Tech Tools: Home Smart Home

August Smart Lock (

Deadbolts are the home accessory you’re probably the most hesitant to automate. No one wants to get locked out of her home because of a faulty Internet connection, especially on the night of The Purge. However, the August Smart Lock ($250), which allows you to unlock your door via smartphone, runs on batteries, so it still works when your Wi-Fi goes out, and your lock will continue to work with traditional metal keys as well. You can program the lock to let in certain people at different times. For example, give your kiddo permission to enter 24/7 or allow your cleaning lady in only between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays. You can even text dinner invites to your friends and include door access, allowing you to relax over hors d’oeuvres instead of constantly looking out the window and running to open the door at every knock.


WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set (

For home automation newbies, lightbulbs are the simplest gadget to upgrade. This $100 set includes two smart bulbs and a WeMo Link, which allows your smartphone to control the bulbs (and up to 48 more, sold separately, in case you’re planning to turn your house into a giant tanning bed). Each bulb lasts an astonishing 23 years and can be automated—schedule your bedroom lights to turn on when the sun sets or when your alarm goes off in the morning, for instance. If you go out of town, there’s even a way to program every bulb in your home to intermittently turn on and off so would-be burglars will think you’re at home and armed to the teeth.


SmartThings Smarter Home Starter Kit (

Did you leave the iron on? Again? SmartThings’ Wi-Fi-enabled Smart Home Starter Kit lets you control all your electrical outlets from your smartphone, automating anything and everything you can plug in. With the $300 kit, you’ll be able to shut off that iron after you’ve already arrived at work or turn on your crockpot a few hours before dinnertime. You can also put your electronic devices on a schedule, like turning on your coffeemaker as soon as you awaken from that dream. You know the one.


Nest Protect (

When traditional smoke or carbon monoxide detectors go off, the screaming alarm throws everyone within earshot into a panic. It’s not pretty. But if Nest’s $99 detector senses smoke or CO2, it speaks to you calmly (but loudly) in a human voice, explaining the level of danger and which room contains the possible fire or toxic leak. That way, if there is an actual emergency, you can exit your home quickly and without running into more peril on the way out. It also communicates with your smart Nest Thermostat, so if your CO2 alarm sounds, your gas furnace will switch off just in case it was the source of the leak. Maybe best of all, the Protect distinguishes between smoke and steam, so you’ll never again have to feel like an idiot waving a towel in front of the detector after taking a hot shower. Unfortunately there’s no answer for you home chefs whose kitchens regularly become smokier than Snoop Dogg’s tour bus.


Dropcam Pro Home Monitoring System (

You’re asking for trouble by letting that fresh apple pie cool on the windowsill, but this discreet home monitoring system ($200) will allow you to keep an eye on it anywhere, streaming live HD video around the clock to your smartphone, tablet or computer. Set it up by your back door for security or point it at your fridge to see exactly who’s pilfering all the leftovers. An optional subscription service saves your video stream to the cloud so you can review it up to a month later, and the system also comes with a built-in microphone and speaker, allowing you and whoever is on the other end of the camera to speak to each other.

You can even watch and chat with your dog to reassure it while you are away. Who’s a good boy?

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Alyson Sheppard is a writer and editor based in Dallas. Her work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mental Floss, Maxim, National Geographic Adventure and more.

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