Wireless Home Automation Gadgets

Category: Wireless

Strolling through Best Buy or Home Depot, I’ve noticed a growing range of gadgets “designed to work with your smartphone” in one way or another. Door locks, garage door openers, security cameras, and landscape irrigation systems are just some of the product categories that can be made smarter with an app and wireless connectivity. Let's take a closer look at home automation gadgets…

Are Your Locks Going Wireless?

For decades, we've been using wireless gadgets to control things around our homes. The TV, set-top box and the garage door opener are the most common. But now, homeowners have a new crop of devices that work with smartphones and various forms of wireless connectivity.

Below, you'll see several examples of home automation devices that you should know about. I promise you'll love the last one, so be sure to read all the way through today's article.

The August Smart Lock costs $150 on Amazon. It replaces the interior thumbknob of your existing deadbolt with a sleek but rather large metal cylinder that houses batteries, circuitry, and a servomotor that moves the deadbolt. Simply turn the cylinder to lock or unlock the August from the inside. Outside, the old lock’s keyhole remains unchanged, in case you need to use the old-school metal key again.

To lock and unlock the August using your smartphone, you need to open the app, wait for a Bluetooth connection, then tap an on-screen button. The “Everlock” feature, if enabled, automatically locks the door 30 seconds after you unlock it; that sounds like a real time-saver and a good security measure. The “Auto-unlock” feature uses GPS to detect when your smartphone and you are approaching and unlocks the door.
Home Automation and Your Smartphone

The ability to control the August Smart Lock remotely via the Internet can be very useful. You can admit service people, guests, and household members while you are not at home. But WiFi connectivity requires an additional $80 outlay for an August Connect WiFi-to-Bluetooth bridge, which requires AC power. You can also issue temporary passcodes to users who install the August app on their phones. The app keeps logs of who entered and how long they were inside.

The Chamberlin My-Q ($100) is a wireless “smart” controller for automatic garage door openers made after 1993. Its base station connects to your home WiFi network and the door opener. The My-Q can send you alerts when the door is opened, and you can open or close the door from anywhere using your smartphone.

Somebody's Ringin' the Bell...

Back in the 1970s, Paul McCartney didn't know who was knocking on the door and ringing the bell. But now he can, with the SkyBell, a door bell with a video camera and WiFi adapter ($150). It lets you see who rang the bell and talk to visitors via a smartphone app. I can see this being very useful for people with limited mobility. A motion sensor alerts you if a visitor doesn’t ring the bell. You can also activate the camera at any time, from anywhere. (But if you want to let 'em in, you'll need the August Smart Lock described above.)

The Rachio Iro Smart Sprinkler Controller ($204, 8 zones; $290, 16 zones) is an awe-inspiring landscape irrigation system. You can configure it to fetch local weather forecasts and adjust sprinkling schedules accordingly. It helps you monitor and analyze water usage; users report water savings of up to 30%. Of course, you can control it from anywhere using an app. One additional benefit: You no longer have to rely on the neighbor kid to water your garden when you're away.

The Arlo wireless home security camera system by NETGEAR ($159 for one camera, multiple bundles available) provides live streaming video via battery-powered wireless cameras. Included is free cloud storage of up to 7 days of video from one camera, email and text alerts when motion is detected. Additional storage and support for more cameras are available by subscription.

The Tile Phone Finder ($25) can actually find any lost item: phone, keychain, tablet, etc. It’s a tiny Bluetooth tracker that can be stuck to an item, hung on a cord, or placed inside a briefcase. Via an Android or iOS app, you can “ring” any of your Tiles and it will play a loud tune if it’s within Bluetooth range (up to 100 feet). The app logs the last known location of each Tile, giving you a good clue where to look for it. You can even expand a search to include all Tile apps nearby.

What's your opinion of these gadgets? Are you comfortable with your front door lock having an Internet address? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Wireless Home Automation Gadgets"

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

I have been pretty happy with the Blossom 12 zone sprinkler controller. It automatically adjusts the sprinkling based on the weather. So it automatically skips the days when it rained.
$155 at Amazon (I paid $199 before it was being discounted)

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

Like all things connected to the Internet or that use a smartphone, I worry about the security of these devices. If somebody wants in bad enough, it probably doesn't really matter, but why make it any easier for someone to hack in, er, break in to your home?

Posted by:

Robert Sandy
25 Jan 2016

I received the tile phone finder as a gift for christmas. there were four tiles in the box. it works as advertised. but there is one drawback the battery is only good for a year and cannot be replaced. When the battery fails you will have to replace the tile.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

I have the Chamberlin My-Q for the garage door. Yes, it does open and close the garage door from anywhere, and warns me if the door has been open too long, but as I get older, what it does best is give me peace of mind.

It is not unusual that I will get halfway to the airport and begin to second guess myself if I closed the garage door or not. Just by clicking on the icon, it tells me the status and if I did leave open, by touching the picture of the garage, it closes for me.

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
25 Jan 2016

Perhaps an odd way to think of it, but it seems to me a hacker/burglar is likely to be more intelligent than a common house burglar. Not sure why that matters, but perhaps I would rather be burgled by someone with a brain?

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

The prices are reasonable and the gadgets are useful especially for people with mobility issues.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

There are still people who live without those gadgets but its nice to know they exist. Thanks to Bob we know even more - cost. I don`t think that costs are reasonable. They cost too much!!! Peace of circuits and wires, small code and ... bum!! 180USD?!?!? or 250USD!?!? Production cost are usually nothing (couple bucks in China) + code can not be that much, no way. But anyway thanks to Bob I am aware of it. Nice to know. Keep in touch Bob. Stay cool

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

There is one thing people forget to do when they design stuff for people with mobility issues - ask us.

I am mobility disabled and am the sole carer for my bed-bound wife. So we have a 'little' experience.

Something I notice straight away is that the vast majority of these gadgets, however reasonable they may be, depend on a smart phone.

Why don't they work with home wifi? Tablets or laptops, even desktops we have them all.

For those still lost, just think. Home internet with wifi. Voip phone. Why would housebound people spend out gawd knows how much on a smartphone that will never be used?

It really is simple economics. People on fixed incomes don't spend money that they don't need to. The cost of the tech is low and enables, but the reliance on smartphones and apps creates an expense that cannot be afforded.

Just thoughts,


Posted by:

Ron Zauner
25 Jan 2016

Dear Bob,
Thank you for your many valuable posts. Just ordered the iDrive. One question: Why is it not possible to Zoom in/out, on your posts. ie. On your last post, "Wireless Home Automation Gadgets" in landscape mode, the first line reads from "Strolling through ....to .. security cameras and" a pretty long line in very small print (I am 72 yrs). Getting hard to read, yes, I have reading glasses, but being able to Zoom in would help greatly. Most blogs, newsletters etc. I follow have the ability to be Zoomed. Why not yours. Thanks, Ron

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

I reckon I can live quite happily without any of these. The more reliant you become on these gadgets, the lazier you'll become and the less work your brain will have to do. Not a good thing.
Don't let gadgets take over your life.
From your friendly Luddite,

Posted by:

Donald A. Potts
25 Jan 2016

Would you please discuss the older X-10 system and any interoperabilities ??

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

Tile is great, but two small problems, ring not very loud and battery not changeable

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

I looked at the August Smart Lock and was impressed. I then saw a Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth Smart Lock that really impressed me! Kwikset is a well-known lock company.

Yes, this lock is expensive, but, it comes with a fob, 2 e-keys, 2 standard keys and 4 AA standard batteries. You download the Kevo app(the app is free) on your Smartphone to operate the lock. You can even set this lock up, so you only have to touch the top of the lock, to open the door! Now, that really impressed me.

The Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth Smart Lock can also be re-keyed! This also impressed me, greatly! It also looks like a regular Kwikset Bolt Lock, that many, many homes have on their doors. It is easy to lock, from the inside, you simply turn the knob. Another key point for me - Familiar ways to work the lock.

Should you not have your Smartphone or fob available, you can use the standard key, to get inside. The Bluetooth aspect of this lock, seems to come from the lock itself. The batteries are easy to replace, they are 4 AA standard batteries!!!

The others that you have mentioned, do not apply for me. I do not have a garage or a sprinkler system or a home security system or the tile thingy, where batteries can't be replaced.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2016

Does any of this explain how someone/something electronically opens my garage door while we're all in the house (or worse, when we're NOT home)? Or why my Toyota sometimes opens the garage door when I turn on the ignition?

Posted by:

26 Jan 2016

My main complaint is they (and most everything else) are mainly Apple comparable only! Even my car is Apple only! :(

Posted by:

28 Jan 2016

I'm waiting for a control device that allows me to flush my home toilet while I'm driving my car.

OK. I'm being silly, but I agree with Luddite. We have more and more complex technology doing the simplest things. People are becoming like children, fascinated by sparkly gadgets. Yes, they might have some good uses for people with physical limitations for example, but most are just a 'convenience'.

Posted by:

Allan Brunner
30 Jan 2016

MmeMoxie's post very interesting as it is not power-dependent. What happens in the event of a power failure in your house or on the grid especially with doors?

Posted by:

Julianna Holzapfel
01 Feb 2016

I never thought I would like controlling home appliances and lights from my iPhone, but I have been impressed with the WeMo light switch and the wall socket devices. They are an advanced form of light timers, that turn lights off and on when you are away from home. You can check on the lights if you are connected to WiFi away from home. A nice feature that you can use is the sunrise or sunset feature. I also like the idea of leaving the room with light on and then turning it off when I am going to bed so I do not have to stumble in the dark. These are less expensive than the devices you mentioned. About $40.

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