Turn your house into a smart home
If you’re looking for a simple, plug-and-play-style solution to managing your electronics, Belkin’s WeMo system could prove to be a bright idea. The system consists of “switches” that plug into your wall socket, then connect to your iPhone or iPad via your home’s Wi-Fi connection. Use the accompanying app to turn your devices on and off, or set them on a schedule. The units are $49.95 each at the Apple Store or apple.ca. (Supplied)
Ever wanted to be able to bring an entire home's worth of gadgets to life while staying in a single spot? (Nope, the Clapper doesn't count.) A smart home isn't necessarily out of reach: Sophisticated automation abilities have been trickling steadily down into more widely available electronics. Start your collection with our picks, and you'll be living inside a stylish supercomputer before you know it.
There are plenty of full-fledged home automation systems available out there. Although they may not be as expensive as they once were, they remain labour intensive to install. If you're looking for a simple, plug-and-play-style solution to managing your electronics, Belkin's WeMo system could prove to be a bright idea. The system consists of "switches" that plug into your wall socket, then connect to your iPhone or iPad via your home's Wi-Fi connection. Use the accompanying app to turn your devices on and off, or set them on a schedule. It even works over mobile Internet when you're away from home, so if you're worried you left the iron plugged in before you left, you can turn it back off with the swipe of a finger. The units are $49.95 each at the Apple Store or apple.ca.
What's more key to a smart home than a TV that can do just about as much stuff as your computer can? Samsung's super-futuristic ES8000 smart LED TV gets its computing power from a dual-core processor, giving it the juice to easily convert your 2-D viewing experience into 3-D (with simple-to-use included glasses) and allowing you to control your tube with nifty voice and motion command abilities. You can browse the web and access social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter right out of your TV. Not only that, but it's incredibly large -- 55 inches -- and incredibly slim -- just 1.2 inches thick, minus that airy silver stand. I couldn't scratch the surface of its capabilities, even after a two-week test period. (I absolutely got a not-so-cheap thrill out of bringing up the menu by saying "MENU!" to my television set in a commanding voice.) Bells and whistles aside, it delivered a sharp picture and really made my Blu-ray collection sing. Even in the most sophisticated technophile's lair, sometimes you just want to curl up with a good movie. The 55-inch ES8000 is $2,999.99 at bestbuy.ca.
Sick of fighting with the thermostat? This one knows what temperature you'd like, even before you set it. Nest is billed as the first "learning thermometer": After about a week of use, turning it up or down at various times of the day, Nest will figure out your habits and schedule and begin adjusting itself accordingly. (A one-off change in your routine won't scramble things.) Not only is it convenient, it's energy-efficient -- the Auto-Away feature turns the unit off when no one is home, saving energy, and its Energy History ability shows you just how much power your heating and cooling habits use in a day. A Nest of your own will set you back $249 US at nest.com.
If you really, really liked playing Duck Hunt as a kid, this lamp will be right on target. The BANG! light comes with a gun-shaped remote control; shooting it at the lamp will extinguish the light and make the lampshade "fall" to the side (for extra realism!) Click it back on and the shade will return to position. Give it a shot: It's $299 US at dynamism.com.
The smart touches can extend to your bathroom decor, too. Delta's got a line of slick faucets equipped with Touch2O.xt technology (including the Addison, shown here) that take a real hands-off approach. You can activate the water flow by tapping on the spout, or just by approaching the faucet's sensor field (of course, you can also lift the handle the old-fashioned way). If you're one of those people guilty of leaving the water running while you shave or brush your teeth, this could make saving water during messy or hands-full tasks easy. The range starts at $479 -- check them out at deltafaucet.ca.