Home automation systems have struggled to find a mainstream audience, in part because they require a bit of technical savvy from their users. But these days, the fast proliferations of smartphones and tablets provide an easy way for even tech novices to communicate with home automation gadgets. And those gadgets are more numerous by the day.
The Nest thermostat comes with integrated WiFi so that you can control, schedule and monitor your home's temperatures, from the porch or from a taxi. Nest learns your behaviors and automatically adjusts its settings for maximum efficiency and comfort. It will tell you how much energy you're using, remind you to change your filters, and even alter its functions to account for the differences between, say, a heat pump or radiant heaters.
Philips' Hue lights offer some concert lighting effects right in your own home. Screw these LED bulbs into your regular fixtures, install the app to your phone or tablet, and then you can turn the lights on or off, brighten or dim them, or perhaps best of all, change the color. Then you can even program the lights to perform just about any combination of color and brightness, and control up to 50 lights on one bridge (which links the lights to your phone). The more lights you have the more fun it will be. But it will cost you -- a starter pack with three bulbs and a bridge goes for around $200.
On the next page you'll see even more nifty smart home products. With a bit of ingenuity on your part, you'll see that you can automate just about any electronics processes.