September 28, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
It never fails. As soon as I’m in bed, I remember all the things I should have done before I hit the sack.
Things like checking the back door to make sure it’s locked, turning down the heat downstairs and shutting off the outdoor floodlights. It’s too bad I don’t have some sort of control device on my nightstand.
That way, I could just lean over, press a few buttons and take care of whatever needs taken care of. Unfortunately, I’m like the cobbler’s wife. I write about home technologies every day, but have not a stitch of it in my own house.
So what sort of device would I choose for my nightstand? Would it be a handheld remote control, a interactive touchpanel, a telephone or all three? Certainly not all three. My nightstand is cluttered enough as it is. Here are the pros and cons of using each device to “shut down” the house for bedtime.
Handheld Remote Control
To me, this seems like the most obvious choice. I already have a remote control to operate the TV in my bedroom, so why not use it to also control the lights, thermostats and door locks? Unfortunately, mine’s not smart enough to do this, but there are plenty of programmable universal remotes that can. I’d want something with a built-in LCD screen that could show me that the commands I sent were actually received.
The MX-5000 ($1,199) from Universal Remote Control offers this, and then some. The unit’s 2.7-inch screen can display the status of the lights, thermostats and other devices, so I’ll know at a glance what needs to be turned off or adjusted for the night. Even better, the remote provides haptic feedback, which means it confirms each button push by vibrating.
There’s only so much information the screen of a remote can display. A touchpanel would be a better choice if I’d like to get a quick rundown of what’s happening throughout the house. The screen can show me, for example, which lights are on, if the garage door is open or closed, and scads of other stuff.
Plus, unlike a remote, it can sit on the nightstand upright like a picture frame, so I won’t even need to pick up the device. The new ST-7 ($1,799; available early 2010) from Remote Technologies Incorporated even has a built-in intercom feature — a great way to call the kids up to bed.
A telephone system is another way to go. Most can function as intercom stations (nothing really new about that). But what is new is the ability for the telephone station to serve as a full-fledged home control device. I’m not talking about punching in codes to operate the lights; rather, the built-in screen of the phone displays a menu of control options.
Panasonic’s Communications Solutions Group has teamed up with home control manufacturer Control4 so that it’s system phone can present commands for operating the lights, thermostats, garage doors and other devices.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.