5 On Your Side

Smart phone users can control home functions remotely

Posted June 23, 2014

New controls that allow you to use a smartphone to check if the garage door is shut or the home security system is turned on are convenient and attractive to busy homeowners. But Consumer Reports found that the technology may not yet be all that’s promised.

There are products to manage lights, television and even window shades in a home.

User Daniel Hong thinks it’s a lot easier to refer to his smart phone in case he may have forgotten something.

“It’s just so convenient, and you don’t have to go back and say, ‘Oh, did I shut this light off,’” he said.

Consumer Reports tested the devices that connect wirelessly and found that there are several options. They range from lighting systems, electronic door locks, thermostats, generators and even wall ovens.

"What really gets your attention with these products is their cool features. So we're testing those features, but we also want to make sure it works at its basic functions," said Consumer Reports’ Celia Lehrman.

“That was a problem with the electronic door locks. You can use your smart phone or tablet to lock and unlock them, but none stood up to all of the break-ins,” she said.

An older yet reliable tool to prevent a break-in is the Medeco Maxum deadbolt lock.

The Nest’s Learning Thermostat has many innovative features but costs $250 and is harder to set up than others. The Venstar ColorTouch series costs $170 and has an easy set up.

As for lighting, the $200 Hue from Philips allows you to dim and change a bulb’s color. TCP lighting is easier to set up and costs just $50. It doesn’t let you to change colors, but you can dim the bulbs from your cell phone.

A connected home with an elaborate system like Daniel Hong’s costs $25,000.

“It’s fun to watch, but I’m not really sure that one-touch control is there yet for the average person,” Lehrman said.

Another thing to consider when debating on a connected home is the possibility that improper security settings on devices can allow hackers access to your home.

There’s been a reported case of a connected refrigerator that sent out phishing emails.

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  • annakilbo Jun 25, 2014

    Actually, there is a remote control deadbolt that used RFID and works well with someone's existing heavy- duty deadbolt; like Medeco's. I simply replaced the "thumb-turn" on the interior of my door, keeping my existing key, deadbolt, and matching handle-set décor. Now I can lock/unlock for 80' away just like encrypted automotive key fobs have for decades.

  • justiceforall Jun 23, 2014

    Hackers dream.