The dream of having the ultimate connected home can sometimes turn into a nightmare. A complicated set-up process, professional installers who charge exorbitant rates and a disconnected infrastructure can mean spending hours just to get a light switch connected to your router.
As with many tech advancements, the true innovations are often 'one-offs' that work better collectively.
These gadgets are easy to install and connect to your phone or computer. Light switches, appliances, and even your garden are just a click away.
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1. Harvest Geek HarvestBot SensorStation
Now a Kickstarter project, this garden sensor points to the future of the connected home with a small waterproof gadget you place in the soil. It measures water, air temp, humidity, light intensity, and soil moisture to help you make decisions about watering and care.
Sensors connect to a BaseStation that feeds information to the web and mobile apps. Like any worthwhile connected home gadget, the Harvest Geek system can also send you alerts about weather conditions, such as an overly sunny day when your garden might require extra watering.
2. Ford MyEnergi Lifestyle
One important trend: the car is now becoming an integral part of the connected home. In the US, Ford has started an innovative 'proof of concept' with Georgia Tech called MyEnergi Lifestyle.
It all started with a computer model, of course: engineers found that using a Ford C-MAX Energi electric car, along with products from Eaton, Whirlpool and Nest, a homeowner could save as much as 60% in energy costs and about 9,000 kg in CO2 (a 55 percent reduction).
Participants, to be selected soon, use a mobile app that recognises your locale and can automatically use a Value Charge mode for the best utility rates.
3. Vivint Whole-home System
A powerful whole-home automation system, Vivint has one main control system for home security and temp, but the web and iPad apps give you unprecedented control. You can use a template like 'aggressive energy saver' to lower the heat automatically at midday and at night.
There are presets for quickly moving a pan-tilt cam in your living room to look out of the window with one click. And a unique door lock system means you can lock one door in your home and have Vivint lock every other door automatically.
One interesting feature is that Vivint uses gear from Alarm.com and D-Link for more unified automation. For now it's available only in the US and Canada but we hope they plan for worldwide domination soon.
4. Whirlpool Smart Dishwasher
This fully automated and connected Whirlpool WDL785SAAM dishwasher uses a technology called 6th Sense Live. You can activate wash cycles remotely using the web or a mobile app.
The Energy Adviser system shows exactly how much energy the appliance is using so you can adjust usage time for a better rate. You can also check the total time you've used the appliance and check on maintenance schedules.
The app even lets you know when the dishes are clean. Remote control features use Wi-Fi, but the energy consumption features require a smart grid in your home.
5. Nexia Home Intelligence
One of the best features of this smarthome system is that you can install the components yourself. The Nexia Home Bridge connects to your existing router.
You enrol devices like door sensors, thermostats, front door deadbolts, appliance modules, and security cameras by pressing one 'plus' button on the bridge.
All components are available for control in a web app or using an iOS or Android app (phones and tablets). To install a sensor, you can use an adhesive material to place it on a door or window, which means no complex measurements.
6. Belkin WeMo Light Switch
Many home automation systems like those from Vivint use the Z-Wave protocol, which maintains a steady connection when you install multiple devices. (They link to each other to create a stronger bond.) The Belkin WeMo Light Switch connects to your existing Wi-Fi router and lets you turn the lights on and off with an app.