Home, smart home
Giving your home the smarts has never been easier and here are some tips on where to start. By Tushar Kanwar
Smart home tech is going supernova right now, and the Jetson-ian home of the future is more real than ever. As Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Brillo platforms start to vie for smart home supremacy, giving your home the smarts has never been easier, but figuring out exactly where to start may be a bit tricky. Fortunately, you can take this one step at a time, with a minimum of installation effort. Here’s my pick of the gizmos that you can look to add to instantly amp up your ‘smart home’ quotient.
Smarter lighting: Looking to control your lights automatically, or set them up according to your mood? There is a world of connected bulbs from folks like GE and Belkin, but the easiest to recommend remains the Philips’ hue series. You can pick from a range of colour-changing light bulbs, bedside/table lamps and light strips, but the easiest (and cheapest) way to get going is the hue lux starter kit ($79.97 or Rs 5,000). This kit has everything you need — two white bulbs and a base station that connects to your wireless router to remote control the bulbs from your iOS/Android device. If you’re willing to spend some more, the colour hue bulbs ($199.97 or Rs 13,000 for the kit of three) are a great upgrade…and you can add up to 50 bulbs per base station. Once set up, they’re great fun — set up lighting for different times of day, and you can even have apps on your phone trigger the lights as you leave or return home!
Smarter doors: It’s 2015 and we’re still using those antiquated pieces of metal we call keys to secure our houses! That’s
precisely the problem a host of companies are trying to solve via Bluetooth and NFC tech, but the August lock ($249.99 or Rs 16,000) catches my eye for a wide variety of reasons. First, this gorgeous aluminium-bodied piece of home automation tech is styled by legendary designer Yves Behar, and it’s hard to believe it’s meant to replace your front door deadbolt. Installation is super easy, and once it’s in place, it pairs with your iPhone or Android device over Bluetooth and lets you use your touchscreen to unlock the door. With some phones, it can even unlock the door as you’re reaching for the handle! What I really love is the social feature, where you can send party invitations to your friends (or guests who’re staying over)…and they can unlock the front door when they land up!
Smarter security: Home monitoring solutions have been around forever, but none of them really qualified to be called ‘smart’ by any measure. Just take a look at the Nest Cam ($200 or Rs 13,000) from Google’s Nest Labs. The place-anywhere Wi-fi-connected snooper-cam shoots video at 1080p resolution with a 130-degree field of view, offers motion-detection capabilities and has a bunch of eight infrared LEDs for excellent night/low-light recording.
Whatever the Nest cam records, it can stream back to the companion mobile device and back up to 10 days of footage to the cloud via a $10/month plan. There’s even a two-way speakerphone capability to spook the crook (or the dog)! Another great alternative is the Netatmo Welcome camera (out soon) which has proprietary face-recognition tech that sends you the name of people walking in through the door (say when the kids come home), and alerts you if an unknown face is detected.DIY smart home kits: If you’re feeling adventurous and want to dip your feet into designing your own smart home, look at Belkin’s WeMo home sensor series. Belkin’s WeMo range of smart switches and plugs already let you control appliances and electrical outlets via the app, but the home sensor series takes it to a new level altogether. You get a keychain sensor, which can alert you when kids or elders come home, door and window sensors to notify you of unexpected entry, and motion sensors to automatically turn on hallway or bathroom lights — all of which you can mix and match to your specific use-case. Xiaomi’s Smart Home Kit and iSmartAlarm offer similar DIY solutions as well.
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