June 22nd - 2014

Wired Office: Making your home smarter with technology

It used to be that in order to turn a light on or off, you walked over to it and flicked a switch. Since then we have progressed to timers, so if you aren’t home, you can set the lights to go on and off at predetermined times.

Connected house

by Karen Ebidia

Connected house

It used to be that in order to turn a light on or off, you walked over to it and flicked a switch. Since then we have progressed to timers, so if you aren’t home, you can set the lights to go on and off at predetermined times. 

This was and continues to be good for home safety and security. Many homes are equipped with Wi-Fi networks and many of us own smartphones, so we now have the added option of using our mobile devices to control several systems in our homes. With a little help from some hardware, the internet and some apps, we can now control lights, thermostats, security systems and garage doors from anywhere.

Belkin offers a line of products called WeMo, “the remote control for the connected home.” These products include light switches (you replace existing light switches with WeMo switches) and timers to which you connect your device and then plug the timer into an outlet. These timers can be used for more than just lamps. You can use them for coffee makers, slow cookers, etc. One nice thing about setting a timer from a mobile device is being able to easily and accurately see the times. The previous generation of timers, with their tabs, involved some guesswork to set to desired times. Belkin also sells a NetCam Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision, making it easy to check in on your kids or your pets – from your mobile device. Just buy and install the hardware and download the free apps (available for iOS and Android). Wi-Fi is a pre-requisite. Installation of the hardware is a do-it-yourself (DIY) project. So now, if you’ve left the light on downstairs, launch the WeMo app on your mobile device to switch it off. Learn more about WeMo products at www.belkin.com.

Chamberlain, the garage door opener company, now offers several products enabled with something called MyQ® Smartphone Control. This innovation allows you to connect to your home easily from anywhere using your smartphone to control your garage door, exterior house lights or lamps inside your home. It notifies you if your garage door opens or if you forgot to close your garage door. All it takes is the MyQ® Smartphone Control product, an internet connection, and an app (available for iOS and Android). Installation of the hardware can be a DIY project if you’re handy, or it can be installed professionally. Learn more about Chamberlain products at www.chamberlain.com.

Honeywell offers Wi-Fi Smart Thermostats. The thermostat screen is an easy-to-read touchscreen. You can even customize the colour to suit your mood or match your décor. It learns the exact amount of time required to reach your ideal temperature and functions accordingly, saving energy. The Honeywell app allows you to program your thermostat from your computer, tablet or smartphone from anywhere in the world. You can install the thermostat yourself, or you can have it installed professionally. Available for iOS and Android. Learn more at www.Honeywell.com.

Model of house and phoneNest takes the “unloved products in your home and makes simple, beautiful, thoughtful things”. Currently, it offers the Nest Thermostat and the Nest Protect (smoke and CO alarm). These products are unique in appearance as well as functional. Once the thermostat is installed, you can turn it up when you’re home, turn it down when you leave, and turn it up when you wake. Soon your Nest thermostat will learn your pattern and you’ll come home to a house that’s the perfect temperature for you. This kind of learning system is truly innovative. You can also control your Nest wirelessly using the free iOS and Android apps on your mobile device. Nest Protect gives early warnings that smoke or carbon monoxide levels are rising. When smoke or carbon monoxide is detected below emergency levels, the device pulses yellow and uses voice to alert you: “Heads-Up: there’s smoke in the kids’ bedroom.” It will also notify your mobile device. A “Heads-Up” alert, which can happen when the source of smoke is burning toast, can be silenced by pressing the Nest button, but always make sure you are safe before silencing it. If smoke or carbon monoxide reach emergency levels, Nest Protect pulses red, makes a loud noise and uses voice to tell you the nature and location of the emergency. It will also send a notification to your mobile device. Installation of Nest products can be a DIY project or they can be installed professionally. Learn more about Nest products at www.nest.com.

With these technological advancements, and with more coming along, it is becoming easier to monitor the systems in your home, hopefully giving you peace of mind.

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