I Live In A Smart House, And It's Awesome(ish)
Americans have been promised a smarter home for the better part of the past century. We read loopy forecasts in early issues of Popular Science, or witnessed shiny new devices in futuristic fiction like The Jetsons and Back To The Future (where's my Pizza Hydrator?!). Recently, with the advent of home devices like the Nest thermostat, we have witnessed the birth to the "Internet of Things," a clever catch phrase that has directly influenced one company in particular: SmartThings.
Like several other offerings in the marketplace, SmartThing’s goal is to take traditionally “dumb” or utilitarian areas of your home and give them a brain with as little surgery as possible. Their initial package seemed targeted towards tinkery dads with homes in the suburbs, guys who relish pestering their wives on a Sunday afternoon with gadgety contraptions. I am not a tinkery dad (yet), and I don’t have a pesky wife to annoy (I have a lovely girlfriend who puts up with my shenanigans). More importantly, I don’t have a home in the suburbs. My girlfriend and I share a 750-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn — not the traditional test ground for home automation.
That being said, I had to see what the future tasted like. Here are my observations after living a month in a Smart Home.
All of a sudden, you know what’s going on in your house... all the time.
With SmartThings, you immediately know each time your door is opened — whether it's you leaving the house or the maintenance man coming to fix something. That same feature will unfortunately remind you that your girlfriend has the luxury of leaving for work a full two hours later than you. You'll get a notification every time your next door neighbor pulls a Kramer and steals your groceries while you’re gone. If you've got the right kind of door knob, you can swap it out for a smart one, which you can then lock (or unlock) from afar. This feature is awesome.
You don’t have to turn your lights on anymore, they’re already on for you.And off when you’re not around.
In just about ten minutes, I programmed our living room lights to be fully automated. Using smart plugs, door sensors, and motion sensors, our lights turned on right when the door opened, and stayed on until there was no motion in the room for 30 minutes. It sounds a bit more complicated than it was; imagine swiping through a friendly mobile app and selecting a few “if this, then that” scenarios. Largely painless. SmartThings also seamlessly networks with a range of lightbulbs — so it's as easy as screwing in a lightbulb, literally.
You can stop worrying about your washer/dryer/sink leaking and destroying your security deposit.
Shady landlords being what they are, I’ve pretty much lived in constant fear of a self imposed leak messing up my apartment, causing me to forfeit the fortune I put down for a security deposit. With these Zippo-sized moisture sensors, I was able to effectively eliminate this concern. Test it in your sink and you’ll get a notification on your device within a nano second of it coming into contact with water.
Protip: If you don't clear this with your significant other first, they might slowly start to resent you.
I hate that this is a reality, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t shed light on it. As evidenced above I considered the SmartThings interface extremely easy to use, but my better half (who only recently discovered the ability to group text) found it less so. What started out as a charming way to have the lights turn on when we came home eventually devolved into “Ted, I love you, but I honestly have no idea how to turn these lights off.” I don't consider our situation universal, but as with any significant change to your household routine, you're better off jumping into it together. Nobody likes to be handed an instruction manual after a long day at work.