With the increasing popularity of smart, mobile devices, we’re beginning to see advanced digital systems being integrated into all sorts of unexpected places, from door locks to household appliances. While many of these technologies are still in their infancy, the convenience they promise is too tantalizing to be ignored.
The best new smart devices are those that take some boring, humdrum device in our homes. Enter the Nest learning thermostat. When one of Apple’s top engineers quits his job to create something as seemingly mundane as a thermostat, something must be up. Nest was built for those of us who have undergone the tortuous process of programming a schedule into a thermostat, only to constantly change and tweak it anyway; rather than requiring a tedious set-up that never seems to reflect our actual schedules, Nest observes where you set the thermostat at different points in the day and automatically programs itself to reflect those usage patterns. What is more, it has a motion sensor built into it to detect when you’re home. Thus, when you have an odd sick day, you won’t have to pull yourself off the couch to reset the thermostat–it will detect that you’re home and keep it at your preferred temperature.
In a similar vein, several companies have begun to put out smartphone controlled door locks. Lockitron and August are two of the more prominent companies, but others are also emerging in this competitive market. Through the use of a downloadable app, you can unlock your door either remotely or, with NFC, by tapping your phone to the physical lock itself. You can grant access to as many smartphones as you’d like; also, if someone loses their phone, you can remotely open the door for them (and cancel the lost phone’s access) without having to venture back home yourself. The app also allows users to check the status of their doors at any time from any place, and, for the more paranoid among us, to see who has been unlocking your doors when. Lights can also be run through similar mechanisms, though this requires a more extensive retrofit of your existing electrical system; even some appliances like stoves and crock pots have begun integrating this sort of app support.
While the prior two devices require new, and relatively expensive, equipment to function, NFC Tags can automate many functions on a phone simply by placing it in a particular spot. These tags are usually stickers that you can place in various spots where you often use particular apps, or need particular settings to apply; so, for instance, if you use your phone as an alarm clock, you can place a tag on your nightstand that quiets the phone ringer and launches the alarm clock app on your phone. Or stick one in your car that instructs your phone to connect to your bluetooth speaker and begin playing music. The possibilities are practically endless and the setup is easy.
If NFC tags are still too much of an investment, many of us fail to use even the functionality our existing phones have. For instance, most smartphones can be used as remote controls for video playing on a TV through Youtube or Netflix. Some phones–like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and HTC’s One–even have infrared built into them, meaning they can be programmed to work just like your remote control. They can learn the signals used by virtually any remote to control the devices you already have in your home. Granted, the potential for passive aggressive couch battles multiplies when everyone has their own remote, but the convenience and control offered by such smart devices promises some very interesting and innovative possibilities.
This article was created by Skylar James, a woman who loves technology. She is currently working on her masters where she is creating a thesis on Internet Philosophy. She is also a part time content researcher for internetserviceproviders.com.