From Smart Phones to Smart Homes
MINUS THE FLYING SPACE CARS, it appears we’ve officially caught up to the Jetsons. Although we’re already quite accustomed to on-demand, push-of-a-button (actually the push button is becoming obsolete with the rise of touch screens) and one-click amenities, smartphones, along with the innovation of other slick gadgets, are catapulting us into a new level of high-tech living. With the apps and products we’ve highlighted below, you can transform your humble abode into a snazzy sanctuary, where super synched home automation and energy conservation reign supreme to help you save money and keep you in the know.
Smart Things App
Let’s get smart! Described by its techy developers as “one seriously smart app,” the easy-to-use SmartThings app turns your smartphone into a remote control that communicates with all of the equally erudite devices in your home (including Philips hue lighting, Sonos sound systems, Belkin WeMo light switches, Z-Wave wireless mesh networking technology and many other Internet-connected gizmos). This free Apple and Android compatible app teams up with the Hub ($99), the “brain” of the SmartThings platform that connects the sensors of all these devices so you can receive updates about what is going on regarding your home’s security, energy usage, lighting and more. If a pet gets out or an intruder comes in—you’ll know about it. If your HVAC or power goes kaput—you’ll receive immediate notification.
Probably one of the most fun features of the SmartThings app is its precision customization. You’ll feel as if your home knows you—really knows you—when the coffee machine automatically starts when you wake up, when the lights turn on and off as you enter and leave rooms, when a lamp light changes color in response to a new Twitter follower. It’s as if your home is working with you and in impeccable synchronization with your lifestyle. What a wiz.
Garden Pro and
Garden Plan Pro Apps
Your neighbor will never know... If you want the best garden in the neighborhood this season, get the Apple-compatible Garden Pro app. For a four dollar download, you’ll benefit from having a pocket botanist who can help you plan and manage your garden to its finest blooming glory. The app’s main interface is a list of more than 7,000 flowers, herbs and vegetables, each noted with its common name, botanical name and icons that indicate when the plant blooms and what type of water and light conditions it prefers. Tapping on a plant takes you to a page with more information, including ideal soil conditions and some basic care instructions. In addition to having quick access to an array of gardening secrets, you can program the app to remind you when a particular plant is due for a drink or other maintenance, like pruning or disease and pest control.
To really ensure your green thumb, invest in the iPad and iPhone compatible Garden Plan Pro app ($9.99). Using data from more than 6,500 weather stations in 20 countries, Garden Plan Pro finds your climate and recommends planting and harvesting dates for your garden. If you’re starting from scratch, this app will serve as the blueprint of your landscape design, showing you exactly how to space and place a variety of plants.
Get 300 percent more time! With smartphone technology comes a lot of battery charging and, when there’s a break in our connectedness, it’s a scramble for the wall or car charger. But with the iPad and iPhone compatible KudoSol, you don’t need all the wires and can even extend the life of your battery. This uber green Apple innovation uses thin-film solar technology to convert sunlight into usable energy that’s stored in a case for your iPad or iPhone. Depending on the intensity of the light, the case can generate up to 30 minutes of iPad use for every hour of direct sun, or up to two hours of talk time on your phone. To really boost your battery juice, Apple recommends leaving the case near a window or in any direct sunlight whenever your device is not in use. In addition to the patented solar technology, the case also has a 5,000mAh battery embedded in the lining so you can store energy to use day or night. A USB power-out port is built into the case to charge your phone and other portable electronics. That means there’s potential for up to 300 percent more use for your phone.
Waterpebble Water Saver
Are you the type to stand in the shower forever? Although that hot water feels so good after a long day, it doesn’t feel so good on your next electric bill. By cutting the flow just a few seconds sooner each time you shower, you can appreciate some significant savings while still indulging in some hydrotherapy. By memorizing the length of your first shower and using it as a benchmark, the Waterpebble indicates, via a series of lights that flash from green through red, when you should finish showering. Each time you shower, Waterpebble reduces your time by a fraction. To serve some numbers with that: If your shower habits adjust such that you are using approximately four-and-a-half gallons of water instead of six gallons of water, that’s one third less energy used. According to the developers of this conservation contraption, most water lovers don’t even notice the difference, reporting an equally satisfying shower despite the reduced time.
Keys are for the dinosaurs. And so are the days of looking for them or wondering if you locked the door after you’ve already driven away from the house. Lockitron ($179) fits over your current deadbolt on the inside of the door and communicates with its app, easily downloadable on any smartphone or tablet. With Lockitron, you can check to see if you’ve locked the front door from your phone and then lock it with a single tap if it turns out you did, indeed, forget. Other features include keyless entry (just walk up to the front door and, as long as your smartphone is on you, it will open), tamper alerts and shared access (you can select people from your contact list that Lockitron will recognize). If the idea of your front door opening and closing makes you nervous, have no fear: Lockitron utilizes the same security protocols as those protecting online banking and has been lauded by the New York Times, Popular Science and Reader’s Digest.
Hue Personal Wireless Lighting
Photographers say it’s all about the lighting. But light not only adds or subtracts from how we look—it can also add or subtract from how we feel. Photon attuned scientists at Philips Hue have tested their line of wireless bulbs in settings like schools and hospitals and have determined that every job and every personality has what they call a “light recipe.” Philips Hue bulbs (about $200 for a set of three), are controlled by a free Apple app and produce customized lighting for whatever you need to do, from studying for a test to relaxing to setting the mood. The LED technology inside every Hue bulb affords different tones of white light spanning warm yellow white to vibrant blue white. Recreate vacation memories or a glorious summer day by uploading your favorite photos in the app. Drag the picker across the image to select a color or use the white light scale to pick an accurate tone. The Hue bulb will instantly reflect your choice and bathe your room in the light of that perfect moment.
Other Good Stuff
• Smart Shopper
Speak into the device throughout the
week as you remember what you need
at the grocery store. When it’s time to
go shopping, just print the list from the
device (it’s magnetic, so the fridge is
the perfect spot for it).
• earthCell Batteries
The best in rechargeable batteries,
these can be recharged hundreds of
times with carbon-free powder. Just
mail them off when they’re dead and
the company mails them back to you
• Pivot Power
Organize the charging station at your
house with this high-capacity power
strip with six, surge-protected outlets.
It keeps your cords from tangling and
pivots around furniture so that it can
be discreetly placed.
Monica Dutcher is an Aiken-based freelance writer.