Every time we drive by one of the local parks, they girls comment on the fact that the merry-go-round isn’t there any more. One says to the other “I’m sad they took it out. It was fun.” The other replies “Yeah, it was. But it was dangerous.” So true. When I was a kid, we had jungle gyms, merry-go-rounds and tall, metal slides that kids could fall off of or at the very least, burn themselves on. We let lose on the playground and burned energy climbing, running and playing Cowboys and Indians.
Safety sure took the fun out of things.
Lots of things have evolved over the years. Take for example the latchkey kid. When I was about my daughter’s age, I remember being home by myself during the summer while my mom and dad worked. My mom explained to me at the time what a latchkey kid was. Children with working parents were given that name by the key they wore around their neck to allow them access into their own home when they returned at the end of the school day.
Those days are long gone. I don’t know any kids that carry keys with them any more. Most of us allow access to our homes via the keypad connected to the garage door. It was such a novel idea. My girls could open it and get into the house through the garage if they every arrived home while we were gone. Not only did they use it for that, they often used it to open and close the garage door all the time while outside playing.
Until it broke. Then we realized we had another opportunity to improve our connected home. We’ve been chipping away at it whenever we need to upgrade something.
I didn’t realize how much I was going to love having a connected home. It didn’t take long to figure it out! If you’re like us, we adjust our thermostat when we’re away for an extended period of time. We’ve come home in the winter to a house that was just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing. In the summer months, we would return home to a sweltering house holding at a temperature that melted any candy bars in the cabinet. The minute we would walk through the door we would adjust the thermostat to start getting the temperature back to normal. When we had the opportunity to make another advancement in the home automation arena, we installed a Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat.
Imagine you’re on your way home from a long trip and you just grab your iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6 paired with U.S. Cellular’s high quality network with national coverage, open the Honeywell app and tell it to have the temperature start working its way back to normal. A few hours later, you’re curious what temperature your house is at so you log on and see. That’s EXACTLY what we’re able to do. As a result, we are able to arrive home to a normal temperature! We can control the thermostat from our phones anywhere we have service.
Which leads us back to our discussion about latchkey kids. In addition to all the other security and comfort tools, we also have a modern-day latchkey option, a Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener. We’re able to open and close the garage door using a smart phone that has internet access or we can simply log on and check to see if the door is closed or open. Beyond that, we receive alerts when the status changes. So if someone opens the garage door – whether it’s the kids getting home from school or someone who isn’t supposed to be in our garage – we’ll know.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, crime rates increase more than 10 percent in the summer months. June, July and August are prime months as thieves watch for signs that home owners are away on vacation. While having a connected home doesn’t necessarily curtail the thieves from attempting to break into the home, it does alert us so we can take the adequate steps to notify authorities. It provides us with a great deal of peace of mind and it’s at our fingertips whenever we have internet access.
We aren’t alone, either. According to a recent U.S. Cellular survey, 45 percent of smartphone users have used connected home devices in the past month, and 29 percent use this technology daily.
There are a number of services available so you can find ones that work best for your personality. In addition to the ones we’ve implemented in our own home, Nest, Manything and Salient Eye are a few other optons.
- Nest is a family of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and apps lets customers maintain comfortable and efficient temperatures, and monitor safety of your home wherever they are. Smart devices enable you to manage air temperature so you come home to a warm house. You’ll be alerted if the carbon monoxide level builds up so you can take steps to keep your loved ones safe.
- Manything for iOS lets you remotely record and monitor motion in your home. Program your HVAC system to keep you comfortable when you’re home, and save you money when you’re away.
- Salient Eye for Android devices is similar to Manything, and turns your phone into a home security device. You can track motion, record video and opt in to alerts that let you know what is happening at home.
While I realize kids today miss out on a lot of the options I had as a child, they also are able to enjoy a lot of technology and peace of mind that we never had before. Having a connected home coupled with a quality smart phone with reliable service is worth some of the trade-offs.
What part of your home would you most like to have connected?