Smart Homes, Smart Appliances On The Rise in Houston


From smart refrigerators to wall-mounted temperature sensors, new appliances and home technologies allow you to virtually manage your home via smartphone apps. Searching for a creative recipe to make use of last night’s leftovers? Forgot to adjust the thermostat when you headed out on the Katy Freeway for work this morning? Did your kids leave the garage door open again? If you own a smartphone, then the solution could be right at your fingertips.

Smart Home

The rise in these smart technologies comes on the heels of a spike in smartphone ownership. As of last September, 45 percent of American adults are smartphone owners, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And, since people carry their smartphones with them nearly everywhere they go, it can be easy for a smartphone to act as a central home control panel, integrating home management apps into a consumer’s regular app lineup.

John Burke, general manager of Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc., a company that builds technology for cable companies and wireless service providers, predicts that the rise of smartphone ownership, coupled with bundled service providers, will help spark the widespread adoption of smart home technologies.

“We’ve seen all the major operators in the Americas putting home security, control and monitoring in their offerings,” Burke said at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

As a universal control for home security and monitoring, a smartphone can manage everything from the garage door and the home security system to the thermostat in one easy-to-access place. Parks Associates, a consumer technology research firm, agrees, estimating that by 2014, more than 10 million U.S. households will have a remote home monitoring and control system.

Smart Appliances

Smart appliances are also on the rise, and will likely be key in making the smart home a reality. Here are some “smart appliances” that many gadget-geeks have been trying out in their homes:

Home energy monitors: Reliant Energy, a Houston-based company with roots that go back as the original source of the city’s electricity, gave away 10,000 e-Sense home energy monitors to customers in 2012. The monitors are designed to take the guesswork out of managing home energy costs, giving customers real-time information about their electricity use, which they can adjust to help manage their monthly bills (you can request a free monitor of your own here.)

The city of Houston’s Energy Day is another avenue to learn about energy, with exhibits highlighting energy innovations, efficiencies and conservation. It takes place later this fall, Oct. 19, downtown at Hermann Square in front of City Hall.
Smartphone-controlled garage doors: A two-way garage door opener, introduced by Sears’ Craftsman brand, connects homeowners with the garage door via their smartphones. A wireless router on the garage door communicates with a password-protected app on the homeowner’s smartphone, allowing the homeowner to see whether the door is open and how long it’s been open. A simple swipe across the screen can open or close the door.
Smart refrigerators: LG’s smart refrigerators can do just about everything with your food, other than cook the food itself. Using a camera phone, homeowners can scan a grocery receipt or product. The fridge’s computer then tracks its own contents and notifies owners when the milk is about to expire or what recipes (based on current ingredients) would be good for a family member’s high blood pressure. They can also connect with a smart home technology to be able to maximize energy efficiency.

Some homeowners are even turning to infrared technology to find out which parts of their homes are causing thermal leaks.

Early adopters are driving most of the interest for all these smart home technologies, but, given the pace of change with technology in our lives, it won’t be long before the smart home is a widespread reality.

What smart technology would you most like to see in your home?

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