Smart home technology isn’t all about thermostats and lighting. Here are automated ways to feed your cats, track your eggs and even find out about plumbing problems in your house.
Conversations about smart home technology tend to revolve around a few stand-bys. There are smart lamps, which lets you automate and control light levels from your phone. There’s the Nest, the Google-owned entity behind a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector and a thermostat you can control with your phone. Interesting as these products are, you might be wondering: what else is out there?
Here are five smart home products and ideas you probably don’t know about. I’m sure more will be pointed out in the comments below.
Bistro: Feeds Your Cats When You’re Away ($200)
Are you tired of your cat waking you up when it gets hungry? Or do you want to leave the house for a few days, but still make sure your pet eats a reasonable amount of food? Bistro, to be released in February 2015, will make this possible.
This Internet-connected cat feeder gives your cat a set portion of food, and tracks how much they eat so you can monitor their habits. If you have multiple cats who tend to eat each other’s food, don’t worry: facial recognition technology (for cats!) is used to ensure each creature eats only their fair share.
You can even watch your cats eat from your phone, if you really want.
It’s a pretty complete package, but it’s not quite on the market yet. During the crowdsourced campaign for the product, which raised $240,000, getting a Bistro cost around $200. That’s probably a decent guess as to the eventual price.
Liftware Stabilizer: Stabilizing Spoon For People With Tremors ($295)
A number of diseases, and some medications, cause tremors – uncontrollable shaking of the hands. As you can imagine, this interferes with everyday life quite a bit. Even simple things like eating become difficult.
To help with this, Lift Labs offers a spoon capable of stabilizing itself. Look at this thing in action:
Although it’s not technically a “smart home” device, it’s still worth mentioning. This simple piece of tech has the power to give people dignity. And it could be used to do more than just eat: apparently an attachment for holding keys is on its way.
If you or anyone you know has tremors, look into this.
Egg Minder, A Smart Egg Tray ($50)
Not sure how long those eggs have been in the fridge? Or how many eggs you have? Egg Minder can help with that.
I honestly can’t tell if this is a joke or not, but this kind of quantifying is likely to become common as smart home gadgets proliferate.
Egg Minder keeps track of when you added particular eggs to its tray, letting you know which of your eggs is the oldest. Use up the oldest eggs first to make sure none go bad, and use your phone to find out how long your eggs have been there. You can also check your phone, anytime, to check how many eggs are in your fridge – preventing you from over-buying.
Reviews of this device are mixed, but here’s a quick quote from Amazon:
Ever been out on a brisk walk trying to work out the stress from the day and then suddenly been hit with a wave of anxiety wondering just how many eggs are in the fridge and what condition they might possibly be in?
No. I’ve never experienced that. I’m not sure anyone has.
But I’m not the only person on earth. If this sounds like you, consider checking out Egg Minder.
WallyHome: Find Out About Leaks ($300)
Smoke detectors can save you from a fire; this little gadget can save you from water. WallyHome is a network of sensors that detects moisture, temperature and humidity changes. With it you can find out about leaks and mold before they become a problem.
Interestingly, the hub uses the electrical wiring in your house as an ad-hoc wireless network – connecting to the six sensors that come with the kit (you can buy additional sensors for $35). An app for your phone lets you track changes all over your house, and you’ll get notifications whenever there’s a serious problem.
Water damage is serious business, so this device might give you piece of mind. Check it out if you’re a home owner.
A Webcam. No, Seriously.
The world’s first webcam was the product of pure laziness. The Trojan Room Coffee Pot was broadcast to the world from 1993 on, basically just so University of Cambridge employees knew whether or not there was coffee.
This became a viral sensation on the early web (apparently there wasn’t much to do online in 1993).
So why do I mention this? Because a webcam can easily become an essential part of your smart home. Set one up in your house and you can monitor almost anything. Hear the doorbell, but want to make sure it’s not a solicitor before you bother getting up? Set up a camera. Want to monitor your garden, or pets, when you’re on the go? Set up a camera.
There are WiFi-enabled devices out there for as low as $30, so shop around. Failing that, we’ve shown you how to build a home WiFi surveillance system with your PC, if you want to try setting up your own system.
If you want an out-of-the-box solution, you could check out a dedicated device such as the Dropcam ($200). It’s pretty simple to set up, and even enables conversation through speakers and a microphone.
Whatever you do, I’m sure you can imagine a variety of things you’ll want to monitor regularly – even if it is your coffee pot. Consider the possibilities, and let us know cool users you think of in the comments below.
Did we miss anything? Fill us in about any little-known smart home products out there, I’m sure your fellow reader would love to know.