Using Your Phone To Connect With Real World Devices - 7 Jan 2014

Over the last few years many companies have been developing household products that connect to the web and, more recently, smartphones. In a world where people are constantly seeking simpler solutions to daily tasks, just what products are out there that you can control from your smartphone?

Hive Active Heatinghive active heating

British Gas’ brilliant new technology allows customers to control their heating, set schedules, activate frost protection, and monitor how much money they spend on their gas, through a completely free app. Admittedly the initial installation of Hive Active Heating costs £199 from British Gas, but once it’s in, they say it can save you more than £150 a year.

The Hive Active Heating app has an easy-to-use interface, with simple screens to help set up a heating schedule, view costs, and generally manage the heating in a home, making heating management more fun. It can be used from anywhere in or out of the house, like when putting the heating on if it starts to snow at work for example, or just setting the temperature a little higher before you get out of bed.
There’s also nothing that impresses people more than being able to control your house from your phone.

ikettleThe iKettle

The ultimate tea lover’s tool, The iKettle is, as it sounds, a Kettle that can be controlled from your iPhone. The device’s app has a wake mode, which will ask you, once it’s woken you, if you’d like it to boil the water ready for a cup of tea. Even after you’ve hit ‘Yes’, the kettle will keep that water warm for up to 30 minutes should you want a bit of a snooze before your morning brew. For the true tea connoisseur, iKettle has four different temperature settings, each tailored for a different type of hot drink, coffee or green tea for example. The iKettle is available for £99 from Firebox.

SmartThings Home Kit

This kit is a home automation hub that allows you to monitor the security, temperature, and electricity usage in your home, as well as a number of other things, all from your smartphone. Once you have the hub, you can fill your home and the area around it with sensors and plugs that allow you to control and monitor everything they’re near or connected to. The sensors will alert you if someone unexpectedly enters your garden, if you leave a door open, even if the cat doesn’t come home for breakfast. From a security point of view this is really useful, as no one can watch every door and window of their house, especially when they’re on holiday.smartthings home kit

Lights and electrical devices can be turned on and off using the kit, meaning you could turn the coffee machine on in the morning when you wake up, turn the radio on, and have the lights turn on and off depending on if you’re in the room. You could even set the lights to come on and off to make it look as though you’re at home when on holiday. To top it all off, the kit monitors and controls the power outlets in your home, meaning you can save money over the year from simple things like not constantly having the kettle on. You can buy the Smart Things Home Kit and all the necessary adaptors from the SmartThings Store, with prices ranging depending on how many items you’ll be using it to control.

dropcam proDropcam Pro

This device has been making a name for itself over the last year or so. Dropcam Pro is a simple to set up webcam that can stick to surfaces and record what goes on in any room you want, storing the data in the cloud. Users are able to see what everyone’s up to at home when they’re not around, or just outside, making things like baby monitoring a breeze. Since you can look back over the last couple of days to see what’s been happening, you might even come across a child sneaking chocolate before dinner, or a great image of them playing with their friends you want to preserve. Dropcam is available in two models for $150-$200 from the Dropcam Store.

Beam Brush

beam brush

Beam Brush is a great way to get your children to brush their teeth, and develop the habit of brushing for two minutes at a time. The brushes work with the smartphone app to record and track how often and for how long every family member brushes their teeth. The data can be used as an incentive to keep children brushing, especially if parents promise rewards for reaching certain goals.

Dentists also benefit from the app, as they can look through each family member’s data, and see if there’s any obvious reason for problems they might have with their teeth. Beam Brush is available for around £20 from the Beam Shop.

philips hue light bulbsPhilips Hue Light bulbs

Hue from Philips, is a unique way to control the lighting in your home. A starter pack contains everything you need to Hue-proof your house, with a Hue Bridge that can link up to 50 bulbs to your smartphone. Once set up, and the Hue bulbs have been screwed into your lamps, you can control the colour of each light bulb from the comfort of your sofa. The effect of this unique technology is at its best when watching a movie or television show, as changing the bulb’s colour to match what’s on screen can bring it to life in a way not possible even with backlit TV’s. These clever bulbs are even able to recreate colours from photos of precious moments, helping you relive them or make an evening really special. You can buy Philips Hue Light Bulbs and the starter kit for around £100 from the Philips website.

Home Cinema Smartphone Controlhome cinema control apps

There’s no one specific app for controlling your home cinema, but the companies producing the products, DVD and Blu-ray players, TVs, and surround sound systems, are also creating apps to control them. These apps allow you to control the volume and quality of the sound and lighting of your systems, creating the best viewing experience possible. There are even apps that let you control your Xbox and Playstation consoles. These apps can be used to download games when away from your console, meaning they’re ready to play when you come home, and they can even play the games themselves. This makes it easy for someone to play a game on their console whilst the rest of the family is watching a movie.

egg minder tray and appEgg Minder

Of course, there will always be the smartphone-controlled device you could probably live without, and this is one of them. Egg Minder is a device that lets you track not only how many eggs you have at home, but how long ago you purchased them. The app is designed to help you know which eggs to use first, as there’s generally no way to tell how long ago you put an egg in the basket until you crack it open and see (or smell) what it’s inside, which is usually too late. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll use all your eggs before they have a chance to turn, but if you want the convenience of knowing which ones are old, and how many to buy when you’re in the shops, then this is the device for you. Egg Minder is available for $70 from Quirky.

These are a few devices that you can control with your smartphone, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. More and more technologies are being developed every day that use smartphone apps as their controllers. Everything from phone controlled cars, boats, and small aircraft, to app-activated hotplates is being perfected as you read this. In the future it could be possible to control everything in your home, and on your commutes, from your smartphone, but for now you might just need to settle for that iKettle.

These devices are already having a massive impact on the world, but the place where they could really make a difference is in the healthcare industry. For people with pacemakers and other live-saving implants, a home monitoring system could help doctors track battery life, allowing them to monitor patients, calling them back in when they’re certain an implant needs a new one, not too soon or too late.

A smartphone app could also be developed that lets people monitor their own implants, regardless of what they are, giving them peace of mind that everything is working normally. One doctor has already invented a way to monitor patient pacemakers and defibrillator implants on an iPad through a medical app. He can’t directly control the device, but he can view accurate readings from it in real-time, allowing him to get a good update on the patient’s condition and that of their implants. The system has been checked from a number of places, even a Virgin Atlantic flight, and removes the need for a representative of the implant’s manufacturer to attend every check up. This is the future of medicine, and it can only get better.

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