Child’s Play

A bright, colorful touchscreen is tough for any kid to ignore. And although they are meant to be touched, those eye-catching buttons can cause real havoc around the house when poked by the curious fingers of a 5-year-old. Unbeknownst to you, that little rascal has reset the thermostats and disarmed the security system. Given the amazing technical aptitude of most kids, he may have even discovered how to get at the R-rated movies you keep on your own DVR.

Feeling Appy

Have a smart thermostat? There’s an app for that. Has your front door been fitted with an electronic lock on the front door? You can control it from an app, too. Want to stream music to the loudspeakers in your house? Just peck at the app on your phone. It seems that for nearly any type of electronic component there’s an app that can be used to monitor, manage and control it. And, many of these apps can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet free of charge.

Feasibly, from one smartphone you could launch several apps individually to control electronic components throughout your entire house, and, in fact, some people are starting to do just that. But as appealing as it sounds to simply use an app to control the lights, another for the thermostat, and an app to operate the audio system, it’s far from being a perfect solution. For starters, it can be rather inefficient and awkward, requiring a user to launch one app to control a certain device, back out of that app then launch another app to control something else, and so on. Also, because each app was designed by a different manufacturer, you’ll be dealing with inconsistencies in the layout and look of the individual control menus and icons.

As you continue to grow your app-controlled house, you may get to a point where it would be more convenient, efficient and effective to unify all of the various apps under the auspices of a central home control system. The biggest advantage of laying a control system over the individual apps is the ability for the various components to seamlessly interact with each other. For example, one command from the central control app on a tablet could tell the lights, the thermostats, and the audio system to all adjust for your arrival home from work. Furthermore, various electronic components can be automated to self-regulate according to conditions like the time of day, occupancy in the home and even the position of the sun.

Another benefit is a consistent user interface, where the controls you see on your phone or tablet to monitor and operate the lights look similar to the controls you use to set the thermostats or security system.  This approach is often preferable as it facilitates a more seamless operation of the devices in your home. So before you load your phone with multiple individual app, consider the merits of tying them all together under the command of a central control system.