As much as I would love to have a completely smart home with automated everything, it’s still somewhere down the list below “pay for weekly childcare” and “save for the kids’ college.” But there are some smart home devices I’ve been able to install here and there that I’m convinced have kept my home from turning into a pile of burnt timbers or, at the very least, have kept my kitchen herb garden and potted vegetable plants from succumbing to a slow death.
Plug it In
Created by thirty-year-old tech company Belkin, WeMo is one of the latest additions to the home control and automation world. Instead of purchasing an entire smart home control system, you can simply select the most important things in your home that you would like to be able to control remotely. Say you’re already twenty minutes from home and you suddenly can’t remember if you:
- Left the iron on
- Forgot to turn on the dryer
- Turned on/off the porch lights
A couple clicks on the WeMo app and it’s taken care of. The product works by plugging the WeMo device into a wall socket, plugging the device you want to control into that, labeling it on your WeMo app and you’re done. Well, it does take a little more set up than that, but it’s worth it just to be able to open an app and click a button when you suddenly can’t remember if you turned off the convection oven before you left home.
You can also take it a step further and include the WeMo motion sensor, which you can set up to turn the stereo on when you enter a room, text you when someone walks onto your front porch, or program it to shut off the lights after, say, 15 minutes of inactivity in a room or after the sun sets.
- Soil moisture
- Amount of light received
It then gauges these levels according to the specific type of plant it’s monitoring and lets you know what’s needed and when. For example, if you pop it into your outdoor basil pot and let it know that it’s monitoring lemon basil, it will tell you precisely how to let it grow to its fullest potential.
Too much sun one day? Move it to a shadier spot. Not enough water? You can even set it up to alert you when it needs a sprinkling. With more than 500 specific plant types programmed into the system and the ability to monitor multiple types of plants in one container, you can go from having a collection of scraggly brown flora to a blooming garden in no time.
The only downside for me, at least, is that it only works on container gardens, so I’m still struggling with my larger in-ground vegetable bed. The good news is that another company, 22 Seeds, is working on a Wi-Fi-enabled watering system that integrates solar and moisture sensors, local weather stations and your own settings to provide optimal water levels for in-ground plants. The device is called Greenbox and it is scheduled for release this fall.
As a one-stop Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, you can’t beat the Nest. Combining proximity sensors with intelligent learning, the Nest independently determines and adjusts to the optimal temperature conditions for your home at any time.
Self-Adjusting: By learning from your adjustments early on, it learns not only what temperatures you prefer at different times of day, but how long it takes to reach those temperatures if, say, you have a drafty house or the sun warms up a particular room in the afternoon.
Auto-Away Mode: Sensors let Nest know when no one is home so it can switch to “away” mode, and a little green leaf at the bottom of the screen lets you know when your temperature settings are at their most energy efficient.
Energy Efficient: If you need more details on your energy efficiency, you can view your energy history on the Nest app, which shows how weather, away mode and your own adjustments have affected your energy use. The app also lets you adjust temperatures from your smartphone so you can warm your house up as you’re driving home or just adjust the temperature in the baby’s room without leaving your bed.
Even though these devices aren’t nearly as comprehensive as a complete smart home control system, they do help with several of the more immediate needs – and moments of panic – of a mom on the go.
Kristin Hackler is a community contributor at eBay.com where she writes on topics related to home and family life. Kristin is also a freelance journalist as well as a mother and children’s book author.