Home automation is something which sometimes feels like something out of a science fiction movie – we can now move things without touching them, turn on our TVs without seeming to lift a hand, and increasingly have our house seem to be attuned to us.
This is a far cry from the original home automation which was revolutionized by the introduction of progressive actuators, and which encompassed such things as TV lifts and heating systems which could tie directly to a mobile device for greater homeowner control.
The latest innovations in home automation have focused on giving the homeowner, even more, control over their house when they are away from it, and this has meant a greater focus on mobile apps and other forms of digital systems, to let the homeowner keep in touch with what is happening in their home.
This app works with a number of different devices – Nest Thermostat, Nest Cam, Nest Protect, and more. This app allows users to control all these devices from one single device, rather than having to adjust them all individually, so a user can control their heating, their security, and any cameras they may have from one device. While live feeds are possible, the app also allows the homeowner to have notifications sent to them if anything happens in the home.
A pro of this app is that everyone who lives in the house can have their own account, with their own set-up and passwords. A con is that the notifications are all the same sound – there is no difference between home and away notifications. The app itself is free to download and use.
SmartThings is an app released by iOS as a way of helping homeowners to control everything directly via sensors. The app itself is free, but the initial set-up is something costs up to three hundred dollars for the sensors to be installed in different places around the home.
How SmartThings works is by using the sensors to create a web around your home. It sends out a number of sensors which homeowners can then put on or around their home automation in order to link them to the app which they have downloaded onto the phone.
The technology used by SmartThings is open, which means that devices can be added or removed from the app without too much fuss, but this is also a disadvantage because the app is not connected to the devices directly – it is connected to the sensors around it. This could open up the potential for mistakes to be made by the sensors, giving the homeowner false information
If a DIY app is possible, then Ninja Blocks would be it. Ninja Blocks is the latest entrant into the Internet of Things, and it is made of a block of computers which live on the cloud and function as sensors from our perspective. Rather than being an app in and of themselves, Ninja Blocks allows users to create apps, which they can then use to connect to their motion systems and other forms of home automation. This lets you control how your home behaves, whether that is by programming certain notifications for certain times, or for certain activities to start at certain times. The initial package costs one hundred and forty-five dollars to buy, with each additional sensor costing between five and fifteen dollars, depending on what kind of sensor it is.
WeMo is a twist on the usual apps which are used in home automation; rather than relying on what has already been branded home automation, the app instead interacts with certain switches to be able to control everything which is in contact with them as home automation. This is extremely useful because it means that if anything is forgotten about in the mad rush out the door in the morning, so long as it is plugged into a specific switch. This works for forgotten hairdryers, but it can also be reversed, and used to have a cup of coffee begin making itself at a certain point in the morning, so long as it too is plugged into a WeMo switch.
The WeMo can be used to put home automation onto a schedule, if that is what is wanted – have the coffee make itself every morning, have the heating switch off after everyone has gone to bed, and have lights switch on and off throughout the house to give the impression that there is someone still at home, even if there isn’t. What many people like about the WeMo app is that it doesn’t require a minimum amount of home automation in order to work. Simply plug what you want to be home automation into a specific socket, and away you go! The WeMo app is useful for people who are still unsure of home automation and want to try it in small steps. For one switch and motion sensor, you will need to lay out around eight dollars.