With the Apple App Store and Google Play Store both having around 800,000 apps available, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Add oftentimes confusing home technology to the mix, and it's nearly impossible to figure out the best options and apps for your integrated home. Here are our favorite apps to help guide you in your quest for a smarter home.
SmartThings (Free, iOS)
SmartThings wants to make your smartphone the remote control for the everyday objects in your life by connecting various sensors and devices to the SmartThings platform. For about $300, customers get a kit that includes a SmartThing hub and a variety of sensors. Simply connect them to your devices — whether it is a coffeemaker or garage door — and then easily control and monitor them from your iPhone.
The technology is open, meaning you can choose any compatible device to add to your system and pair it with any app (SmartThings even suggests the most popular apps for your device). Once connected, SmartThings devices will be able to tell you if there is a problem at home — like the oven left on — and allow you to remotely fix the problem. Most importantly, these SmartThings are able to talk to each other, creating a flow of information from device to device, and when devices begin talking to each other, the possibilities are endless.
When a door is left open, for example, the AC adjusts so you don't waste energy and oops moments are totally avoided. The SmartThings mobile app for the iPhone pulls other apps through into its own graphic user interface, consolidating home automation apps, meaning you don't have to open several apps to control different subsystems in your home. The technology is popular right now, so you'll need to get on the waiting list.
Like SmartThings, Ninja Blocks fall under the Internet of Things category, and are likewise going like hotcakes. Ninja Blocks are tiny cloud-enabled computers that receive input from a sensor and can react accordingly. You are in charge here thanks to the Ninja Rules Engine, which lets you create your own apps for how your home behaves, without any programming knowledge whatsoever. The Ninja starter kit is $199, with additional sensors from $5-$15. This is the ultimate app for the DIYer: one you build yourself.
Belkin's WeMo is a handy little device that turns anything you can plug into the wall into a smart device. WeMo lives on your iPhone or Android via the WeMo app. Did you forget to turn off the curling iron? Simply check your smartphone and turn it off on your way to work. You can even put your appliances or other devices on a schedule: Wake up to a fresh cup by connecting your coffeemaker to a WeMo switch and set it to begin brewing at 7 a.m. One of the coolest things about WeMo is that you can automate as much or as little as you like. One switch and motion sensor will set you back only $80.
Savant TrueControl (Free, iOS)
Savant was the first home automation company to build their entire platform on Apple’s operating system, meaning that it's incredibly easy to use, featuring the familiar look of Apple's user interfaces. Savant's TrueControl app works in conjunction with a Savant home automation system for two-way control in which one Apple machine (your iPad) is speaking to another (your Savant gear), making operation easy and quick. Remote access is a given, considering this control system was made for the iPhone and iPad and operates via a Wi-Fi or cell network whether you are at home or away.
Unlike other home automation companies who either offer too little or too complicated customization of the graphic user interface, Savant’s TrueControl empowers you to change backgrounds, icons, control categories and channel favorites.
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