Run your home from your phone

Are smart appliances and app-enabled locks ready for prime time?

You know the feeling. You’re on your way to work or the airport, and you can’t remember whether you turned off the lights and turned on the security system or locked the door. Do you go back home? Continue on your way and hope for the best? Or do you simply pull out your smart phone, open an app or two, and make sure everything is OK? Convenience, control, and peace of mind are the powerful combination that the newest smart products are selling.

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With mainstream corporations such as Amazon, AT&T, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples, and Verizon introducing smart products and services that let you run your home from your phone (and other devices), this might actually be the year that home automation catches on in a big way—or at least becomes difficult to ignore, given those companies’ fat advertising budgets.

Mobile devices

Product selection is growing, with 37 billion smart products expected on the market by the year 2020, says network-­hardware maker Cisco. Already there: Ranges and ovens from Dacor and GE can be set to preheat during your drive home, so you can get dinner on the table faster. A side-by-side refrigerator from Whirlpool texts you if a door is ajar, helping you save energy and prevent food from spoiling. Certain dryers can tell you if your dryer exhaust duct is clogged, which prolongs drying time, wastes energy, and is a fire hazard. ­Appliances from Kenmore and LG can self-diagnose problems via your smart phone, potentially saving on repair costs or time waiting for the service technician.

The public is definitely intrigued. Almost 20 percent of Consumer Reports subscribers already use their phone or tablet to remotely control some of their home, and almost 70 percent of those who don’t voiced interest in doing so in the future, according to our latest survey. Thermostats, security systems, blinds, lighting, and door locks are the home items readers most want to manage remotely.



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