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More gadgets with cellular technology, please

Sometimes we can take mobile technology for granted. For instance, I was out this weekend and had forgotten to set up the DVR. No problem. From an app on my iPhone I was able to set it up, even though I was several miles from home. If I needed to, I could have deleted old recordings to make space for the new ones. Again, this took little thought. It was just natural. And it could lead to even bigger things.


After setting the DVR, I thought of all the other things I’d love to do from my cell phone. Shouldn’t every gadget in my house have this kind of functionality? After all, if it can work with cable boxes, it can work with any number of electronic devices. Some of them might require cellular radios in order to work properly, but that’s more possible than ever these days.

Controlling your home, remotely

Think about the DVR situation again. All I did was use an app that my cable company makes freely available to me. It connects with the cable box I have at home, and it does my bidding. If the cable box can do this, why can’t other gadgets? Maybe not the current gadgets, but manufacturers could add the required hardware to future models.

1. Oven. Preheating the oven takes time, and it often throws off our plans. Having the oven preheated when you walk in the door would be a welcome change. This seems like an easy app for any digital oven.

2. Thermostat. Modern thermostats have made it easy to conserve energy, since we can set them to timers. But modern life isn’t as structured as it once was. The ability to control the thermostat from a smartphone will mean coming home to a comfortable house, without wasting any energy in the interim.

3. Lights. This is basically the same deal as the oven and thermostat. It’s easy enough to turn on lights when you get home, though, so this one isn’t a huge deal. But it’s still a convenience.

4. Washer and dryer. No one wants to leave a wet load of clothes in the washer for hours. Similarly, it’s best to take clothes out of the dryer when they’re hot, so that they don’t wrinkle. A smartphone app would help us better time our wash and dry cycles, while still allowing them to run while we’re out of the house.

Controlling gadgets inside the home

Why can’t our smartphones act as our TV remotes? The technical answer is simple: universal remote controls have a sensor that smartphones do not. Yet it’s not a cumbersome component, and so smartphone manufacturers could conceivably add it to future models. But that might not be necessary. With the new wave of smart TVs, we’ll be able to control everything from a smartphone. Again, this is only the start of the in-home possibilities.

Imagine laying in bed and realizing that you left lights on in some part of the house. Usually that means getting up and flipping off the switch. But with smartphone controls you can turn off those lights as you fall asleep. You can boot up your computer while you dry off from a shower. You can start the car as you get ready for work. (Actually, thanks to devices and apps such as Viper Smart Start, you already can.)

Bringing it all together

There are so many possibilities for how we can use our smartphones to control our homes. The idea is very much akin to smart grid technology. That is, your smartphone can be the gathering points for data points about your home. It monitors your thermostat, checks on your gadgets, and keeps tabs on what lights you’ve left on. You can then view that data and act accordingly. Combined with alerts for certain events, and it’s an easy way to get life fully under control.

The best part? We’re only a few years away from this type of technology becoming reality. It will take some compliance on the parts of electronics manufacturers. But once they’re on board, we’ll have our own personal smart grid systems, right on our smartphones.
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