Thanks To iPhone, The Revolution In Home Automation Is Nigh! (No Really, This Time It is) [CES 2014]

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Nexia’s Matt McGroven says his company’s app makes home automation appealing to consumers, not geeks, and soon we’ll all be controlling our homes from iPhone screens.

CES 2014 bug LAS VEGAS — We’ve heard the same story for years: the revolution in home automation is just around the corner! And yet, despite the hype, it still hasn’t arrived. But talk to vendors at CES, and they say it finally is just around the corner — thanks to the iPhone.

The iPhone finally gives ordinary consumers a bunch of good reasons to automate their homes, beyond the geeky thrill of turning on the sprinklers from the couch. For example, it can alleviate the universal anxiety of worrying about the stove when away on vacation. Paired with a connected-range (there are several on show here at CES), your iPhone can you tell you if the oven is on, and then let you switch it off.

The best evidence that home automation has arrived is that the nation’s home builders are finally including home automation technology in many new homes as standard. Lennar Homes, the third biggest home builder in the US, is making home automation standard in more than 20,0000 new homes this year, said Matt McGroven, marketing leader of Nexia, a San Francisco-based home automation company.

Nexia makes an app that works in conjunction with a Home Bridge (Amazon ($49.50)) and service ($9 a month). With 70% of users on iOS, Nexia controls a wide range of automated products, from nannycams to lighting, locks, thermostats, and dozens of others.

“You can do a bunch of cool and genuinely useful things,” he said.

With the growing internet of things — everything is getting connected, from locks to fridges, ovens and even crockpots — users will be able to do things like pre-heat the stove on the way home with a frozen pizza. McGroven acknowledged that it sounds silly and trivial now, but will soon become universal and second nature. Especially with better software.

The Nexia app, for example, includes preset buttons for “home,” “away” and “vacation.” It turns off the lights, locks the doors and turns down the thermostat with a single click. Extra buttons are easily customized for things like “movie night” or “date night” — you can guess what that might entail.

The Nexia app also has an easy-to-program system that uses an “if this, then that” schema that can be strung together into complex sequences of actions.

“Our strength is depth,” said McGroven. “It’s a crowded market, but our competitors are only about breadth. We’re go to a much greater depth.”

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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