For someone that’s out of the house often and sometimes for extended periods of time, I’ve found that a lot of home automation products make it easy for me to keep an eye on the empty house. With a cluster of apps on my phone, I’m only a few taps away from seeing who’s at the door or being able turn off the A/C that I forgot to do before I left. I know there are still a lot of frequent flyers who have no idea what smart home products are, so I compiled this short guide to some of the benefits these products offer.
Don’t get me wrong, programmable thermostats are great and will usually get the job done just fine. However, if you’re like me, then you realize life doesn’t follow a ‘programmable schedule’. Instead life can get pretty busy at times and as small of an inconvenience as coming home to house that’s too hot or too cold is, it can be better.
Smart thermostats help to make this happen. While they look like a really fancy wall decoration, a smart thermostat like the Nest, gives you control over your home’s climate no matter your location. While I normally program my thermostat to be on while I’m at home and then shut off when I’m not, the Nest gives me control when I’m not on a normal schedule.
For the busy traveler this means you can set your home’s comfort level to be just right when you pull into the driveway. Other times, this will help you save some money on your energy bill when you’re sitting in the airport terminal and realize you forgot to turn off the A/C prior to leaving.
Ever since I decided to sign up for an Amazon Prime account my freshman year of college (6 months for free!!), I have renewed it every year since. In fact, I ended up getting an Amazon credit card (5% back on all purchases!), and have purchased more than my fair share of stuff. You almost can’t beat two-day shipping.
Anyways, what does my prime account have to do with a smart doorbell? Nothing really, but I imagine there is a fair share of people reading this who also have a prime account or frequently order from Amazon. With a video doorbell, like the one from Ring, you can get instant notifications for when someone is at the door and see a live video feed.
These doorbells bring all sorts of benefits travelers will appreciate. For one, you’ll instantly know when you receive a package. Ring doorbells, and many related products have a motion detector, which will alert you when it is triggered. This way, you’ll be able to call a friend to come get your package or at least have a video and evidence if theft is a problem around your home.
Secondly, a smart doorbell can make it appear as if you are home. A common tactic thieves use, especially if they’re aware you travel frequently, is ring the doorbell to see if anyone’s home. If no one shows, then they can confirm you’re absent to avoid confrontation. The Ring doorbell features two-way video and audio which allows you to come up on the screen and appear as though you are home. While you could be on the other side of the country, the two-way communication makes it appear you are there and at the least allows you to screenshot any suspicious people.
Growing up, my family always kept the kitchen lights on whenever we went anywhere in the evening to ‘make it look like someone was home’. My grandparents always have used a timer for their floor lights, so I guess it only makes sense that I thought scheduling my home’s lights through my iPhone was a splendid feature.
While a timer works great and is inexpensive, it can’t be randomized. This is the reason timers can fail you, if a would-be thief has been watching your house. Any time I’d drive by my grandparents’ house, I was guaranteed to see the living room light on if it was after 7:30PM. Don’t get me wrong, they were usually at home too, but if you’re not then the light can become very predictable.
With a smart plug, like the one from TP Link, or a set of smart light bulbs you can set them on vacation mode. Vacation mode is a feature that essentially randomizes when the light or power to the light, goes on or off. Thus, making it look more realistic that someone is home.
Lastly, if I can schedule my bedroom’s lights to come on 60 seconds before my alarm goes off, then it makes it significantly more difficult to sleep in. This helps to keep me in a regular schedule especially after being jet lagged or having my sleep schedule changed because of travel.
If you need to let someone in to feed your furry friend while you’re away, it’s a lot easier sending a 4-digit code through a text than it is taking a physical key. Virtually all smart deadbolts have a digital keypad on them, and apart from making it more convenient to get into your home, this allows you to have multiple ‘keys’. This way the babysitter, dog walker, house keeper, or whoever can have their own personal code to access the house. Each unique key will have its own history, so you’ll know who accessed your home and when.
Whenever you return, you can easily delete keys from the lock or create new ones as needed. A smart deadbolt really makes it easy to control who has access to your home and prevents people from duplicating your physical key.
I’m a huge fan of my smart deadbolt from the convenience alone. It’s never been easier getting inside with 25 bags of groceries!
Great Gift for the Holidays
If you have yet to buy a gift for the business traveler or tech lover in your life, then I would highly recommend picking up one of the items mentioned above. Apart from being a cool, new gadget, it’s a practical item he or she will get use out of. Setting up and installing any of these items is cake, and if you do run into trouble, there are plenty of YouTube videos that can help with the process. If you still end up having trouble, the customer service department is only a call away.
Also published on Medium.