11 Household Objects That Just Got Smarter

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Wonder what your smartphone has done for you lately?

The ubiquitous consumer device has infiltrated a surprising number of household objects, from front doors to vacuum cleaners.

While not everything makes sense (a Smartphone toaster? Won't the toast get cold if you're nowhere near?), smartphones and their accompanying mobile apps have let nearly no household object go untouched. Take a look:

The Front Door

After buying a car with keyless entry and a push-button start, I anxiously awaited a similar system for the front door. It's time -- and boy, has there been an explosion. The Bluetooth-based keys and door locks are dominated by startups like Lockitron, August and Goji.

But Kwikset recently jumped in with its touch-friendly Kevo. The door lock senses when a Bluetooth-linked smartphone or key fob is near and unlocks the front door. No longer must one fumble to find keys in a purse or pocket. These systems also use a smartphone to allow entry to certain people (friend or cleaning service), get an alert if the door is unlocked and let you know when its battery is dying.

lockitron.com, august.com, gojiaccess.com, kwikset.com/kevo

The Doorbell

DoorBot adds another layer of smartphone app to the home by acting as doorbell and security camera anytime someone pushes its button. While it won't unlock the front door (DoorBot actually teamed with Lockitron to do that), it will stream a live video to your smartphone so you can see and interact with the person who just rang.

getdoorbot.com

The Coffee Maker

Controlling the coffee pot with an iPhone seems silly. But have you seen Scanomat's TopBrewer? This svelte faucet with under-cabinet machinery makes a barista-worthy cup of espresso, cappuccino, macchiato or cold chocolate milk. It grinds beans, froths milk and mixes the ingredients with the touch of a smartphone button. Plus, it cleans itself up after every serving. The luxurious device may be just a wish-list item because of its $10,000 price tag, but it sure would come in handy at the office. Plus, it's less wasteful than K-Cups.

topbrewer.com

The Vacuum Cleaner

The ability to program those round, robotic vacuums to clean when you're not at home already exists. But that hasn't stopped vacuum manufacturers from creating mobile apps to program cleaning on the fly. LG Electronics' latest Smart Hom-Bot Square adds a smartphone app to control the little cleaner when you just can't find the remote that came with it. One true added benefit of an app-controlled vacuum? Diagnosing mechanical difficulties and upgrading its software.

lg.com

The Lights

I still like the idea of clapping your hands to turn off the lights but other than on and off, The Clapper doesn't do much else. Philips' ( PHG) Hue series of light bulbs have wireless built into them so they can be controlled and programmed by a mobile app. You can do things like dim the lights, switch colors or check if lights were left on while on vacation. The latest version of Hue can be set to turn off lights when you leave the house and allows users to create "recipes," like making the lights blink when dinner is ready.

meethue.com

The Thermostat

The Smoke Detector

Nest took its design ethics and tackled the smoke detector, a device fraught with false alarms, low-battery chirps and safety issues since many take out the batteries just to get the darn thing to shut up. Nest Protect, which is a smoke and carbon-monoxide detector, tells you audibly or on a smartphone what room the smoke is in and, if the smoke doesn't dissipate, sets off the alarm. If it's just smoke from cooking, you can wave a hand past it to hush it up. Smartphone notifications will let you know when a battery runs low and, most importantly, which detector needs changing.

nest.com

Nest also got the thermostat right back in 2011 with an updated modern look and extremely simple programming. Most important, it learns how home dwellers live -- when they like it toasty and when they prefer to chill. All can be controlled on an iPhone. But Nest wasn't alone. 3M ( MMM) launched its smartphone-controlled Filtrete Wi-Fi Touch Programmable Thermostat back in May 2011. More recently, Honeywell ( HON) added its own app-controlled Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with voice control, so you tell it, "Make it warmer" to bump up the heat.

nest.com, wifithermostat.com

The Sprinkler

A new breed of app-controlled sprinkler systems has taken design cues from Nest and integrated the utility of automation, simple set-up and conservation. The Greenbox and Rachio's Iro are box-shaped controllers that replace existing overly-complicated controllers. Both link to a smartphone. Programming is intuitive, more like a touch-and-slide approach rather than configuring a knob with too many numbers on it. These smart controllers also consider current weather conditions and, of course, can be controlled away from home. Both companies are taking pre-orders.

greenboxhq.com, rach.io

The Wall Outlet

Belkin added more thoughtfulness into its latest WeMo Wi-Fi switch, a little wall wart that fits into any electrical outlet in the house. Besides offering the ability to turn whatever is plugged into the outlet on or off with an app, the WeMo Insight Switch can be set on a schedule and monitor energy use, showing homeowners how power-hungry devices are and their impact on the monthly bill. You can plug non-smart devices into the Switch as well, such as the washer and dryer to get an alert when cycles are done, or the TV, in case someone left it on during homework hour.

Belkin.com

The Refrigerator

Companies have been working on smarter refrigerators for years. But I'm too lazy to scan in every item so the fridge can text me later when something's out. However, Whirlpool's ( WHR) Smart Appliances added something actually useful to its new lineup. The Smart Side-by-Side Refrigerator minds the electric company's peak hours to conserve energy and save power-hungry chores like running the defrost cycle for off-peak hours. It'll also send a text if someone left the fridge door open. (I'm hoping they're working on my suggestion for the app to also physically nudge the door shut remotely.)

whirlpool.com/smart-appliances

The Garage Door

If you're prone to leaving the garage door open after you've driven away (and don't want to call your neighbor to close it again), The Chamberlain Group is getting ready to launch its MyQ Garage Control on Nov. 1. The wifi hub and sensor attach to a garage door and its opener. From your phone, you can quickly see if the garage door is open and you can command it to close from anywhere. If someone is in the garage, an audible warning goes off first. The system will also send an alert to your smartphone whenever the garage door opens.

myqhome.com

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Tamara Chuang is an outside contributor to TheStreet. Her opinions are her own. Email her at news@tamara.net

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