Trying to find the best last minute gifts for the DIY home automation enthusiast in your family? Here are five great ones which you order on Amazon.com and still get by Christmas.
1. Nest Thermostat
Sure, PC Magazine recently complained about how the Nest can put you at risk of freezing to death (well, not really) if you live in Montana and they send an ill-timed software update. But c’mon…Nest is undeniably the favorite child of the home automation industry, and is leading home automation’s new high tech resurgence/foray into acceptance by the luddite masses.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is the gadget that started it all. You swap out your normal thermostat for the Nest, and it learns your routines, automatically changing the temperature in your home to maximize your energy savings. And with the addition of the new Nest Protect, Nest now knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you’re awake. It knows when you’ve been bad or good (as of firmware update 2.07). So buy one, for goodness sake. Unless you live in Montana.
2. Raspberry PI
If you want to take home automation back to its do it yourself beginnings, or you just have a dream for a new home automation product and want to knock out a quick prototype, check out the Raspberry Pi. I love these little boards. They’re full featured Linux computers, with a graphical interface you can access over HDMI, which you can get for about $30.
Since the boards have low-level inputs and outputs which you can easily access through the simple Python programming language, you can use the Raspberry Pi for everything from controlling your Christmas lights to building an automated dog feeder with internet connectivity.
3. Phillips Hue Starter Pack
The Phillips Hue Starter Pack is the ideal gift for the lighting nerd in your life. From your smartphone, you can easily change the color of these remotely controlled bulbs. Or if you don’t want to create the corny 1970s bachelor pad motif in your own home and you’re just really OCD, you can keep them as white and shift the color temperature to fit your mood.
Want a inviting, comfortable, relaxing atmosphere (2700k) which you can instantly shift to crisp, bright and refreshing (5500k)? Or want to put your guests in the Christmas mood with some seizure-inducing, pulsating green and red lamps? Phillips Hue has you covered.
4. Auto Pet Food Dispenser
For the do it yourself home automation enthusiast whose 2014 resolutions includes following along with my latest HA project, this pet feeder is the perfect gift! It also works quite well–if you don’t dismantle it with pliers and a soldering iron–as an automatic pet feeder for when you take a vacation/your smart home develops sentience and drives you out.
5. SONOS Speaker
Personally, I object to including whole home audio in the category of home automation. What’s so automated about having a bunch of speakers everywhere? But for whatever reason, these audio solutions always seem to get lumped in with HA. So to feed the trend just a bit more, I present SONOS.
This is the preferred choice for people who want to turn on a song in one room and hear it everywhere. You connect a high end dock to your stereo receiver, and then place little wireless speakers anywhere you wish. The SONOS plays your music through all your speakers, at audiophile quality. Still not HA, I assert, but a great solution if you want to play some vinyl in the living room and listen in the basement while hacking the Raspberry Pi to control your giant, talking Christmas moose.
There you have it. The DIY HA Christmas list! Of course, if you’re really a purist, you can always go with the traditional fake lump of coal. Naturally, you’ll want to ensure your Nest Protect is tied into your smartphone, so you can get an instant alert if your giftee attempts to actually burn it. And you may want to connect it to your Raspberry Pi to give it blinking googly eyes you can control from the internet. Ah the HA holiday possibilities!