Top 5 Home Automation Products to Keep an Eye On in 2013

Sections: HVAC, Lighting control, Remote control, Security, Smart Home

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The following is a guest post about home automation trends from tech enthusiast Shaun Chatman.

Home automation has been around for a few decades now, but growing more accessible, more attainable every year as people learn about—and can afford—new ways to control their homes and favorite devices. From products that enable you to receive text messages from your plants to smart phone apps for adjusting the lighting in your home, there are home automation products available to fit virtually every niche these days. If you’re new to the concept of home automation, though, and want to know what it can do for you, in your home, here are five helpful and creative home automation products that ought to be on your radar this year.

5. Vivint Home Automation Bundle: For Basic Automation on the Cheap

(Image via

Vivint Home Automation BundleIf you’re looking to automate both the security and energy needs of your home at an affordable price, then the Vivint home automation bundle is an easy choice. In addition to monitoring and controlling your heating and cooling, Vivint includes a number of enhanced security features like video surveillance, automatic door locks, and non-emergency alerts.

The Go!Control panel acts as the hub of the system, and basically controls everything at the press of a button. With Vivint, you are given more control over your appliances and devices through the service’s online control panel, which triggers time based announcements and device activations through the central hub that monitors all activity.

Vivint offers a web based application, too, which serves as an effective tool for modifying and/or creating time-based and scripted events for all the home devices at your home. At only $68.99 per month, the Vivint package is a good buy, especially due to the additional security features it offers. The only downside is that since Vivint is a new entrant into the complete home automation market, the average consumer is still a bit skeptical, or even unaware, of this product. In addition, at such a low price, the product does not also carry the many advanced features of its more expensive competitors.

4. The Philips Hue: For Setting the Mood

(Image via Apple)

Philips HueSay you’re throwing a dinner party for friends. Maybe you’re creating a romantic anniversary dinner for your spouse or partner. Perhaps you’re having an extravagant birthday party filled with food, music, and dancing. Rather than spending time and money buying colored light bulbs and disco balls, you could simply create the perfect lighting effect with your favorite mobile device. Wouldn’t that be absolutely magical?

Using iOS or Android tablets, smart phones, or other mobile devices, Philips Hue allows you to wirelessly access and control a range of compatible light bulbs. You’ll have to grab the complementary app and lighting style of your choice, but after that, you can do anything. Not only can you easily change the colors and illumination levels of your bulbs, you can even find pictures of beautiful lighting techniques and copy their settings. If you hear about a light setting that invites romance, relaxation, or excitement, you can recreate it in your own home, quickly, easily, and with amazing energy efficiency to boot.

3. Plant Link: For Downloading Your Green Thumb

Plant Link

(Image via Kickstarter)

Do you have more of a black thumb than a green thumb? If you love plants but find you can’t keep them alive, you don’t have to doom yourself to fake flowers for the rest of your life. You don’t even have to rely on writing reminders to yourself for watering the marigolds outside, the spider plant on the porch, or the orchids in the kitchen. All you need is Plant Link.

Seamlessly bringing lush, thriving gardening together with top-notch technology, Plant Link creates communication between you and your plants. And this isn’t some “Little Shop of Horrors” type of scenario; your particular Audrey II won’t start screaming “Feed me!” every time you walk past. Instead, you simply secure a small device into the soil of your plants. Not only does it know when the soil starts to get dry, but it will send you a text message letting you know it’s time to add water.

If you have multiple plants, you can use your router to connect to a base station. That, in turn, will connect to any other devices in any other plants. Using this interface, you can receive your updates through emails, push notifications, texts, or via the Web.

2. Control4 MyHome: Smart Phones for Smart Homes

Control4 MyHome Android EVO

As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection and a smartphone or tablet, and a Control4 home automation system installed in your home, you can use Control4 MyHome to control almost anything in the house. Your smart phone or tablet becomes a touchscreen-capable remote for the Control4 system, which streamlines your home automation experience into a seamless, powerful, custom-programmed package unique to your gear and your lifestyle. With the app, you have complete control over:

  • Your thermostat
  • Audio and video devices
  • Home and outdoor lighting
  • Web cams
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Alarm clocks
  • Play list and music creation
  • And your home security system

Not only can you turn lights on or off in any room, you can arm your security system wherever you are or set up the air conditioning or heating to come on before you return to your home. Because of that, this home automation app isn’t just efficient, it also saves money and energy.

1. RaZBerry: To Control the Whole Home, DIY-Style

Z-Wave chip

(Image via Zwave Products)

Z-Wave is one of the innovations that really opened up the DIY-era of home automation, making it easy and convenient to remotely control a number of devices, appliances, and electronics in your home. And the Raspberry Pi is a near-miraculous new mini-computer that sells for less than a week’s worth of Starbucks, and is revolutionizing DIY computing. Put them together and you have RaZBerry, a tweaky home automation platform powered by Z-Wave, filled with innumerable, innovative features.

On its own, the Raspberry Pi is tiny computer that works just like your desktop or laptop, just at a minuscule fraction of the size and price. It’s an excellent, affordable way to surf the Internet, create documents and spreadsheets, or watch videos without using a standard computer. When you add the RaZBerry, an even tinier daughterboard that plugs into the Pi, the system becomes a Z-Wave server capable of controlling compatible light switches, appliances, security systems, and many other smart devices.

Home automation might seem really novel and fun because it’s so new (to most people) and high-tech, but it also allows your home to become more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. This is especially true in terms of heating, cooling, and lighting. And best of all, it becomes more affordable every day. Have you made the leap to a smart home yet? If not, which home automation product are you most interested in?


Author Bio:

Shaun Chatman is a technology enthusiast who has published numerous articles for a number of websites. He lives in Dunedin, FL, and spends his free time playing games or watching movies on his affordable entertainment notebook.

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  • Ana Cristina Aguero

    I most say I disagree when people call the Philips Hue an automation system. From my experience (and I have one) it is only remote controlling. Yes, with your smartphone, but this is not automation. There are other light automation systems available, many of them featured in Kickstarter.

  • Thomas

    And what is about all those cool FOSS solutions (like which integrates 30 (!) different pieces of hardware/functions (like KNX, Hue, Plugwise, DMX, Samsung TVs, Koubachi, etc.) and provides higher level functionality like unified control, rules and visualization for them. With such platforms homeautomation get’s possible, e.g. switch the colour of the Hue’s when somebody enter’s the house/flat or switch the heating due to events in Google calendar, let your plants “talk” through the integrated Text-to-speech engine …