Home automation has made our lives easier by giving us the ability to interact with our homes or automate things when we’re away. You can wire your home with practical necessities, such as automated heating and cooling systems, lighting, door locks and surveillance camera.
Of course, this has also opened the door for creativity and experimentation or, to put it another way, for bizarre gadgets and unexpected home automation applications. Some of these may make you say “why didn’t I think of that?” but the more likely questions are “who would use that?” Here are seven of those items.
1. Monitoring Eggs
By now, smart kitchen appliances are old news. Although still rare, and prohibitively expensive, and offering only a few extra features that most of us can live without. Luckily, we have the ingenious and visionary minds at Wink to give us essential products like the Egg Minder. This Internet-enabled egg tray not only knows how many eggs you have, but how old they are. And thanks to the integrated mobile app, the Egg Minder can give you that information whether you’re at home, at work or on another continent entirely.
2. Automating Piggybanks
There are affordable home automation systems for real people, and there are ridiculously expensive systems for people who have more money than they know what to do with. Either way, why not let your home automation system keep track of your finances? The Porkfolio won’t handle your long-term investment strategy or even help with monthly expenditures, but it can’t be beat when it comes to managing coinage. With sophisticated denomination recognition, you can track deposits and withdrawals of up to $100 in quarters. The Porkfolio also features built-in security and a mobile app to set financial goals and otherwise make sure that you’re always in touch with your piggybank.
3. Playing with Pets
If it involves the Internet, sooner or later there will be something about cute kitties. Home automation is no exception, and companies like Reach-In have developed ways to not just watch but play with your pets when you’re away from home. The iPet Companion uses a combination of video surveillance, small actuator motors and fluffy fuzzy pet toys to give you and your latchkey animals some virtual quality time together. The system has already been put to good use in several animal shelters, including one in Oregon that lets you try out the system for yourself.
4. Growing plants
Irrigation systems have been automated for a long time now, and marrying your smart outdoor sprinklers to your central home automation system is a no-brainer. But what about your poor house plants? You still have to wander from room to room and use your primitive human brain to determine if they’re getting enough water. The folks at Plant Link developed a modular, expandable, Internet-connected system that knows the difference between a fern and a cactus, and can notify you via mobile app whenever each one needs attention.
5. Monitoring plumbing
One of the main selling points of home automation is the outstanding potential for eco-friendly applications. Simply putting your lighting, heating and cooling on a basic automated system can save you money and give the planet some much-needed relief. Speaking of relief, how about a smart toilet? In theory at least, such a toilet could be a boon to green-minded homeowners by actively monitoring and adjusting water usage. In practice, you’d have to save a lot of water to offset the $4,000 – $6,000 price tag of most smart toilets and who doesn’t want a toilet that can be flushed randomly by hackers?
6. Watching over the grill
Most home automation technology falls somewhere between practical, daily systems (heating, security, irrigation, lighting, etc.) and items that you’d never need in a million years, even if they worked (most of the other entries on this page). Although the iGrillmini seems like a clear example of the latter category (no seriously, an Internet-connected meat thermometer?), it’s quite handy. Any self-respecting BBQ master knows that meat turns out best when you leave it alone as much as possible, and the iGrillmini lets you refrain as much as possible from poking, cutting, flipping or even opening the grill cover. And if you need to run to the store while cooking, you can use the mobile app to keep an eye on conditions within the grill.
There’s nothing really ‘bizarre’ about Donny Hackett’s automated installations, but they’re certainly not the kind of thing that you’d see in most homes. Take for example Hackett’s remote-controlled rotating floor, which transforms the perfect room for hanging out into the perfect room for watching films. You don’t even have to get up, just let the room move your seat from conversation position to home theater position. In fact, you don’t even have to be there. Everything is controlled with a touchscreen app. Add a trapdoor and some ill-tempered piranhas, and you have the perfect lair in which to trap that irritatingly persistent spy that keeps thwarting your schemes.
When you mention home automation to the average person, they’re still likely to imagine a not-too-distant-future in which we can interact with our appliances and leave the cleaning to the robot maid. Of course, that future is now and not just in the R&D labs at Google and Apple. In the real world, real people are currently doing amazing things with home automation, such as using Vivint‘s app to lock and unlock the door for the cleaners. The human cleaners, that is; your robot maid is still housebound. For now, anyway.
Written by Hillary Johnston
A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more