• U.S.

Wall-to-Wall Wiring

3 minute read
Lisa McLaughlin

Sci-fi films have always portrayed the house of the future with sleek lines and magically appearing appliances capable of performing the most onerous of household tasks with just the simple touch of a button or a voice command. And while there still may not be a way to get out of actually scrubbing your tub, smart-home technology is giving the homeowner a level of automation futuristic enough to make George Jetson envious. Technology research firm InStat/MDR predicts the global market will grow from its current level of $1.3 billion to nearly $10 billion by 2010. A recent study by the Z-Wave Alliance found 72% of Americans say they would like the ability to monitor their home when they are gone. Nearly 34% of builders offered automation capability in 2005, according to the National Association of Home Builders. But the real breakthrough is the widespread availability of new wireless devices that can be placed in strategic locations.

The new XANBOO AT&T Remote Monitor system allows you to view what is happening at home from afar on your computer or a Cingular wireless phone. For $200 to start up and $10 a month, you can watch your pets or spy on the nanny while you are at the office, or turn your lights on and off to make the home seem occupied when you aren’t there. You can turn your heat or air-conditioning on as you drive home. And the system can even be set to send a text message to your mobile phone if the motion sensors detect that a door or window has been opened or there is a water leak.

Worried that you left the iron on? iControl, which won the 2006 Electronic House Product of the Year Award for its system of cameras, sensors, lamp modules, thermostats and detectors, allows you to view live video and manage your utilities and appliances from a personal Web portal or any Web-enabled cell phone. The iControl starter kit costs $399, with a monthly subscription fee of $10. HomeSeer’s $200 Home Control Software 2 can create elaborate automated routines that you can then control remotely via a Web page and activate by voice or simply by sending an e-mail or a text message.

And while you’ll still have to do the folding yourself, Whirlpool is testing a line of “smart” washers and dryers, which enable consumers to monitor the status of their rinse cycle remotely and control the washer or dryer by computer or cell phone. But presumably it still takes a human hand to separate the lights from the darks.

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