So what the heck am I talking about? Could this be true? In what kind of world is something so good it’s not useful?
I didn’t say that. I said “so good you don’t USE them.” Nothing to do with being useful. In fact, is there anything more useful than something that does it all for you so you don’t need to use it? Perhaps giving you some extra time to just chill out on the couch… Now you’re catching my drift.
This is the direction home automation is headed, or at least it should be. I mean it’s great that many new products are coming out with new ways to control them – voice control, hand gestures and touch screens in lieu of buttons and switches – but honestly, what are we achieving? We’re just being given alternate ways of doing the exact same things we’ve been doing forever, except now it’s got a bit of pizzazz. Now I don’t want to totally polarise readers. Flair and pizzazz are right up a certain demographic’s alley. I’m not absolutely opposed to having cool stuff, but for the primary operation of high-tech and sometimes high-priced innovation, I want more.
I carefully selected the word “innovation” to describe Smart Home devices, and why? Because they need to incorporate innovative processes that solve problems in our lives and for the most part gimmicks don’t tick this box. You will find that there is actually a common denominator in 99% of market leading, highly valuable and beneficial technology. It completes repetitive, unimaginative tasks but does it really, really well. Want an example?
Consider an automated garden watering system. Your garden needs water to survive. In most cases, gardens are best watered outside of sunlight hours to prevent burn and evaporation. They also only need water if the moisture content of the soil in which they are planted is lower than required. So simply put, if you had an automated watering system that watered every Tuesday and Friday night, unless the moisture content is high (most probably on the back of rain or possibly from manual watering), then you’d have a pretty robust system that does the hard work for you. This system would also have an app that you download to set the pre-determined parameters (time of day, frequency, etc) and then theoretically, you’d never have to touch it again. Of course, the more savvy folk might want to incorporate water storage tank levels or even seasonal changes into the settings, but again, you would only have to do this once.
So what are some of the most innovative applications, systems and products available for the Smart Home that you can set and forget? Here are my top 6 that are out right now. (Disclaimer: Not all are available in Australia… Yet!)
- August Smart Lock (www.august.com): Fasten it to the existing deadbolt or snib of over 100 compatible lock types, download the app, assign electronic keys and move on with your life. Approach the door – the door unlocks; leave the home – door locks. Easy.
- Nest Thermostat 3rd Gen (https://store.nest.com): Competitors have come and gone but there aren’t many threats at this point. Advanced learning technology that remembers how you use it in the first few days of operation and then takes over. Controls heating and cooling accurately and regulates energy usage efficiently.
- Rachio Watering Controller (http://rachio.com): Moisture content sensors, 24/7 scheduling, freeze sensors (applicable to the US market) AND reads Wi-Fi weather patterns to optimise the watering schedule.
- Stack Lighting Smart Bulb (https://stacklighting.com): Just screw it into your existing fitting, get the app and tinker with some of the advanced settings like circadian lighting (automatic colour and temperature adjustments), presence detection and light level sensing. The only thing left to do is walk around the home and let these super-smart light bulbs do the rest.
- Nest Protect (https://youtu.be/METDdcmklVE): A combined smoke and CO2 alarm unit that has had a few complications prior, but the new 2nd Gen unit appears to be flawless, and provides monitoring of the obvious and valuable notifications such as battery levels and away-from-home alerts. There is even a programmable night light, since these units almost exclusively live in passageways and halls. Fire protection – Tick! CO2 sensing – Tick! Auto battery monitoring – Tick! Intuitive night light – Tick!
- Clipsal C-Bus Control System (https://www.clipsal.com): C-bus has been utilised for nearly 20 years as a hard-wired lighting control system, but since being acquired by mega-company Schneider, it has been further developed into a complete hybrid (wired & WiFi) home management hub with the ability to integrate with almost every third-party device out there. Manage lighting, energy efficiency, security and more. With the ability to install an almost limitless number of sensors and inputs, the potential level of automation is infinite.