Christmas has come a little early for the Denson-Mendez house. We do enjoy our toys and being big fans of technology we have embarked on a continual project to make our home (and in some cases ourselves) as high-tech as possible.
It started pretty slowly and almost inadvertently as any serious habit. About six years ago we ditched our flip phones for some Blackberry’s and when we caught ourselves waking up in the morning, not holding each other but holding our phones, we knew the trendiness of tech was here to stay. Three blackberry’s, four iPhones, and three iPads later, we have found our high-tech toys imbedded in our lives for good. There’s almost no separating us from our devices. At first I thought it was kind of sad to give in to the dark side of consumerism by buying the latest smart phone with each release. Not to mention the barrier devices create between people. But with some self-regulating, discipline, and realistic expectations it became pretty easy to stay connected without isolation or going broke.
Luckily we no longer feel the need to buy the newest smartphone or tablet at release. Especially if there are only minor improvements. But we did notice the more the technology progressed with each release, more and more personal devices were catching up to trending tech. I would have never expected to pay more than $100 for a scale and yet we did. At first I was intimidated by the Withings scale because of all of it’s promises to publicly announce my weight. But Kenneth convinced me the public shaming would somehow drive me to work on my/our weight. So far it has not. But I have to admit it’s pretty cool that it tweet’s and posts your weight to Facebook and Twitter. Because if I cared to work on my weight, it’d be nice to rub it in people’s faces.
But I digress.
When we bought our home three years ago, we wanted it to reflect our personal interests in color, art, and of course in technology. We were lucky enough that more modern appliances were already installed. The house came with matching chrome washer, dryer, refrigerator, and dishwasher probably no older than two years. And our living room had a flat screen wall mount placed above the fireplace, two home security keypads (living room and kitchen), and speakers installed in the four corners for a home theater. Now all of that is pretty amazing but we still wanted to make an effort to modernize our house even more.
We did some looking around the internet for ideas to automate our home. We found a few items but it was either too expensive, didn’t meant our requirements, or was too confined by the manufacturers design. So we decided to go piece by piece. We can already do some of the more “mundane” things with our phones and tablets like controlling our computers, the PS3, the Apple TV or the TV itself. With entertainment taken care of the first thing we updated were our light switches. It was cheap enough and easy to do.
Some stayed the traditional switches, but for rooms less occupied, like the bathroom or the kitchen, we installed two motion sensing light switches. They come on when you enter and turn off five minutes after inactivity. It seems like a simple update, and honestly, I’m a little surprised when guests get so excited by the idea of lights turning on by their presence.
While we were making those updates, we also included installing two different kinds of electrical outlets throughout the house. In the more populated areas, like the living room, we put in an outlet that has two USB charging ports (in addition to two electrical plug outlets) which eliminates the need for a charging brick that comes with your phone. The second kind of outlet we put in our hallway which has an electrical plug-in at the bottom and a light sensing night light on the top. This removes the need for an bulky night light like the kind that juts out from the wall and is constantly knocked out of the socket any time one of our animals runs by. Maybe that’s just us.
Then we upgraded our thermostat to the Nest learning thermostat, which, if you’ve ever seen the silly Matthew McConaughey narrated commercials, you’re already familiar with the now fun activity of turning on your air conditioner. It really shouldn’t be that fun, but seriously, the Nest’s sleek chrome design makes it a bit of a game. Not to mention, that with it’s wifi capabilities, you can control the thing from your smart phone or tablet. Which makes getting out of bed less of a need. I’m happy about that.
This year for Christmas, I bought my husband, who is so over the idea of keys, the Kwikset Kevo keyless deadbolt for the front door. If the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier, the Kevo serves as a prime example of just how helpful a a device can be. An unexpected byproduct of having one less key or even not carrying keys is a strange feeling of weightlessness. I typically place my keys half in my pocket and half out. This way, the jangle of the keychain against my thigh when I walk reminds me my keys are still there. Now I don’t have to worry about it. The deadbolt can be unlocked with our phones or by the proximity of our key fobs. This means, that my keys stay in my jacket pocket or my backpack and within a few feet the door recognizes the signal and unlocks with a flashing green LED light. It really is pretty cool.
That was his gift. My gift was a replacement for my now dead Up band, the Fitbit Force. As previously mentioned, I’m not too concerned with my weight, but I do find the calorie counter and pedometer to be interesting. I do, however, like that it keeps track of the time on LED display which most wearable devices, like the UP, do not. More importantly, for someone like myself who has serious sleep issues, it monitors your length and quality of sleep. Why is that important? Well, too much to get into here, so read this. But at the end and start of my day, I get a colorful, comprehensive read-out of my stats on my iPad, computer, and my phone.
The next thing up in home automation or tech improvement is up in the air for us. We’ve seen some of the more gimmicky things like this over-the-top light bulb, or this basketball, or anything G.E. and Quirky are putting out. But some these new things are impressive and get us tech nerds excited. Have you seen the Coin card? Or the Nest smoke and carbon monoxide alarm? Then there’s the Automatic driving assistant. It’s all very exciting to us.
Until we can settle on which belongs with us we will probably venture into Wemo territory. Wemo, as Kenneth assures (though I’m still skeptical), will allow us to further control our home’s smaller appliances. You can control the outside lights, lamps, ceiling fans, hell, even toasters and irons. Really anything that plugs into an outlet. Anything that lets me control my home while I’m in bed watching my fifth episode of Futurama is fine by me.
I’d love to hear some ideas as to which direction to go next. Maybe something for the car? I’d love to know what my animals are up to when I’m away. Feel free to leave a suggestion.