My Quest for Consumer-level Life Automation

I have been wiring up my entire life through my iPhone using consumer-level products and it's fantastic. Is it everything I dreamed it would be? Yes. Absolutely. To get truly truly wired I would need to go beyond the consumer level stuff and use a "full package" to make a "smart home," but they all looked more complex than I want to tackle. I don't doubt my ability to get something like Insteon and wire the whole house, but would I ever recommend it to a friend or parent? Probably not.
So here is a just a quick collection of the iPhone-enabled things I have and things I want to build my iPhone-centric life.


What is it? Just plug the Automatic Link into your car's data port. Your car and smartphone will automatically connect whenever you drive, wirelessly. It's okay, but not as good as I would like. I use a combination of an app called "RoadTrip" and the Automatic app to track my fuel, mileage, oil changes, etc. I wish all the stuff were in the Automatic app. My 2004 Prius doesn't send fuel information to the Automatic and I can't clear the maintenance light. So the features are just mediocre.
What do you get? $20 off, free shipping, and 45-day return window.
The link:

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

What is it? We run white noise while we sleep with a fan plugged into the wall. I had a quest that I could climb into bed around 9pm and then do everything required for the rest of the evening with my iPhone. One of those things was to turn on the wall fan for white noise, and this little gizmo works like a charm. I would rather just replace the socket with a smart socket, but for now, this is my solution. I am super excited about where Belkin WeMo is going - I think this is going to be one of the big players in consumer-level home automation.
The link:

Belkin WeMo Light Switch

What is it? WISH LIST ITEM: I'll be getting it this fall for the fireplace. Right? Turn the fireplace on from the iPhone. I think the dream is the app where I hit "romance" and the lights dim, the fireplace blazes on, a little romantic music starts to go. I'm really hoping that Belkin WeMo makes dimmer switches at some point - if they did that, I think I might change out all the light switches in my house to these. For now, there are very few switches in my house without dimmers, and there doesn't seem to be any good consumer-level solution.
The link:

Chamberlain MyQ

What is it? Control your garage door from your iPhone! Seriously love this particular one where a neighbor calls to say I have a package, 'oh, let me open the garage door so you can put it in for me.' It also notifies me if the garage door is opened between 10pm and 8am - so I can know if someone is breaking in. As soon as I get the deadbolt on the inside door iPhone controlled it will be perfect way to get in and out of the house.
The link:

Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo

What is it? WISH LIST: iPhone-enabled cooking - I honestly don't know the value of having your slow cooker WiFi enabled, but it looks cool. This is a partnership with Crock-Pot and Belkin WeMo. Like I said, Belkin WeMo is going very cool stuff. At some point in the future we will have the Internet of things, and everything will be like this.
The link:

(Google Nest) Dropcam Pro

What is it? We put a couple of Dropcams into the house to spy on the babysitters. It's more like our home security system thingy kind of. I put one in the living room and one in the toddlers room. We pay the $7 a month to have Dropcam store a week of footage. The Dropcams have way WAY better night vision than our Motorola Video Baby Monitor, so now that the toddler is out of the crib and runs around his room, it's necessary to be able to watch him. The neat thing about Dropcam is that you can get push alerts when it detects motion or noise and it integrates with Nest so that that are alerts turn on whenever the thermostat is in away mode. This means when we go out of town and the thermostat goes away our phones tell us if there is every motion at home. Kind of a simple security system.
The link:

Logitech Harmony Smart Control

What is it? I've had an AppleTV forever - but an AppleTV cannot turn my television on/off, control the volume, switch on the Wii, etc. Many years ago I had real physical Harmony Remote and it was great. Seriously haven't you always wanted a remove your programmed on a website and then downloaded the a programmable rom into the remote? This latest toy is great: a hockey puck you set up near your entertainment system and it can send out infrared, bluetooth, and WiFi signals. I was very surprised when it did a bluetooth paring with the Wii to control that.
The link:


What is it? WISH LIST: iPhone-enabled Sous-vide cooker! A little bit like the crockpot, I'm not sure the value of having a sous-vide be iPhone enabled. I'm just really, really, really impressed with this particular machine. The best part is that it keeps the items inside refrigerated until it starts cooking. So throw tomorrows dinner in before you go to bed.
The link:

(Google) Nest Thermostate

What is it? This is the defacto standard in getting people into wiring up their home. Simple to install, simple to use, and replaces that hideous thermostat you are currently using. They're expensive, especially if you have multiple zones, but when we go out of town we turn it to away mode, and then when we start the drive home we turn it back on. I've also written some scripts against the private API so that in the summer it tells me when the outside is cooler and sends me a notification to close my open my windows. Slick, eh?
The link:

Rachio Iro

What is it? Control your sprinklers through the internet. It knows when it's going to blazing zone, rainy, cloud cover, etc. and can auto-adjust your watering schedule based on what you've got (lawn, fruit trees, etc). This is in its infancy, but I think there is a great potential. I'm happy to be along for the ride. I was completely expecting the sprinkler controller to be the next thing that Nest came out with, but on Nest's Christmas "cool things to buy" they lasted the Iro, so I assumed that means they are not in-development of the competing device.
The link:

TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulbs

What is it? Cost effective WiFi controlled lighting! Actually, Belkin WeMo should have WiFi lights out in late 2014 and that might be the smarter company to bet on - but hey, here's the deal: at night I climb into bed with the lights on and read. When it's time to go to sleep I need to turn the lights off without getting out of bed. You might think that a Clapper could solve this problem, but you're wrong, because the problem is that I do not live in space in the future. I kept looking at Phillips Hue light system but it's so expensive and I have no need to change the lighting color. When these came out for the Holidays at the end of 2013, I got super excited and bought them. They work exactly as advertised and are half the price of the Hue. I realized I could do my bedroom and living room the price of Hue in my bedroom.

I will say that I think the real solution to the problem is to have WiFi controlled dimmer wall switches, but as of right now, none of the consumer-grade companies make them. I am waiting.

The link:


What is it? "Vessyl is the smart cup that knows exactly what you're drinking." I'm not sure how to describe it. I have it on pre-order right now and it's not expected out until next year - but basically it you put all your drinks in it and it tracks what you're drinking. No more, no less. In theory it will keep track of caffeine, water, alcohol, etc. So always know how much of what you are drinking. It's ridiculous, but hey, why not?
What do you get? $10 off. It's currently pre-order for $99 and they expect to be selling them at $199.
The link: