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One Wi-fi-Controlled Lightbulb at a Time

The à la carte approach to smarting up your home.

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Illustration by Chris Dent  

1. The Dog Stalker
Swap out Buddy’s brainless collar for the waterproof Tagg Tracker ($100 at pettracker.com) to put an end to search-and-rescue missions. Using GPS and wireless technology, Tagg texts or e-mails you if your dog wanders outside a designated area, and then helps you locate him via step-by-step directions.

2. The Energy-Saving Outlet
Plug a toaster, blender, or other appliance into Visible Energy’s two-socket Monostrip* (from $49 at visiblenergy.com) to monitor and control energy use from your phone. That means programming the microwave so it only uses power when cooking and switching on your coffeemaker from the comfort of your bed.

3. The Remote Replacements
No need to keep track of 87 remotes anymore. If you have a TV that connects to the Internet or a streaming box like Roku, there’s a good chance you can toss at least one of them and download a free app that will turn your smartphone into a control. Samsung’s Smart View app allows you to simultaneously stream whatever you’re watching on TV onto your phone, so if you run to the bathroom, you won’t miss any of the action. Shout “Downton Abbey” at your phone, and the Google TV Remote app will pull up the episodes you’ve downloaded. And should you lose Roku’s teeny remote control to the bowels of your couch, its free app is a breeze to use, letting you play music and view photos on your phone through the television.

4. The Second Pair of Eyes
Place the sensor-equipped, Polaroid-size Twine device (from $125 at supermechanical.com) near any area you want to monitor, and like a more thoughtful nanny cam, it’ll e-mail, text, or tweet you when it observes something out of the ordinary—say, your laundry buzzer going off or, more ominously, a roommate snooping through your things.

5. The Philodendron Nurse
Stick the golf-club-shape Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor ($99 at smarthome.com) in the pot with your greenery to get regular updates on its temperature, light, and moisture levels. The device collects data, sends it to Koubachi’s servers to be analyzed, then reports back to your phone via a free app with care instructions—“Move the jade away from the sun” or “Fertilize the spider plant in two weeks.” Available in indoor and outdoor versions.

6. The Programmable Lightbulb
The LED Philips Hue Connected Bulb fits any standard socket; can be switched on or off and dimmed or brightened with the swipe of your iPhone/Pod/Pad or Android; and includes a free app that lets users change the light’s color without changing the bulb. Choose from romantic red, neon green, or one of 16 million other customizable hues, programming your favorites by room, time of day, and other willy-nilly specifications. The starter kit ($200 at store.apple.com) includes three bulbs and a ZigBee bridge that networks to a Wi-Fi router; extra bulbs are $59 each.

7. The Extra Set of Keys
Forget leaving spares with the deli around the corner. Lockitron, an all-in-one remote-controlled door knob, dead bolt, and buzzer (from $179 at lockitron.com), has an app that lets users lock and unlock doors remotely and share a virtual key with anyone on their contact list.

8. The Thinking Thermostat
Created by a former Apple designer, the sleek Nest thermostat ($250 at the Apple Store, 72 Greene St., at Spring St.; 212-226-3126) learns a resident’s temperature preferences, then saves energy by adjusting automatically based on the time of day and whether anyone is home. Once mounted on the wall, it can be controlled by hand or remotely via phone.

9. The Brighter Blinds
Home Motion by Somfy’s motorized window shades (price on request at Horizon Window Treatments, 133 W. 24th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-759-4111) are sensitive to temperature and light intensity, springing into action at different times of the day and helping reduce a household’s overall A/C and electricity usage. To operate it wirelessly via iPad or iPhone, users must purchase Somfy’s TaHomA home-automation system (from $2,500) or something similar.

What’s new with the old standbys?
10. Apple TV*’s set-top boxes ($99 at the Apple Store, 72 Greene St., at Spring St.; 212-226-3126) are becoming as ubiquitous as the flat-screens they control, but the latest version offers advanced picture quality—all the better for scrutinizing LuAnn de Lesseps’s pores. Not “smart” in the traditional sense, 11. iRobot Roomba 790 ($700 at hammacher.com), the newest kid in the robovac family, now has a wireless command center that lets users dictate its movements from any room in the house. It can even be programmed to steer clear of off-limits areas, like a nursery. Also not “smart” but actually really smart: the 12. Brondell Swash 1000 ($599 at Home Depot, 40 W. 23rd St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-929-9571), an electronic toilet lid that turns ordinary commodes into something out of Blade Runner, thanks to its built-in deodorizer and hyperadjustable nozzles.

*Compatible with iPhone only.


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