The Latest in Smart Home Technology
By Mark Jeffries, Special to The Maverick Magazine
It seems like life is resembling an episode of The Jetsons more and more every day. We may not have flying cars and sassy robot maids, but many conveniences in the futuristic cartoon have actually become realities in the past decade. Nothing demonstrates this trend better than the relatively recent culmination of the smart home. A smart home features interconnected utilities and gadgets controlled via a central hub—often a tablet or smartphone. From that single piece of technology, you can control multiple assets—from the thermostat to the crock pot (no, seriously)—from almost anywhere in the world.
The latest in smart home tech stems from four basic desires homeowners have had since that first leopard skin was draped over a cave opening: convenience, safety, saving energy and having fun. Before we dive in, keep in mind that like anything that connects online, operating smart home devices will eat up your data plan pretty quickly. For the maximum effect with minimum impact on your plan, make sure to use Frontier broadband and WiFi whenever you’re home!
Let’s start in the morning, after you pull out of the driveway. You get to the office after a busy commute—typical day—and you remember you never closed the garage door. Instead of canceling meetings and speeding home to push a single button, Chamberlain MyQ Garage lets you simply tap your phone screen, from any distance away, and your garage will close. Soon, models will also feature geofencing, meaning the garage will sense when you get home and open automatically.
Then, when you do get home, is there anything better than smelling dinner already cooking? That can be the case with Belkin’s Crock-Pot — part of the WeMo wireless smart home platform. You can start or stop cooking, and change cook times and temperatures from anywhere with your mobile device. Can you smell that stew already? We thought so.
One of the worst feelings in the world is being unsure if you locked your home. It’s bad when you’re at the office. It’s worse when you’re on a flight to Tokyo. But let’s just say, worst-case scenario, that you land in Japan, and have no one to call to check it out. With Kwikset Kevo, you can lock or unlock your house from anywhere in the world. The beauty of these locks is that they can be used with “old fashioned” metal keys, as well. These days, security applies to more than just your doors and windows, too. Frontier Secure protects all of your devices, including the ones that are now in charge of controlling your entire house, from viruses, malicious programs and unwanted cyber intruders. A smart home controlled from a mobile device could be a nightmare if someone else has access to that device.
We all mean to adjust our thermostats or air conditioning for when we’re not home. But then life gets busy and we inevitably forget—and the meter keeps running and we keep paying for energy we’re just not using. Smart home thermostats like Nest Learning Thermostat can be controlled remotely and customized for seamless scheduled heating and cooling. What’s more, Frontier Secure has united with Nest to make your home more comfortable, as well as more secure. Normally $249, you can get Nest for only $99 when you add it to your Frontier Secure subscription.
Certain smart home devices are made specifically for making life more enjoyable. The Amazon Echo smart speaker is totally voice controlled, with seven internal microphones that pick up your voice even from across the room. It provides information, answers questions, plays music, reads the news, checks sports scores and weather, just by you asking. Echo also interacts with and controls other smart home features, so you can even ask it to perform tasks like turning off the lights, if you have smart home light bulbs (yes, they exist).
At the end of the day, if we’re being honest, what’s more fun than a great night of sleep? The Sleep Number C2 Bed with Sleep IQ tracks your breathing, heart rate and movement all night long to let you know how you slept. Using that data, it gives you tips on how to improve your sleep. And, like every Sleep Number model, each side of the bed is customizable for comfort and firmness.
It’s a brave new world out there for homeowners. Interconnectivity between different facets of the home and the ability to control more from anywhere in the world is making things easier every day. Now if only they would invent some self-cleaning gutters.