6 Home Automation Gadgets to Smarten Up Your Small Business
There are a lot of correlations between running a small business and running a home. In many ways, a home is a small business (just without the profit part). You already know that advances in home automation technology can save you a bundle on your home’s utility bills, so why not apply that same technology (and money savings) to your small business? Whether your home is already fully automated, or you haven’t even started considering how to put the Internet of Things to work for you, consider incorporating one or all of these connected devices into your small business to save money, add convenience, and increase security.
1. Smart Thermostat
The most talked about piece of smart home equipment is a natural solution for small businesses, too. An intelligent thermostat will regulate the temperature in your business automatically, helping save money on heating and air conditioning costs.
Labeled “learning thermostats,” these products from Nest and Honeywell are taking the concept of programmable devices a step further, by removing the programmer – you. Instead they learn your routines and set the temperatures accordingly. They also use geo-fencing to know when a space is empty and when to turn things down. You can also adjust these smart thermostats remotely via your smartphone.
Currently the choice is between stylish simplicity with a Nest ($249) or fully-featured with Honeywell’s 7-Day Wi-Fi Smart Programmable Thermostat with Voice Control ($299). The voice control allows temperature settings to be adjusted by talking to the thermostat. It will also answer questions such as: What is the time? What is today’s date? What is the temperature outdoors? Not strictly necessary, but pretty awesome.
2. Smart Lights
Smart light bulbs offer convenience and energy savings. Install a smart LED bulb starter kit such as the one offered by TCP, and you can have your entire work space illuminated by low-energy-use LED light bulbs that you can program to turn on and off at specified times, and control remotely. A starter kits runs $109 for three bulbs, a remote control and a gateway to connect them all. You can add up to 250 bulbs to the gateway at $17 each, so outfitting a small business won’t break the bank. The bulbs have an estimated lifespan of 23 years and use 85 percent less energy than a standard incandescent, so they quickly pay for themselves, plus you can control your lighting and dimming from anywhere.
3. Smart Power
The ability to turn electronics on and off remotely is one of the core conveniences offered by home automation. Plugging devices essential to your business into a Belkin WeMo Switch ($49.99) or a Wink Pivot Power Genius ($79.99) can easily achieve this, while providing peace of mind and money savings.
Attached to these smart power sockets, devices can be programed to switch on and off at pre-set times or controlled remotely via a smartphone app. Wink offers two smart outlets in its six-socket strip (the WeMo just has one). However, you can attach a motion sensor to a WeMo switch ($99.99), enabling you to use motion to turn your electronics on and off.
4. Smart Locks
Smart locks are a natural fit for a small business, especially one that has seasonal employees or contractors continually needing access. High-end smart locks will let you assign e-keys, allowing access to the holder at a certain time or for a certain period. They are easy to revoke, meaning that when an employee leaves you don’t need to change the locks.
Kwikset’s Kevo ($219) is one of the best currently on the market, however it is limited to iPhones, but you can also use key fobs. The August smart lock ($199 with pre-order), which debuts later this year, is compatible with iOS and Android, plus it attaches to your current door lock making installation very simple. Its features include notifying you when someone enters or leaves and automatically locking when the door closes behind you.
The Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt ($199) doesn’t need a smartphone at all; it works via a touchscreen keypad. Plus, if you purchase a Nexia Home Intelligence system ($79.99) you can schedule lock codes to be active only on certain days and at specific times. It also has a built-in alarm and you can receive text messages when it is triggered or when specific codes are entered.
5. Smart Floors
Cleanliness is crucial for productivity, and in a small business we all know how much appearances matter. So it follows that by adding a robotic floor cleaner to your employee roster you will not only save time, but see an increase in profits. Because, what customer doesn’t appreciate a well-kept shop?
Just pop an iRobot Braava Floor Mopping Robot ($199 – $299) down and let it do its work two or three times a day — far more than you would likely ever manage. It promises to systematically cover your entire floor in a single pass, using disposable or microfiber cleaning cloths to pick up dirt, hair and dust from any hard surface. It’s also super quiet, making it suitable for any space where serious work is being done.
6. Smart Security
Save yourself a bundle on a monthly-fee-based security system by installing wireless cameras such as those made by Dropcam ($149 – $199) to keep an eye on your business yourself. Most wireless camera systems offer simple set up. Just plug in and connect, and you have the ability to stream live video via a computer, smartphone or tablet, use DVR playbacks, and operate with sound and night vision, and motion activation. However most are rated for indoor use only. If you want to keep an eye on the inside and the outside, consider a camera such as the Insteon Wireless 700TVL Indoor/Outdoor Security IP Video Surveillance Camera ($119).
Jennifer Tuohy is a tech aficionado who writes for The Home Depot about technologies that can help entrepreneurs save time and money. The home automation products Jennifer talks about in this article can be found on The Home Depot website here.