From the moment Stuart Forchheimer gets out of bed, often before 6:30 a.m., it’s all about technology.
Without lifting a finger, the kitchen lights come on and from the upstairs hallway an illuminated path downstairs is created. With a quick click on his cellphone, an entertainment system managed by Control4 streams music into the kitchen as he prepares breakfast. But the smart-home features don’t end there: “The automated shades are a big convenience, especially in areas that are difficult to reach,” he says. “You can easily press a button or put them on a schedule to open and close at certain times of the day through the Control4 system.”
Forchheimer should know: He’s president of HS Technology Group, a Baltimore-based technology integrator. But home automation isn’t only a matter of convenience in Forchheimer’s Timonium home—it’s also a tool for safety and security.
He has sensors that he can monitor from his phone that are connected to doors, drawers, and cabinets, so he can always know what’s going on at home.
Jay Steinmetz, CEO and founder of another Baltimore tech firm, Barcoding Inc., has a similar affinity for all things digital: His 1910 Mount Washington home is also fitted with the latest digital wonders.
Steinmetz’s front door automatically recognizes him and unlocks using the August Smart Lock. And with the Sonos music system, “a music alarm goes off to wake the kids in each of their rooms at 6:30 a.m. and turns off 30 minutes later to alert them it’s time to go downstairs for breakfast,” he says. His home is also connected with WeMo motion sensors that are attached to special light bulbs. “I can move anywhere in the house and the lights will come on when I enter the room,” he says.
We downloaded the brains of techies like these two to find out what’s hot on the market. Here’s our shortlist:
The Philips Hue White and Color starter kit allows you to sync your lights with your music and movies, or create the perfect ambiance for a romantic evening. Want it to appear you’re home during vacation? No problem: Up to 50 Philips lights and accessories can be added and controlled from your smartphone or tablet using the Philips Hue app. Starter kit $199.95.
This gizmo is a quick learner: It takes note of your habits and adjusts to your lifestyle. It notices when you turn the temperature down for bed and when you crank it up in the morning. After a few days, it will automatically set the temperature for you. It’s also energy efficient, saving on your BGE bill. $249.
With the Elite Series, connected by Wi-Fi, you can control garage doors from your smartphone. “There have been many times when I have left the door open, but I can easily close it from the app on my phone,” says Forchheimer. The MyQ technology allows connectivity from any smartphone, tablet, or computer. Along with the app, you will receive alerts about your garage-door status. Visit website to locate a dealer for pricing.
Forever misplacing your house keys? With the August Smart Lock, you can use your smartphone instead to lock and unlock your home. Installation is “unbelievably easy,” according to Steinmetz. “There’s no need to replace your lock.” It even allows you to create virtual keys for guests and can keep track of who’s coming and going in your home. So no one needs to leave a key under the mat when Nana comes to visit. Starting at $199.
This gadget and its accompanying app go a little beyond the typical sound system. “The Sonos music system can simultaneously play any song from any artists in any room in the house,” says Steinmetz. Using a third-party Sonos Voice app, you can also speak directly into your smartphone and it will act as an intercom throughout the speakers in your home. Products starting at $199.
This Belkin Wi-Fi-enabled switch uses your home’s existing Wi-Fi to control any electronic devices connected to the WeMo Switch. It also allows you to program triggers so your appliances will work without you having to even press a button. “I have a 106-year-old house and I attached my air conditioning unit to the WeMo plug,” Steinmetz says. “When the temp gets over 82 degrees, the WeMo plug turns it on,” says Steinmetz. You already have everything you need—just use this plug, download the WeMo app, and you’re all set. Starting at $39.99.