Screw The Jetsons: smart devices and the era of the automated home

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Advanced technology and mobile device automation are coming together to manage our homes — growing electronic systems in ways that even George Jetson could not imagine.

Who would've surmised even five years ago that home automation tools would have progressed so far to allow us to manage and view alarms, locks and timers directly from mobile devices? Advanced digital wireless systems are allowing more home owners to now use smartphones and tablets to choose heating and cooling levels, set security alarms and remotely view surveillance cameras on their property.

Experts suggest that this scenario is only going to get more prevalent. Many companies sell systems that automate your lights, integrate your home entertainment systems, electronically adjust motorized window blinds, adjust temperature controls and automate your home security. A decade ago, these systems were among the most expensive and difficult to install from B2B companies.

Today, technology companies are using mobile accessibility to not only entertain us on our tablets and smartphone devices, but to help us remotely manage our home security systems.

All of this comes to mind in light of Apple's launch of its smaller iPad Mini tablet. The new tablet is less costly, features a 7.9-inch screen, is 7.2 mm thin, and weighs under a pound. Apple touts that users can hold it in one hand, unlike the larger iPad which is commonly held with two hands. But even more exciting is the likelihood that the iPad Mini’s reduced cost "…will almost certainly lead to a new boom in the proliferation of touch screens in the home," writes HDliving.com.

As HD notes, home touch screens were included as part of much larger home automation systems in the past. You would need to be within the home to use the touch screen to monitor, change and adjust home theatre systems, lighting, temperature levels and security controls. But costs were prohibitive for the average homeowner, and were out of reach for all but the upper wealthy classes.

But now, companies like Nest, Iris, LifeShield and others that run their products via touch screen capability from devices are helping transform the way people run mobile access security systems. From these devices, home owners can set up a home alarm, lighting and other security systems, all from remote access.

Here's a snapshot of some advanced technologies giving consumers new options available now:

  • Nest Labs, based in Palo Alto, California, and founded last year, plans to begin shipping the US$249 thermostat by the middle of this month. Outsiders who've tried out the product are impressed by its ease of use, like motion-tracking that detects whether people are present and adjusts room temperatures accordingly— from your smartphone device. With a set routine, Nest can work in the favour of homeowners and help lower heating and cooling bills up to 20 percent. 
  • The Austin-based startup Ube LLC launched its application which helps homeowners to control home electronics that connect to the internet using one free app. With Ube, a homeowner can connect a smart TV, media player, thermostat and even garage door openers. 
  • LifeShield markets on wireless home alarm systems at affordable prices that provide remote access and interactive capabilities. The company recently made the list of top alarm system companies from AlarmSystemReport.com.

And now, add Apple to the list that's helping to foster in a new way of monitoring home security systems. Having and using a US$330 gadget to run their automation systems without a huge install fee is a win-win for busy homeowners.

The possibilities are endless. With mobile connectivity, smartphone apps and a home security system, consider the possibilities for monitoring, engaging or disengaging various security system procedures.

By using smartphone or tablet apps, you can arm or disarm your security system as needed. For example, if a friend dropped by to return something to you, and you weren't at home, you could disarm your security system momentarily to let your friend in. Then, when he leaves, you can remotely setup the alarm again. Amazing, right?

System access codes

Using codes via remote access on your tablet or smartphone can help monitor arrivals and departures at your home. If you have regular maintenance people coming on different days, you'll be able to know when they arrived and left according to mobile code access. In fact, homeowners can also use this access for monitoring vacation properties.

Monitoring wireless security cameras

Some systems provide a constant internet feed to view scenes from your home's entrance, back doors and side views, depending on the camera setup. Most of these are set for real-time engagement.

Notifications and alerts

What happens if your home security is compromised? With these advanced technologies, your phone or tablet will receive a message if a sensor is triggered. If your pool guy left the gate open and a dog wandered in, you'll be able to get notification on that. Homeowners can setup automatic texts for different circumstances. You can arrange to have the system setup for your different circle of visitors, including spouses, friends, neighbours and relatives who make up your support system.

Monitor crime

Having a tablet or smartphone for home security systems allows you to check access to crime data for your neighborhood and surrounding areas. It's an opportunity for you to share details with friends and neighbors to help keep your neighborhood safe. Think of a homeowner as a high-tech watchdog.

Review any activity

Having the ability to monitor home security patterns via mobile access gives you the chance to review what's happened on a daily, weekly or monthly basis through system controls.

While George Jetson had robots to help around his castle in the sky, you can have your own personal robot in the palm of your hand, using smartphones, tablets and more to keep personal property secure and accessible.

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