Practically everything in our lives is connected nowadays. We rarely go anywhere without a smartphone in our pocket or hand, texting someone, taking pictures to share to Instagram; we sit in our cars and our phones seamlessly and automatically connect to the stereo, and music stored in the cloud begins streaming; and watches now tell us what’s happening on the phone in the other room or in our backpack.
Everything is intertwined, and communicates on some level. That is, with the exception of our homes. My phone can’t set the temperature in my apartment. (Nest owners excluded.) I can’t turn on the lights in my room from by tablet. And I certainly can’t check to see if I locked the door to my apartment from the office in any way.
However, that is about to change.
Automation and connectivity in the home is, by and large, the next great technological push. I sat in LG’s press event at CES 2013 and rolled my eyes at all the boring stuff that was announced. But, in hindsight, the new products and deeper level of integration between mobile devices and otherwise normal appliances is actually quite neat. I was just angry I skipped breakfast for something I could have watched remotely.
I digress. LG is not the only company making a push into the “smart home” realm. Not by a long shot. Other appliance manufacturers are bolting brains inside refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, and all sorts of other products. Nest, of course, is an intelligent thermostat that’s capable of being accessed remotely. And a handful of startups are looking to bring home automation into the mainstream … on the cheap.
Supermechanical’s Twine, for instance, was a Kickstarter project that ended at the very beginning of this year. It was a tiny, square box full of sensors (and ports for additional sensors) that connects to your wireless network and allows you to track or control various things via remote Web app.
Those a little more frugal and savvy have also built their own Twine alternatives using a Raspberry Pi or Arduino board, paired with various sensors.
And now one of the most intriguing home automation tools yet, especially for us phone nerds, has entered the race. WigWag, a Kickstarter project with 23 days to go, is well on its way to being successfully funded with over four times its original goal.
What is it, exactly?
Fundamentally, it’s not all that different from Twine, in that it comes with an arsenal of different sensors to help you track and control various elements in your home remotely. It works by various triggers and switches, much like one of our favorite online services, IFTTT.
Want the WigWag you have attached to your front door to send you a text message when someone enters your house and you’re away? Easy. Want to dim your lights once the sun goes down? Not a problem. The possibilities, like with most other comparable sensor boxes are virtually endless.
But the true appeal of WigWag is its dedicated mobile application. Smartphones are more than capable of controlling these automation and remote control boxes, but most others come with clunky web applications.
I let my IFTTT account run wild for ages because I never wanted to access the Web app. Most of the time that I wanted to tweak my recipes was when mobile. And, likewise, if I’m wanting to control something at home while I’m away, chances are I won’t want to lug around my laptop or struggle for a half hour on a web app ill designed for mobile use.
Now that IFTTT has great mobile support (seriously, the app is awesome … and free), I can tweak and create new recipes from anywhere. And it’s great.
Likewise, WigWag will allow the same sort of functionality, but instead of automating online services and tasks, you can control physical things – light, temperature, sound, etc – from anywhere. It also works with all sorts of other automation devices, such as Belkins WeMo switches and motion sensors, or Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards.
There are some caveats, however. “Cheap” is relative, especially when you’re talking about home automation. How many things are you looking to control? How many rooms do you need automated light switches in? How many doors do you need a sensor on? Most importantly, what are you trying to automate?
The price for a Twine box is $140. The cheapest WigWag pledge on Kickstarter (not including the $1 pledge for a pat on the back) is $120, which is likely a discount off the eventual retail value. And those individual boxes are only going to do a number of things in a single location. You will need additional sensors and add-ons to do more things in more rooms or locations.
Nonetheless, the potential for Twine, WigWag, WeMo, and the like is incredibly high. And we’re excited for the future of the integration between home and mobile.
Tell us, have you bought any sort of home automation device? Do WigWag, Twine, or any others intrigue you? Will you back WigWag on Kickstarter? Or do they seem unnecessary and overpriced? Share your thoughts in the comments below!