By Mike Elgan, Houzz
The idea of having sensors in your home to monitor environmental conditions sounds futuristic. But really sensors have been around for ages. Thermostats, thermometers and smoke detectors have been providing useful air sensing for a long time. What’s new is that the sensors are getting better and their usefulness is being improved by the Internet and smart phones.
Here are three new all-purpose air sensor products that keep you apprised of what’s happening with your indoor environment — all from your smart phone.
Spotter is an all-purpose indoor sensor package that includes readings for temperature, humidity, light, sound and motion. (Note: It measures motion of the device itself, not in the room.) It connects to the Internet through your home’s Wi-Fi network, and that enables you to control it from anywhere through a smart-phone app.
It’s designed to be mounted on a wall or door using screws, magnets or a sticky back, or simply placed on surfaces so that it can be moved around the house.
Once the Spotter is in place, a smart-phone app enables you to set up actions and alarms. For example, if it’s placed on a door, you can tell it to send you an alert when the door is opened. On the dryer, it can tell you when the load is finished. From the basement, it can tell you when it’s flooding.
The Spotter is a collaboration between GE and Quirky, a crowd-invention site.
The Netatmo Urban Weather Station is based on an interesting idea: that people want to know the weather both outdoors and indoors.
You can buy “stations,” which are small, sensor-packed devices designed for outside or inside use. The stations track temperature, humidity, air pressure, barometric pressure and CO2 levels, providing you with separate indoor and outdoor readings via the smart-phone app.
By placing several stations indoors, you can monitor individual rooms. You can also share your readings with family, friends or online networks, and track data over time.
Canary is another smart-phone-controlled, sensor-packed product for monitoring what’s happening in your home.
The Canary is different from similar products in that it has a video camera, so it can also serve as a security system. The camera has a wide-angle lens and night vision, and a microphone with it.
Also useful for security: It has a built-in siren. When it detects motion, harmful air quality or excess heat, it can wake everybody in the house. It can also send alerts or even call you or the people you designate in the app.
The Canary can learn what “normal” air conditions and temperatures are for a home, then you can set thresholds for being alerted when things deviate from normal.
The device also has an accelerometer (for detecting motion of the device itself), a motion detector (for perceiving motion in the room) as well as the usual range of sensors for temperature, humidity and air quality.
Some day, homes will have all kinds of sensors. But as this technology emerges from small startups or giant appliance corporations, today’s baby steps toward smart-phone-controlled devices can be useful, healthful and a lot of fun.
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