“Put down the remote and no one gets hurt.”
The voice comes from behind me. I set the TV remote down carefully alongside the other two remotes, which allegedly also govern the family room television. I have no earthly notion how they work, what they do, and why we need three. Maybe if I watched TV more than twice a year, I’d remember between viewings. But I don’t.
I keep my hands visible and my motions slow as I back away. “Guilty,” I say. No denying I have violated the restraining order certain family members who shall remain unnamed have placed against me.
I am forbidden from operating the TV remotes. Whenever I do, the television and all its various components (again, why?) lurch into inoperable modes, eliciting bad language from same nameless family members. My name is used in vain.
“I was just trying to turn off the TV since no one was watching,” I say.
“First of all, you were pointing with the wrong end of the remote. It goes this way,” the voice says. It’s no use. What happened to the days when you got up and turned the TV on and off with one knob?
Faced with new technology, I’m like a farm dog on Wall Street, willing to work but out of my element. If it were up to me, and good thing it isn’t, we’d still have crank-up cars, and men delivering ice blocks for the ice box and coal for the furnace.
Yet the world inventively marches on.
Recognizing my limitations and my obligation to tell you about the latest smart-home technology, I tap someone who knows way more than I do. I call my techno-trend-tracking friend and lifestyle expert Kathryn Emery. This same woman built my Bitmoji. You want to talk about life-changing.
“Smart home is definitely having its moment, and that trend will continue to elevate as people look for ways to make life more convenient at home with technology,” Emery says.
“But can a home be too smart?” I ask. “I mean do we really need to be able to turn our oven on and fire up the jacuzzi from the car?”
“That’s the question,” she says. “How do you cut through all the noise and decide what technology you should let into your home.”
“Surely, there’s an app for that.”
Depending on whether you want protection, convenience or to show off your techno-savvy, here are some smart-home advances you can geek out on:
• Always home security. Good-bye home security companies. Hello smart doorbells. Today, you can monitor who’s at your door, or creeping around your house, from your phone. Smart doorbell systems, like those from Ring, connect to your existing doorbell and alert you through an app when someone’s at your door. They have gotten even smarter with the addition of high-definition video. Now, in real time, you can see who’s there and talk to them. Meanwhile, motion detectors will trigger cameras at the door and around the house to capture video, which you can share with neighbors or police. “It’s neighborhood watch for the digital age,” Emery says.
• Nobody likes a drip. Anyone who’s had to mop up and pay up after a leak caused by a broken water pipe will appreciate Flo, a new water-detection device that attaches to your main water line and can detect the smallest leak in a pipe long before you do. By monitoring your water pressure, the Flo Smart Home Monitoring System senses problems, including freezing pipes, and shuts off the main water line if needed. The average U.S. home loses over 17 gallons of water a day due to leaks, and 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more a day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not so with Flo. Plus, super-geeks can tap into their home’s water consumption with a phone app.
• A light that changes with you. Waking up with the sun is a lovely luxury, but for those who must get up before dawn, a new programmable lightbulb can take some of the sting out. LifX bulbs are Wi-Fi-connected, LED smart lights that let you time your light levels and choose your hue from an array of colors to match your activity level and mood. Using an app, you can program the light to turn on with a low-level warm sunrise glow when you wake up, and grow gradually brighter as you get ready for work, pack your lunch, and leave a note for the babysitter. Set the lighting program to match your routine and go off when you leave, turn on before you get home, stay bright while you cook, soften during dinner hour and set like the sun at bedtime.
• Need milk? For those who find themselves standing in the dairy section trying to remember if they need to buy milk, your refrigerator can now tell you. Or maybe you just want to know if someone ate all the cheesecake. Either way, the new Family Hub Refrigerator from Samsung has three built-in cameras that snap your fridge’s contents every time someone closes the door, so you can from see from your phone what’s in there. A Wi-Fi-enabled touchscreen on the refrigerator door can tell you when food is expiring, call up recipes, or just play your favorite tunes on Spotify or Pandora.
Though most of this is beyond me, I’m game for the video doorbell and maybe the lightbulb. But first, would some geek-nerd please invent an easy way to turn on the television?