High tech homes no longer a fantasy

There are home gadgets big and small that you can control from your smartphone.|

This article is reprinted from Wine Country Real Estate, a special advertising section of The Press Democrat.

It used to be the stuff of science fiction. I chuckle when I walk into a high tech home today, remembering the fantasy of automated homes. Some gadgets that have been on the market for a while, such as self-propelling vacuums, are within the reach of many middle class budgets. Others fit only into the biggest of budgets. Either way, there are home gadgets big and small that you can control from your smartphone.

Here are some electronic devices either on their way to or already on the market, though they sound fictional. From home security to keeping an eye on the new puppy, to opening and closing the drapes, it's a new world and it comes with its own perks and dangers.

Morning coffee

First things first. You can have your first cup of coffee of the day waiting for you as you stumble down the stairs or step out of the shower.

This can go in either direction. You can tell it when to start and roll over for another forty winks. Or it can start at a pre-set time and wake you when your coffee's ready. The machine will grind the coffee beans and brew a fresh cup of coffee. When you come home from work, it will even ask you if you'd like a fresh cup.

Who took my package?

They claim they delivered that package today, but it's not by the front door. There's an app for that! It allows you to see who comes onto your front step. You can even interact with the visitors. A combination doorbell, security system, and video camera lets you know who stopped by when you weren't home.

Your smartphone gets an alert when someone rings the bell. The camera allows you to see the guest and even speak to him from wherever you are. Later, there's a record of the date and time someone was there.

If you already use electronic locks, you may also be able to integrate the new system with your old system so that you can unlock the door remotely and let in the plumber. There's the option of an add-on indoor camera, so you can check on the visitor once he's inside your home.

I forgot to water the plants

A smart sensor not only sends you information on how much water your plant needs, it also tests the soil and the amount of sunlight your plant is exposed to.

Perhaps the friendly neighbors who used to water your plants when you went on vacation have moved away. You can attach a water bottle to the device and your plants will get watered automatically, only when they need it.

Did you brush thoroughly?

The combination of a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush and an app on your phone is even more effective than Mother used to be. It will tell you if you missed any spots and whether you've really brushed for two minutes. Look over the saved stats and you can pat yourself on the back for your good brushing habits.

Drop that shoe, Fluffy

Nanny cams have been around a while. They can certainly be used for pets. Is it Spotty or Fluffy who is getting into the trash? Now you know. How is a pet cam different? It's interactive. As soon as pup starts to dig in your flowerpot, you can order him to stop. There's even a built in laser pointer that you control from your phone.

It sure is hot in here

Do you get back from work and find that your home is an oven in the summer and a freezer in the winter?

But you don't want to run the heater or air conditioner all day while you're gone. Presetting a time for it to go on doesn't help if you don't always know much in advance when work or after-school activities will end.

Maybe the problem is that one room always seems too hot and another is always cold. Or maybe the occupants of those rooms like very different temperatures.

There's a system of smart air vents and plug-in sensors and—what else—an app that lets you set a different temp for each room on your phone. It can also sense whether anyone's home, and avoid having the heater or air conditioner on when no one's home.

Tech is great…but what about hackers?

Do you have to worry about hackers? The short answer is yes. Unfortunately, these systems are vulnerable. Even that $35 million smart home in Beverly Hills could be hacked. Watch for my article next month on sobering stories and what you can do to secure your high tech home systems.

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