The big switch: controlling your home at the touch of an app
By using your smartphone, tablet or laptop , you can monitor everything in your home from lighting and heating to cleaning and security - and save money in the process
Wifi-enabled bulbs may sound like complete overkill, but in reality, they are useful to have around. Philips has developed some wireless bulbs that not only allow you to remotely control the lights, but also to change their colour.
The Philips Hue starter pack comes with a wireless bridge, which plugs into your modem, and three bulbs. The whole thing is controlled via an app on your smartphone, or through an online portal.
It means you can turn on and off the lights in your home no matter where you are. The advantage over timer switches is that it's less likely to notify people that you are out of the house - lights turning on at the same time every day is usually a dead giveaway - and you if you are in any way obsessive about checking lights in the house, a quick glance at the app will tell you what lights are on around the home.
'Night ' mode
The LED bulbs are also fairly energy efficient compared with your standard incandescent bulb.
At the International CES last month, GreenWave Reality won an innovation award for its Connected Lighting Solution. This includes some LED bulbs, a hand-held remote controller, and an optional gateway to remotely control the lighting system.
The remote control allows you to switch light s on and off within the home without the need to access any cloud-based services. So you can select the "night" mode, which turns off all the connected bulbs in the house, meaning no more roaming from room to room to turn off individual lights.
Or you can create some custom controls which can be configured to turn lights on automatically once it begins to get dark, or hook them up to motion sensors.
LIFX, which describes itself as "The lightbulb, reinvented", is another up-and-coming project .If you want to keep an eye on your home while you are away, it's never been easier. There are plenty of devices out there that will allow you to log in remotely and view what is going on in your home through some well-placed security cameras.
Philips offers In.Sight, a home security system that detects motion and sound, streaming video to your mobile device from the wall mounted cameras. The app for iPhone is free.
Up to 16 cameras can be linked together, so you get a good view of what is going on in your home.
If you are looking for something a little less full on, the iZon 2.0 also uses wifi to monitor a room. It provides noise and motion alerts direct to your mobile device, and can be controlled via apps. It will also record your video to a private YouTube account if you choose. It comes with a magnetic base, rather than the wall mounts, but it can be changed to hundreds of different positions.
It's one thing to have your central heating system timed to turn on at certain times - cold mornings, chilly evenings - but if you aren't there, it's a waste of fuel and money.
Climote, which is made by the company of the same name, allows you to remotely manage your heating from outside the house. That means you can set timers, switch it on or off immediately or set it to holiday mode, deactivating all your heating settings unless the temperature falls below a certain point in the house.