Sure, we've been told that ubiquitous computing is just over the horizon for decades — at least since the days of The Jetsons. But over the past 12 months, the Internet of Things has come of age, from smart fire alarms to app-controlled door locks. If you're looking for a gift for the resident home automatist in your life, here are 11 gifts to get you started.
If you (or your wallet) aren't quite ready for Twine, try Quirky's new Spotter: It's pretty much foolproof, as sensors go, letting you set up text and email alerts for any number of events—including things like motion (when your door opens or closes), heat, sound, and light.
The smartlock is still an emerging type—many of the most-hyped are still currently on pre-order or Kickstarter. But if you're ready to jump into app-controlled home security, check out Kwikset's Kevo. This e-key gives you three separate ways to access your house: An iOS app, a fob, and a traditional key (read Andrew Tarantola's review here). The Yves Behar-designed August is also a good name to look for—though it won't launch until next spring.
Cars had been marginally left out of the ubiquitous computing movement—until Automatic entered the picture. This personal-driving-assistant app taps into your car's onboard computer to make you a smarter driver. How? It emits a subtle ding when you're needlessly wasting gas, and it analyzes your driving data to let you know how to improve. It also keeps track of where you park, monitors your car's health (and tells you what to do if something goes wrong) and alerts 911 if you're in a crash. I had a chance to try it when it was released last year—it's an amazing subtle and useful little system.
The Good Night Lamp
This Kickstarter success story is deceptively simple: It lets people communicate across long distances ambiently, using a network of cloud-connected lamps. Here's how it works: When one person turns on their light, an identical one goes on wherever the other person is located. You could have one at work and one at home—turn it off to let your partner know you're on your way back. Or you could give one to each member of your family—a simple way to say "hello" and "goodnight" to far-flung loved ones, without a text or a call.
Philips' well-reviewed Wi-Fi system lets you control the, uh, hue of your homes' LED bulbs from your smartphone. The starter kit comes with three of the smart bulbs, plus the Hue "bridge," a wireless hub that serves as a connector between your phone and up to 50 Hue bulbs.
The makers of Twine—Supermechanical—are releasing their second product this year: An iOS-linked thermometer called Range that's designed to put an end to the imperfect reign of the kitchen thermometer. Its silicon-tipped probe can deal with temps as cold as -40 degrees and as high as 450, all while letting you track the course of a dish with a beautifully-designed little app.