By Adam Drake
My lights turn on before I open my front door. They aren’t on a timer, no one is controlling them, and I don’t have trolls living under my stairs who love playing with light switches. No, my lighting “system” knows when I’m nearby based on a geofencing protocol I’ve set up. I can also adjust the temperature of my apartment from 9,500 miles away in Singapore, if I see a cooling trend in the weather over the Northeast.
Does this make me a nerd? Yes, absolutely. Is this type of home automation incredibly cool? Debatable, but we’ll put it in the “yes” column. Is all of this technology swiftly becoming commonplace in households around the world? Most definitely. This week, we’re taking a look at some of the big players in home automation technology, and seeing how they can affect your life and your workouts.
I woke up this morning in a Parisian café at sunset, the lights turning gently from pale yellows and reds to darker blues and purples. Last night, I fell asleep under a cascade of stars unfolding themselves on the walls and ceilings of my bedroom in beautiful blues and greens. Such illumination is possible through the use of Philips Hue. The light bulbs in my house — all of them — are controlled by my iPhone. And not just on/off, but their brightness and the millions of colors they’re able to display.
Philips Hue is a nifty party trick. Instantly change the color of your living room to magenta, or bathe your bedroom in rich blues when falling asleep. Philips Hue can do all of it with the swipe of a finger. If you need inspiration, import a photo from your library and choose one (or 50) colors from it, and have them projected around your home. You can separate controls into rooms, so you’re able to have a sunset in the guest bedroom while enjoying a tropical forest in a bathroom.
I use mine in conjunction with Goldee, an app that slowly cycles colors based on “scenes.” The wide range of available scenes allows users to have anything from bright lights for when you’re exercising at home, or romantic tones when you’re having dinner. As someone who suffers from the occasional migraine, I love the night sky setting’s blues when I’m under the weather, and there’s no better way to wake up than with a slowly brightening light — instead of the shriek of an alarm clock.
Sure, it looks like I have HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey hanging on my wall. And, like HAL, this piece of technology is studying us. It’s learning. It’s purposely changing the world around it. But instead of dooming a space flight, this object is keeping me warm at night. The NEST, a next-generation thermostat, exists not only to give you more control over your heating and cooling bills, but also to save you money.
As scary as this sounds, the NEST learns. By adjusting it throughout the day, it’ll know when you want it warmer in your home, or cooler when you’re out of it. The more you adjust it, the more it becomes predictive. Soon, you won’t have to adjust a thing, it’ll just work.
The beautiful thing about NEST is its ability to be adjusted when you’re out of the home. I’d leave for a two-week vacation and come home with an electric bill that would put the GNP of a small third world country to shame. With NEST, I can adjust the temperature on the fly via my phone, if my trip gets extended or the weather changes while we are gone.
There is a subtle power grab that occurs between a man and his father-in-law. It’s a testing of the man’s strength and his ability to care for the other man’s offspring. Such was the case when my wife and I were invited down to South Carolina to visit the just-completed house my in-laws had built. While proudly showing us around the house, my father-in-law handed me his phone and pointed me toward his SONOS app. Every speaker in the house was connected through this app, and whoever possessed the app, possessed the soundtrack for the next few days.
Suddenly, I was faced with the ghastly reality of listening to Christopher Cross on repeat for a week. I instantly downloaded the SONOS app to my phone, set up unique playlists that everyone could enjoy, and spent the rest of my time in sonic heaven.
If you enjoy music in your home, you need SONOS. Use your speakers or theirs, it’s incredibly easy to install. What makes it even better is your ability to control the sound in each room. So while you’ve got a rave happening in the living room, you can have the dulcet sounds of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony echoing through your bedroom. Completely controllable from your phone, SONOS is so easy, my in-laws can use it.
I receive a text message each time my house cleaner enters my apartment. I receive a different one when my landlord comes by to fix something, or when my friend stops by to feed my cat when I’m out of town. It’s possible with Kwikset, a new door lock that lets you wirelessly control access to your home.
I’ve given codes to various people who may need to enter my home at any given time. Once that code is entered into a keypad on my door, the door unlocks and I’m sent a text message. Further, if I forget to lock the door on my way out, I can remotely lock it using my phone. Additionally, I can set times to the lock, meaning that certain people can only gain access to my apartment during certain hours on certain days. For instance, my house cleaner comes on Tuesdays between the hours of 10 and 2. If she enters her code any time outside of those hours, the door won’t unlock. It’s a great tool for people who travel and have pets to look after, or those who want a better sense of what goes on in your house during the day.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.