It turns out that their dog sitter had taken the cocker spaniel and black Labrador to his own apartment during the honeymooners’ 12-day trip, returning to the home only on the day of their arrival. The dog sitter had been busted, by mobile app.
“We didn’t confront him until we got home,” Erik Binkowski said.
The Binkowskis are among a nascent but growing number of homeowners who equip their residences with “home automation” systems that can remotely control the lights, alarms and thermostats, often via mobile devices and secure Web sites.
Call it the next frontier of personalized technology. The explosion of high-speed Internet and app-centric smartphones have made home technology — from securing your front door to turning off the lights to blasting your music — far more Jetson-like. And while some technologies have been around for years, analysts who follow this market say adaptation rates are picking up speed.
If you’re like the majority of homeowners who are still holding onto the DVD player you bought several years ago or a wireless, programmable thermostat you have yet to actually figure out, there’s hope.
A home technology upgrade is far easier and less expensive today than it was just two years ago. Here’s a look at the latest trends and how to get them.
You may have come across advertisements for technologies that allow you to control how your home functions from the screen of your smartphone. It’s the digital equivalent of those clap-on, clap-off lights that always seemed convenient, if impractical.
About 1 million home automation systems were sold across North America in 2011, according ABI Research, a technology market research firm. That number is expected to grow sixfold by 2016.
But if you want to be among the cutting-edge (or, okay, show off a little), these technologies are easier to buy and use if you have time to do a little research.
Here’s how they work: You can now buy security cameras, thermostats, door sensors and light modules that wirelessly connect to the home’s high-speed Internet. This allows you to control all of the home’s basic functions from any personal computing device, such as a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.
Imagine, for example, unlocking the front door from your office when the kids forget their keys or cranking up the living room’s heat during your commute home from work.
You can buy some of these gadgets individually online or at big-box stores, such as Home Depot or Best Buy, or buy a kit from some of the big names in home security and wireless Internet.
If you already have a home security system, the most intuitive place to look for a home automation upgrade might be your provider. Companies such as ADT and Vivint, among others, have added services in recent years that let you remotely control lights, thermostats and alarms.