Do you remember watching The Jetsons as a kid? The way George would come home from work and have Rosie the Robot make dinner appear out of thin air? Maybe you were into sci-fi like Star Trek and Hitchhiker's Guide, reading about computers that controlled entire ships, right down to the making of a good cup of tea.
Well, the future is here. If you haven't taken the time to look at the newest developments in home automation, you're missing out on opportunities to turn your dream home into an automated enterprise, full of thermostats that turn themselves on and off, food orders that get shipped directly to your door and security systems that monitor for every possible danger, from intruders to carbon monoxide leaks.
What's the best thing you can do to give back to the environment? Set up thermostat automation. Thermostats use half of your home's energy; more than electricity, internet and other services combined. Getting an automated thermostat helps you reduce this energy use by controlling the temperature of your home at all times.
The new Nest Learning Thermostat monitors your home like a second set of eyes, adjusting temperatures as people enter and leave rooms and even learns your favorite temperature range. The Nest can be controlled by smartphone, or you can just leave it to its own devices; chances are, once it learns your habits and comfort levels, you won't have to give it a single instruction.
"Intelligent lighting," originally developed for Broadway shows and rock concerts, has now made its way into home automation. These lights turn on, rotate, focus and adjust all with a touch of the remote or smartphone. Some lights are even motion-controlled, meaning there's always a light in the hallway or bathroom when you want it. We've come a long way since the days of the Clapper; if you don't have intelligent lighting installed in your home, talk to your contractor for advice.
Food and Drink
Grocery delivery has been around for a while, but smartphones and predictive shopping algorithms have made the process even smoother. Amazon's entry into the food business via AmazonFresh announced a new kind of grocery delivery: one that tracked when you shopped, how you used different foods to create meals and how likely you were to run out of a favorite food. AmazonFresh offers same-day delivery, provides suggestions to improve your shopping list and reminds you when it's time to order something new - which, of course, you can do with one click.
For wine aficionados, invest in an automated wine refrigerator. Just let the refrigerator know what kind of wine it is storing, and it will automatically calibrate itself to the perfect temperature. Some refrigerators are able to adjust to multiple wines at once. If you've been serving Rieslings, rosés and Champagnes all directly from your ordinary refrigerator door, you haven't been experiencing the true flavor of these wines.
Bet you didn't think there was home automation for pets! Take the chore out of feeding your animals by using smart food dishes that automatically dispense food and water at appropriate times. Some dishes even come with video cameras, so you can check in from afar and see if your pets are enjoying their lunch. Need to add more food to the dish? A tap on your smartphone will do the trick.
Don't forget about the other big pet chore: the litter box. There are numerous litter boxes that claim to be "self-scooping," but our favorite is the Litter Robot. This adorable little guy truly does the work, scraping out litter clumps after your cats leave and storing the waste in an odor-proof compartment. Instead of the daily chore of cleaning litter, all you have to do is make sure you empty the Litter Robot compartment once a month. (If you forget, don't worry. Your smartphone can remind you.)
No home is complete without an automated security system. The newest models, such as the ones from SecurityChoice.com, provide multiple levels of security, tracking your home for intruders and external dangers as well as monitoring for fire and carbon monoxide. With a home security system, you never have to worry about remembering to lock your doors; you can lock and unlock your home directly from your smartphone, no matter where you are in the world. If a dangerous situation occurs, your security system automatically calls the police, fire department or ambulance for you. It's like you're Batman and you have your very own Alfred keeping watch over Wayne Manor.
These aren't the only home automation systems available; there are plenty of ways to improve your bathroom, your bedroom and your garage. The best part is when you link your home automation systems together; as your lights turn on, your thermostat goes up and your oven automatically starts cooking dinner. This is as close as you're going to get to your own Rosie the Robot, at least this year!
What about your home? How have you added automated features to make your life better and more luxurious? Talk about your favorite home automation toys in our Lifestyle Community, or share your ideas in the comments.