The Automated Home: A Beginner's Guide

Close your eyes and imagine the future: you’re rounding the corner block nearly home, when your phone’s GPS notifies your home air conditioning system – which has been set to an eco-friendly standby setting – kicks back on to drop down the interior temps to your preferred 76 degrees. The interior living room lights brighten from a dim to the exact brightness and color temperature you’ve set them for the autumn months, while your front door unlocks automatically knowing you’ve neared the door, letting you in with nary a key. This is what the “Internet of Things” is in a nutshell: devices and appliances all speaking the same wireless network–connected language, orchestrating automated tasks. And here’s the kicker: it’s not the future, it’s available today.

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The Front Door: August Smart Lock $249.99
Not only this lock smart in features, it’s the smartest looking amongst the latest wireless enabled door locking systems, thanks to the creative hand of designer Yves Behar. Available in four colors (Silver, Dark Gray, Champagne, and an ooh-la-la limited edition August Red), the anodized aluminum battery powered unit is designed to sense your approach and unlock the door for you when you arrive and automatically lock up upon your departure—without the need to open an app. You can even send guests “digital keys” when you need to allow others in for a scheduled period. And, perhaps best of all, the August just takes 10 minutes to install, without any wiring necessary, and does not require changing exterior door hardware.
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Entryway: Wink Relay $299.00
With its angled 4.3" LCD multi-touch screen and friendly icons, the wall-mountable Wink Relay looks awfully similar to an Android powered smartphone. That’s because the Relay is actually running a customized interface on top of the Android OS, so for all intents and purposes it is a smartphone…minus the phone. The Relay interfaces with an assemblage of home automation apps controlling lightings, locks, thermostats, appliances, and various other Wink certified products with the same swipe and tap gestures we’re all fluent in using. The unit is always listening, feeling, and sensing—that sounds a bit spooky, but it’s really just designed to monitor temperature, humidity, and sound, with proximity sensors to keep tabs on household vitals and adjust connected smart systems accordingly. If you’re looking for the foundation of a new smart home, the Relay’s list of compatible devices and list of programmable features – alongside its very well executed industrial design – makes this wall mounted control amongst the best bets for future-proofing since it’s fluent in nearly every wireless technology language.

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Lighting: Philips Hue $199.95
Consider this: just a little over a decade ago many of us were still using the same incandescent technology as our grandparents. Then we all inched over to more energy efficient, but unflattering, CFL bulbs. Now it’s all about LED bulbs, super efficient lighting technology that can do an array of tasks unimaginable during the pre-Internet era, capable of new features well beyond on/off/dim. The Philips Hue is one of the systems on the forefront of lighting, with a family of wi-fi enabled LED bulbs connected to a wireless hub, all managed via phone or tablet. Once synchronized to a home’s wireless network, the Hue allows users to schedule lighting according to their whims and habits, including the colors emanating from each bulb from a nearly endless spectrum, thanks to LED bulbs’ capability to emulate nearly any reproducible color.

Additionally, the Hue system can turn lights on and off according to whether you’re home or away, use lighting to signal when email has arrived or remind you of a scheduled event. One of the coolest features is sampling any image from your own library and assigning the colors within the picture to a specific bulb; the unique combinations of colors illuminating the home can be uniquely your own, making the act of turning on the lights as personal as putting on clothes.
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