Best Tech Gadget of 2013

Every year around this time I always take some time to reflect back on the year. Many times there was something brand new that I added to my gearbag like a new flash trigger or lens or even a new software to help my workflow go better. I think this is the first year that I didn’t need to add anything to my photo arsenal and for my workflow have a pretty nice flow now that I love. What really stood out from everything for me this year were 2 items that I picked up to help automate the home. It’s an area that I think is so cool and we really haven’t scratched the surface yet with what we can do combining our household items, the web and apps to make things work together more seamless. I remember watching cartoons like the Jetsons and movies like back to the future and always being so intrigued by some of the futuristic gadgets.

This year my top tech items were the Nest and the Belkin Wemo. I am sure you have all heard of the Nest and many of you the Wemo as well so won’t spend a ton of time diving into every detail. Here are my overall thoughts with the 2 devices, if you have any comments or would like to start up a conversation just leave a comment below:

Nest Thermostat

I am big into saving energy and somewhat of a green person. With the cost of energy always rising I’ve been looking around for any little or big ways to keep energy costs down. But with that being said I always love a nice temperature in the home and the thermostat is one of those things that I would set and forget about. I might leave the house for a few hours and come back to realize that I left the AC on the whole time and was wasting money. One of the biggest features that I loved about the Nest is it learned from our first few days of usage like when I woke up in the morning would set the temp to 68 degrees and then about an hour later set it lower for awhile. It created a schedule based on our usage that runs automatically now so I don’t even have to worry about changing the thermostat. Also if I leave the house on a different schedule the motion sensor can tell that nobody is home and shut off automatically. All of this can be controlled by the iPhone app they have so it makes things really easy to adjust things while on the go. Since so many of us are always running around trying to get things done this is pretty helpful to always have access.

Another cool part about the Nest is it gives you insights into your engery usage. We all get that dreaded energy bill every month and it goes up and down but many times you can’t point your finger on exactly what caused an increase. At least now with the Nest you can view your heater and AC usage on a daily basic so you can see when you are being efficient and when you aren’t. Also since everything is tracked you are much more aware of your usage and make a more conscious effort to keep the heat just a little lower. It’s really helped me so far not waste as much energy as I used to.

The Nest also has a little Leaf that appears on the screen when you are saving at least 5% energy, so I find myself turning down the dial to hit that little leaf mark as another incentive to save a bit. It’s only been a month since I have been using the Nest so I can’t say for sure how much energy I have saved but I bet it will make a pretty big difference. To top it off the design is so darn cool, I couldn’t go back to a plain old white thermostat again 🙂

The setup was a lot easier than I thought. In all in took about 10 minutes from unpacking the box to being fully setup, it was very intuitive and the setup of the settings and app a breeze. Other companies should take a lesson from the smooth process that Nest has!


Belkin Wemo Light switch

This was another little device I picked up on a whim. I was in line at the home depot and they had 2 Light Switches at the register on sale for $10 off. I picked up one out of curiosity and it turned out to be a very cool item. There are a few different types of these, one you can just plug into a wall socket and then plug anything into the device. It connects to your Wifi network and the Belkin Wemo app which allows you to turn on or off the lights. What got me interested though is the automations. You can hook it into IFFTT and have it turn on or off at certain points.

I setup one of the wall switches to replace the on/off switch for our outdoor lights. I would always forget to turn them off in the morning and wouldn’t notice they were on during the daylight so energy would be wasted with these lights running all day. Now the switch connects to a weather database and every night at Sunset turns the outside lights on. Then at sunrise it turns them off. Nothing to do and just like the Nest if I want to adjust them manually I open up the app on my iPhone from anywhere and with a tap can turn the lights on or off.

I can’t wait to see what happens in this space in 2014 and what the home of the future will look like.

You can pick up the Nest on Amazon here:

And the Belkin here:

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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