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Remote Controlled Gadgets that Make Your House Smarter

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shutterstock_175520189A range of different smart home gadgets have come onto the market, and most of them feature a combination of technologies like WiFi networks and smartphone applications. What makes this new breed of gadgets unique is the ability to control and monitor them either centrally from a wall mounted control panel, or remotely using an iOS or Android application installed on a smartphone.

These gadgets enable users to monitor and control temperature and moisture in different parts of their home, switch power outlets and LED light bulbs on or off, lock and unlock doors remotely, use Wi-Fi enabled kitchen appliances and much more. Security gadgets include motion, presence, and smoke detectors, and appliances that can be networked include refrigerators, door and window locks, window shades, security cameras, blinds, air conditioners, water heaters, and even coffee makers.

A relative newcomer in this market is the New York City based company Quirky. They recently teamed up with General Electric (GE) to co-market a range of remote controlled gadgets. Quirky is now a well established competitor to suppliers like SmartThings (now owned by Samsung) and Nest. As late as November 12 this year, Quirky released seven new smart gadgets, while SmartThings announced full integration with Samsung’s smart appliances.

The hub

Regardless which gadgets appeal to a homeowner, the hub of the system is the prime consideration. To quote from a Cnet.com article, “if sensors and gizmos are the nerves and muscles of a smart home, then the hub is the brain, interpreting the data and issuing out commands accordingly.”

The standout products are Quirky’s Wink platform and Samsung’s SmartThings hub. The data transmission protocols offered by these hubs vary. The Wink platform has the advantage in that it offers the full range of wireless standards, the languages smart home gadgets understand. Wink supports Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave as well as proprietary protocols by Lutron and Kidde, while SmartThings only offers Zigbee and Z-Wave and does not provide built-in Wi-Fi.

The Wink hub

This hub is a wall mounted device fitted with physical switches and a touch screen that runs the WINK application. It provides network management of multiple smart home devices, including collaboration between different tasks like temperature based on a single sensor, or the average of several sensors located in different rooms. Logs, graphs, reports and notifications can be transmitted to a user’s smartphone.

The Wink relay hub

This is a newer hub that also comes as a wall mounted controller with a 4.3” multi-touch screen and a set of programmable switches. It has a built-in proximity sensor as well as temperature and humidity sensors.

Consumer issues

The Wink smart home gadgets come in two categories. The first category require a Wink hub controller, the second category can be installed without a controller; they function on their own.

Consumers can benefit from Quirky’s marketing strategy of offering the hub virtually free if bought in combination with a range of smart home products. Another significant user benefit is the ease with which a gadget can be integrated into the hub. There is a simple category menu which, once selected, presents an installation video.

However, all is not rosy with smart home gadgets. Glitches have been reported and are thought to be caused by conflicting wireless standards and hardware design practices by different vendors.

Finally, let us conclude with a brief review of the new home-smart gadgets released by Quirky this month.

Other smart gadgets released by Quirky

  • The Norm – This product is designed to replace older style thermostats. It connects to the Wink app and enables you to monitor and control temperature settings remotely. The small-size box itself has one single button. Tap it once to increase the temperature, twice to lower the temperature.It can collaborate with temperature sensors in different parts of a house so that the setting can be based on the temperature in one room, or the average temperature in all rooms. This device must be connected to the Wink hub or the Wink Relay hub.
  • Tripper – This is a sensor that tracks doors opening or closing.
  • Overflow – This gadget detects the moisture level in the room where it is mounted.
  • Outlink – This is an energy monitor that enables you to monitor the power consumption in your house.
  • Ascend – You use this gadget to control your garage door. You can program temporary access to friends or family members visiting.
  • Tapt – This gadget works via the Wink application and allows you to control and dim lights.
  • Spotter Uniq –This is a customisable product, built to order, that can program four different home functions. These functions could be light, sound, motion, and temperature.
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