4 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Smarter and Safer

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Home security systems and integrated smart devices used to be something reserved for the rich and famous. Security cameras, alarms, smoke detectors and the like all had to be installed by an expert -- and usually the cost was so high that those security measures were out of reach for the average person.

But with the boom in smartphones and wireless technology, there's a revolution going on in home devices. Now, it's possible to build a home that's smarter and safer without being an engineer or having an unlimited budget.

Honey, I'm Home

The first security measure you reach in any house is a lock. Keys have been a staple of lock security for as long as we've had doors, but they're not a very smart security measure. Locks can be picked, keys can be lost, and you never know who's using a key to open your door.

Smart locks are changing that. Companies like Kwikset (with its Kevo line) and August are making locks that will recognize when you're home and allow you to grant temporary access to your home to guests. You can even be notified when someone comes in, when they leave and if they locked the door.

For most people, just being able to have your security system check if you locked the door and have the ability to lock it if you forgot is an added piece of mind that makes smart locks an easy way to make your home smarter and safer.

Don't Miss a Moment While You're Away

Advances in wireless technology and cloud services have made home security cameras a very real option for millions of homeowners. And they're not nearly as intrusive (or complicated) as they used to be.

Dropcam is now in the Google (GOOG) (GOOGL) Nest family of products and requires little more than an outlet and a Wi-Fi connection to turn into a security camera and motion detector. Check-in when you're away or review what happened while you were gone with a simple-to-use app.

There are also some amazing designs coming from startups in home devices. Guardzilla and Withings security cameras look a little less like a typical camera and have features like speakers and push notifications for your phone. Maybe the most impressive new home security product is Canary, a security camera with a sleek look that includes motion, air quality, temperature, and humidity sensors.

The best part is that once you buy these devices they're free to use. There's no monthly fee to keep your security camera running and they're easy to install yourself.

Detect Problems While You're Gone

Traditional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors do a great job of alerting you if there's a problem when you're home, but what if you're away at the grocery store or 1,000 miles away on vacation?

Nest is now making a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that ties into the Nest thermostat platform. You can check it from your smartphone and it even has a speaker that will alert you when air quality levels are starting to be a concern or tell you what to do if there's an emergency. The product can even be run wirelessly with only a battery and a Wi-Fi connection.

Birdi is a product being launched soon that detects smoke and also pollen, humidity and pollutants in the air. It will even alert the fire department automatically in case of an emergency.

Again, these products are easy to install and don't require you to tear up your walls to naturally fit into your home.

Did You Remember to Shut the Garage Door?

If you live in a home with a garage long enough, you're bound to have a panic moment trying to remember if you shut the garage door. Worse yet is the fear when you come home and realize your garage door has been open for hours.

Chamberlain and Liftmaster are using MyQ Technology to connect their garage door openers to your Wi-Fi system and an app that gives you the status of your door as well as the ability to close it. Since millions of homes have compatible garage door openers, there's no need to install a new garage door, the product will integrate with your existing garage door in just a few minutes.

More Incredible Products on the Horizon

We're just starting to scratch the surface of potential in smart and connected homes, and some of the devices you use every day are making home innovations possible. Apple's (AAPL) HomeKit and Google's Nest platforms are becoming the foundation that the products I described above, and many more, will connect to, allowing you to control multiple devices with the touch of a button.

As these platforms grow, the next area to watch is location sensing, which could open your garage as you drive into your driveway, unlock the doors, turn the lights on, and make sure the temperature is just as you like it by the time you get home. What's amazing is that this is all with products you can install yourself without being an electrician, engineer, or computer programmer.

These platforms -- also called the Internet of things -- will bring smarter and safer homes to millions more people than have ever had them in the past. Will you be one of them?

Travis Hoium owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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