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How to Start Automating Your Home Using an iPhone or iPad

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Jason R. Rich explains how app developers and home automation companies are quickly developing cutting-edge products that allow iPhone or iPad users to remotely control or automate various aspects of their home. Discover how just about anyone can begin using some of these products, even if they’re not too techno-savvy.
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Over the past two years or so, a growing number of app developers and independent companies have begun designing and releasing products that allow the iPhone or iPad to be used as a remote control in order to somehow automate some aspect of a home. In fact, some of the most cutting-edge and innovative products have come from individual inventors and small companies that have used crowd funding services, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, to finance the development and launch of their project(s).

Seeing that home automation was quickly becoming a popular way to use a smartphone or tablet, Apple has incorporated a specialized toolset into iOS 8, called HomeKit, that gives app developers additional ways to tap the features and technology built into the iPhone or iPad when it comes to securely managing home automation-related tasks.

As a result, iPhone and iPad users will soon be seeing improvements to the home automation products they’re currently using, as well as a fast-growing assortment of additional products and apps hitting the market. This has already introduced added competition to the home automation marketplace, and prices for these products that are controllable using an iOS mobile device have started to become more affordable.

What’s Currently Possible with iOS Device-Controlled Home Automation

From a consumer standpoint, some of the most popular home automation products that currently work with the iPhone or iPad include the Philips Hue Lighting system (see Figure 1, www.meethue.com), the Nest thermostat (see Figure 2, www.nest.com), the Kwikset Kevo deadbolt lock (see Figure 3, www.kwikset.com/kevo), and the TiVo DVRs (www.tivo.com). However, these products are only the beginning.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The Philips Hue Lighting System comes with three programmable LED light bulbs, but is easily expandable.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The Nest Thermostat can be remotely programmed and controlled using an iPhone or iPad, plus automatically learns the user’s temperature preferences and living habits.

Figure 3

Figure 3 The Kevo deadbolt lock allows an iPhone to serve as an electronic key in order to enter a home, for example.

Virtually all of the popular home security companies, from ADT (www.adt.com) to Xfinity Home Security (www.comcast.com/home-security.html) currently offer complete home protection systems that allow iPhone or iPad users to control the burglar alarm, smoke detectors, door locks, lights, and garage door opener(s) in their homes, for example, directly from their mobile device using a single proprietary app that wirelessly controls the compatible security-related devices.

Meanwhile, beyond just being able to control a DVR and cable box with an iPhone or iPad in order to record and playback TV shows and movies, numerous DVR, cable box, home theater, and speaker companies have introduced products that give iOS mobile device users complete control over all aspects of their home entertainment experience.

Belkin (www.belkin.com) has also been a pioneer in the iPhone/iPad home automation arena, and currently offers a lineup of WeMo products that include the WeMo Insight Switch electrical outlet and WeMo Light Switch. The Insight Switch plugs into any existing electrical outlet. Then, using a special app, allows users to remotely turn on or off what’s plugged into that outlet via their iPhone or iPad. The WeMo Light Switch replaces any traditional light switch with one that can also be remotely controlled and programmed (turned on, off or dimmed) from a smartphone or tablet.

More recently, Belkin has introduced the WeMo LED Starter Kit to compete with the Philips Hue Lighting System, and provide consumers with an easy way install and use programmable LED lights within a home. The company has also given Crock-Pot cooking a high-tech twist, with the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo (see Figure 4). This Crock-Pot can be remotely programmed and controlled from anywhere using an iPhone or iPad.

Figure 4

Figure 4 The Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo is one of the first iPhone-controlled kitchen appliances to hit the market.

Another popular application for home automation tools that interact with an iOS mobile device is remote surveillance. More than a dozen companies have introduced extremely small wireless cameras that can be used in order to remotely monitor any room of a home on an iPhone or iPad’s screen, from anywhere in the world where the mobile device has an Internet connection. These surveillance cameras are being marketed as baby monitors, pet cams, and home security products.

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