The smartphone is no longer just a portable computer in your pocket. It has become the remote control for your life.
Want to flip off the living room lights, unlock your front door, or get a reading of your blood pressure? All of this can be done through mobile apps that work with accessories embedded with sensors or an Internet connection.
For several years, technology companies have promised the dream of the connected home, the connected body and the connected car. Those connections have proved illusory. But in the last year app-powered accessories have provided the mechanism to actually make the connections. That is partly because smartphones have become the device people never put down. But it is also because wireless sensors have become smaller, cheaper and ubiquitous.
Big companies with strong brands have been heavily promoting the new uses for these gadgets. General Motors advertises its Chevy Malibu Eco with a man showing his parents how he starts the car with a smartphone. A major selling point of the popular Nest thermostat is its ability to turn up the furnace from miles away with a cellphone.
The idea of turning off the lights with a smartphone may seem gimmicky, but consumers are warming to applications, said Bill Scheffler, director of business development for the Z-Wave Alliance, a consortium of companies that make connected appliances. The situation resembles the time when power windows started catching on for automobiles, Scheffler said.
“It used to be that people would say, why does anybody want a remote control for a TV if you can get up and change the channel?’’ he said. “It’s just progress.’’ At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which has attracted more than 150,000 people last week, dozens of companies are showing off connected accessories they can hook up to their home appliances to make them work with smartphones, and many are also displaying wearable devices that can help people monitor their health on their phones. AT&T, the wireless carrier, said that in March it will begin selling a wireless security system called Digital Life that will allow people to use tablets or phones to monitor cameras, alarms and even coffeepots.
If a burglar trips a motion sensor in the house, for example, a user can receive a text message, then call the police. Customers can choose to expand AT&T's wireless service to appliances like lights, door locks, thermostats and security cameras, which can be controlled and monitored through the AT&T mobile app.
Ingersoll Rand, which makes industrial products, offers a $300 starter kit and software for people to connect their homes. It includes a lock, a light and a wireless ‘bridge,’ or base station, to connect the devices to the Internet. At the electronics show, IHealth introduced a wireless glucose meter, called the Smart Glucometer, that lets people with diabetes determine their blood sugar. A user puts a blood sample on a test strip, pops it into an accessory attached to a smartphone, and an app gives a reading of the blood sugar level. — New York Times News Service
‘The idea of turning the lights off with an app may seem gimmicky, but consumers are warming to it.’