The future is here and, man, it is way better than I could’ve ever imagined when I was watching The Jetsons as a youngster. We don’t have a robot or flying cars, but something that I’ve been looking forward to the most has been installed in my house and I thought that would pretty much do me in the home technology excitement stakes.
I’ve been after the keyless entry you can get with your car for my house for ages – little did I know it was as easy as changing the lock.
There are several keyless entry locks on the market that you can purchase from different suppliers, and even from the hardware store. Some have fingerprint, RFID (radio frequency identification) and keypad accessibility, with the one I have also being programmed into a whole system which, frankly, leaves the excitement I had for keyless home entry in the shade.
I had no idea how cool a retro-fit home automation system would be from the point of view of adding functionality and ease to my life, but now, with all the systems installed, the benefits are plentiful.
First, the Nero system that links all the Clipsal Saturn Zen switches with all the new LED downlights, the Sonos sound system and my home security means that I have the ability to control the light levels in every room from my laptop, tablet or phone by simply moving a slide bar left or right. That sounds great as an end point but it’s just the beginning.
Instead of just transferring the manual controls you have on a switch to your phone, you can also group together these functions into scenes that tell your home to do specific things when you want to use it in different ways. Say, for example, you wake up in the morning and go about your daily routine. You get up, switch on your lights in the bathroom, turn on your favourite radio station or playlist, make your way to the kitchen and get ready for your day.
All of those things, rather than being separate steps you need to carry out, can be bundled together as a “wake-up scene” that allows you to press one play button and change the entire mood and function of your home’s sounds and lights.
If you want to create a different mood for a dinner party, you create a different scene. When you come home from work, do you want your house to receive you in a particular way by turning on your entrance lights, interior lights and even playing music to get you unwound after your day? Yep, that’s as simple as creating another scene.
The cool thing too with a “welcome home” scenario is that you can set up a “geo fence” around your house so it knows you’ve arrived – because you have your phone in your pocket. The cool stuff doesn’t stop there.
There’s the other cool app that complements the Nero app, called Push. It’s basically a simplified interface that points to the functionality of Nero but with a graphic interface. You look at your laptop/tablet/phone and press a button that has an Apple TV icon, for example, and your whole “watch TV” scene will run. This controls lighting, turns on your TV, Apple TV and sound system, and turns off any devices and settings from the previous scene you were enjoying.
A bonus of handing over the controls of your AV system to Push is that you can change channels and volume, choose TV channels and drive menu items in Apple TV, Netflix, Stan or whatever digital service you use, which means you do away with the need to run six different remote controls. The Push system runs on Wi-Fi, not-line-of sight infrared, to boot.
Mind-blowing stuff, and this is all retro-fitted to an existing home. And, as if that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, you introduce a little gal called Alexa.
Alexa is an Amazon echo and you can program her to do everything that Push does, but with a simple voice command. The real benefit of this becomes clear when you have lights on all over your home, several Sonos devices playing in different places and you’re running late.
All you need to do is say, “Alexa, tell home goodbye” and every one of the devices and lights switches off, leaving you free to rush out the door. And if, in your rush, you forgot to lock your front door, you can do that on the fly by simply checking in with Nero and sliding a button that gives you a satisfying red dot that says your house is locked up safe and sound.
Now how cool is that.
Darren Palmer is the author of Easy Luxury and HomeSpace (Murdoch Books, $39.99). Photos by Felix Forest.