Making a smarter home
A home that cooks for you, cleans for you and does its own maintenance may not be here yet, but smart tech meant to save time and money is already on the market. Here are some of the devices that can turn your home into an adaptable castle.
Why shouldn't your light bulbs be online? Philips Hue personal wireless lighting hooks your lighting system to the Internet. That means you can set them to brighten gradually in the morning, waking you more gently than an alarm. Want snazzy party lighting? Highlight pretty colors on your smartphone photos and your lights will mimic them. And, of course, you can turn the lights on remotely, enabling you to make it look like you're home when you aren't or giving you a new way to really freak out the babysitter.
Programmable thermostats can be clunky and annoying to use. The Nest thermostat does away with all that button-pushing by programming itself. The thermostat learns your temperature preferences and routines, turning itself down when you leave the house and prepping your place with warmth before you come home. The idea is to save energy and money without having to think about it.
Sleep well? Are you sure? The Beddit sleep sensor fits over your mattress and tracks heart rate, breathing, snoring and movement. It also records your ambient environment, including noise and temperature. If Beddit notices that you usually rouse around 2 a.m., it can also give you a reason why perhaps your room is too chilly, or you wake yourself up snoring.
Smart adjustable bed
Sleep Number is getting in on the smart sleep market, too. The Sleep Number X12 bed tracks slumber much like the Beddit sensor, but it also responds to commands through a voice-activated remote. The best command of all? Stop snoring! If your bedmate is sawing logs, you can activate the bed's anti-snoring feature to gently raise the head of your partner's half of the bed.
Netatmo weather station
Measure air temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and even noise pollution inside your home with the Netatmo weather station. The company offers outdoor weather stations, too, so you'll never be without a precise measurement of your environment.
BothLG and Samsung offer refrigerators that go beyond cooling food. These smart fridges come equipped with a tablet computer in the door, so you can make notes, track your fridges contents and check the news and weather while standing in your kitchen. If you spring for a smart oven, too, you can even choose recipes on your fridge and signal the oven to start preheating, because a roast is coming its way.
Smart garage door
Your smart phone acts as a backup house key and garage-door opener with Liftmasters MyQ line. Need your neighbor to water your houseplants while you're on vacation? Open your garage door from Tahiti and let them in. You can also pre-program these doors to close after a certain number of minutes, ensuring you don't accidentally leave the garage open all day.
The kids can't sneak out past curfew with the Goji smart lock on your door. This lock keeps track of who opens it and when. It also snaps photos when someone knocks on the door, so you can be sure its safe to answer (no more having to face your annoying neighbors). You can also set the lock to open for other peoples mobile phones for certain time periods instead of handing out spare keys.
Smart baby monitor
Why get a baby monitor when you're already carrying around a mobile phone? The WeMo baby monitor links up to a free smartphone app to alert you when your baby cries. It can also track your childs snoozing patterns, in case your sleep-deprived brain can't keep it all straight.
Smart smoke alarm
The makers of the Nest thermostat recently released a second smart home device, the Nest Protect. The Nest Protect is a combination smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm. It talks before it starts screeching, a handy feature for those mornings when you'd rather not wake the whole household just because you burned your toast. It also hooks to your phone so you can track battery life and get alarms when you arent home.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.