Is it just me, or is it getting hot around here? After every winter, without fail, I manage to forget that the warm-up to summer always feels worse than it actually is. Thankfully, it’s 2015 and there are a number of technologies to keep me comfortable while I acclimatise. In fact, we’ve never had it so good – given how far we’ve come from fifty years ago, it really feels like we’re in a fine-tuning stage of innovation to make our lives as convenient as possible.
Sadly there’s still no retail presence for some kind of personal fly-murdering force field to follow us around (I’ll take the heat over those tiny terrors any day) but there’s plenty of other great ways to keep both your temper and your temperature down this summer.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an Australian home without air conditioning, but the big concern is how much it costs to run over the summer. If you leave that thing running while you’re at work or forget to set a timer, it adds up pretty quickly on your next power bill.
Manufacturers like Samsung and LG now have “smart” models of air conditioners available, or offer WiFi control as an optional extra. These features allow you to not only control your air con over your home WiFi, but also log in over any internet connection.
Forgot to flick the switch because you were too focused on herding the kids into the car for the school run? No problem: just whip out your smartphone’s app and check over your 3G/4G connection for total peace of mind.
Better yet, if it’s been a real scorcher of a day and you’d rather not go home to a hot house, log in remotely 1-2 hours beforehand to get your home cooled down in time for your arrival. Program it to turn off a few hours before bedtime and boom – you’ve run your air con for the same length of time while reaping maximum temperature benefits.
DIY Smart fridges
What else is cool in appliances? Fridges and freezers, of course! There will no doubt be some days where you’ll wish you could climb inside yours, but that might not be too safe. Instead, why not focus on how home networking can save you some stress in the kitchen?
Internet fridges aren’t that new. The first one came out in 2000, but its features were a far cry from the futuristic Artificial Intelligence seen in sci-fi flick The 6th Day. It also had price tag that was, uh, spine-chilling, to say the least. The first few smart fridges flopped on the Australian market due to lack of sales and few people have been keen give it another go since, which is fine. We don’t need them to.
Grab yourself an iPad or Android tablet (or even just your smartphone) and an appropriate adhesive wall-mount and you’re good to go. Once you’ve connected the device to your home WiFi, it’s just a matter of installing the right apps to suit your needs. Like some entertainment while you cook? Spotify and Netflix have got you covered, not to mention the myriad of free-to-air shows available through a web browser including TENplay, 9Jumpin, Yahoo7 TV and ABC iview.
There’s plenty of kitchen-y apps available too. Food Saver Lite (iOS) and Best Before (Android) are apps that help you keep track of what’s in your fridge and remind you when it’s getting close to the expiry date. If you’ve got an ingredient that needs to be used up ASAP, look up a recipe that uses it in Copy Me That (iOS) or Chef Tap (Android). If you’ve run out, the apps can also help you make a shopping list, or you can make use of the online shopping and home delivery offered by the big supermarkets – we didn’t have those services in 2000!
With these and other cooking utility apps like Kitchen Units (iOS) or Unit Converter (Android) you’ll soon have a highly useful addition to the kitchen. And just as an added bonus – unlike a fridge, you can pop the tablet out of the case and take it somewhere else whenever you please.
It’s all in the utilities
Given how costly smart appliances can be for companies and consumers alike, it won’t be surprising if tech trends turn towards taking control at the source of the home, which means the power grid. With one of the main draws towards the technology being energy efficiency, it makes sense to get a central hub device to monitor and manage the power being used by anything that’s plugged in.
We already have WiFi power sockets; the real challenge will be achieving universal compatibility to allow your lights, appliances, entertainment system and perhaps even locks to be controlled by the same system. Right now it’s possible but costly, with extensive cabling work required and a small selection of devices that will work together nicely.
Ideally we’ll soon reach a point in the market where most devices can be connected to a home network without too much fuss. There’s no point embracing home automation if it isn’t going to be straightforward for the user, after all.
Luckily we live in a world full of bright sparks who relish in sorting out the kinks of new tech, so more affordable solutions should be on the cards for the near future. Until then, I’ll be keeping my air con on a tight schedule and sipping a mojito courtesy of a recipe I found online.
How do you keep cool in the summer? Let us know in the comments.