Apps, Gadgets and Gizmos to ‘Smart-Up’ Your Home

When I want to know what the weather is like outside, I look out my window or open a door. My husband, on the other hand, is a weather gauge freak. He’s addicted to the latest and greatest digital thermometer with high-definition screen graphics displaying cumulous cloud formations, wintery snowflakes or sun icons. The only thing this gadget doesn’t do is pick out your clothes to wear for the day.

I’ve been researching smart home products and apps (some helpful and some that make me scratch my head and say, “Seriously?”). But as art – like beauty – is in the eye of the beholder, my perception of necessity may not be the same as yours. So for those of you who can’t wait to try the latest gadget, read on.

Let’s start by entering and leaving your castle.

Kevo™ Smart Lock by Kwikset®

With the Kevo app configured on your cell phone, you can simply touch the screen to lock or unlock your front door. Battery dead on your phone? The Kevo package includes a key fob and two keys. An additional eKey is automatically added to your Kevo account and access can be sent to your spouse or kids with Kevo compatible smartphones. You can also monitor who comes and goes.

What’s that musty smell?

Wally™ Home Sensing Solution

Have an older home built on a floodplain or a vacation home that can be subject to water leaks while you’re away? Wally uses the walls and existing wiring of your home to create a sensor network. It alerts you to water leaks as well as fluctuating humidity and temperature levels.

Mmmmm, actually, it smells good in here. What’s cooking?

Belkin Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker©

This smart slow cooker (available this spring) can be turned on and off, and the temperature can be adjusted, with the WeMo® app. You can also have it alert you to the cooking time remaining or when it turns off.

IVATION Long Range Wireless Digital Thermometer Set

Whether you’re barbecuing or roasting something in the oven, feel free to wander away while your food’s cooking. This remote smoker/grill/oven thermometer will attach to your belt and allow you to roam up to 300 feet away, and will beep and flash if your food temperature falls above or below what you’ve programmed.

Ugh, I ate too much…

Smart Weigh Scales

This contemporary and sleekly designed scale measures body weight, body fat, body water, and muscle and bone mass. The large LED display will prevent you from squinting and asking yourself, “Am I reading that right?” Think it’s time to weigh your food instead of yourself? The Smart Weigh Scales line of products includes kitchen, postal and luggage scales.

Where is everyone?


Since “Big Brother” sounds a little daunting,’s Mother is a more genteel title for this sensing device that can be placed anywhere in the home to monitor movement in the house, among other things. Just affix small motion cookies (yes, they are shaped like cookies) wherever you want to sense motion. Receive a notification when your children return safely from school (or know the real time your teen returned home last night). Or monitor the temperature of various rooms of the house (or the fridge, in case of an outage). You can even measure the quality of your sleep and be woken up gently at a set time. Now isn’t that what mothers are for?

Who let the dogs out?


The Tagg mobile app can track your pet’s location and activity levels. Need to hop in your car and scout the neighborhood for Fido? Tagg will give you directions to his exact location. Are you sending him to a kennel and wanting to keep track of his activity level? You can get 24/7 tracking data to see how much activity he’s really getting.

Don’t wake the baby!

Baby Shusher™

iTunes App (or Stand-Alone Product)

I was once interviewing a local photographer who specializes in children and babies. I was amazed at how peaceful her infant subjects were. One trick up her sleeve was the Baby Shusher app on her phone. It was literally a “shush” sound that engages a baby’s natural calming reflex by reminding them of still being in the womb. Alternately, the Baby Shusher also comes as a battery operated, stand-alone product ( I may just buy it for my own insomnia.

Keeping up with the Joneses.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler™

Is your neighbor’s grass greener on the other side? Unlike manual sprinkler timers, the Rachio can be programmed to run only when water is needed (and not when it’s raining). Their smart irrigation system controller, Iro, can maintain your watering schedule and reduce your water bills.

For you over-the-top enthusiasts and geeks at heart.

littleBits™ Electronics

You’ve got a scathingly brilliant idea about something you want to automate in your home, and you’re a do-it-yourselfer. Their Smart Home Kit can turn any object into an automated device. If you like to play with electronics, their magnetic, snap-together modules will leave your imagination running wild. Create a pet feeder, have your curtains open at sunrise, or get alerted when your dog is barking.

The whole house and nothing but the house.


Want to skip all the individual products and invest in the whole kit and caboodle of smart-home products? You can invest in a variety of SmartThings kits for your needs. Lighting, energy saving features, home security, thermostats, motion sensors, etc., can be purchased in one kit.

Written by: Catherine DeCenzo is an independent professional writer who has a penchant for the humorous side of life on her blog, Cat’s Out of the Bag, at A former women’s lifestyle magazine editor and contributor, an archive of her articles can be found on her LinkedIn page. She can be reached at [email protected]

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