewage backup the better. There are a number of water-detection products on the market that send a text or email messages to your phone in addition to an audible alarm that sounds in the house. (See “Jim’s Pick“)
There are even garage door openers that you can check online to make sure the door is closed, and will send you messages if the built-in carbon monoxide, humidity, or temperature sensors go off.
Beyond individual connected products, there are also “hubs” made by companies such as Google, Amazon, and Nest that control multiple devices from lighting and home electronics to HVAC and home security.
KNOW THE RISKS
But, as they say, “Buyer beware.” As the Internet of things grows, so does the risk of hackers gaining access to our private information through unsecured networks or products with faulty software. Earlier this year, it was revealed that a line of stuffed animals called CloudPets was hacked, allowing whoever did it to listen to voice recordings of as many as two-million owners who’d used the Internet-connected recordable toy. Now that’s some spooky Sci-Fi.
|Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor
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