Live Like the Jetsons: How to control your home with the touch of your cell phone

Adam Holisky

Your phone is with you everywhere you go. It doesn't take much to whip it out to find a map of nearby coffee shops or eateries. But did you know that your cell phone can actually control the very home you live in?

Cell phone automation is a hot topic these days — and you won't believe what you can already control with that little device in your pocket.

Too hot? Turn on the AC from work
Programmable thermostats are nothing new, and using one smartly is a surefire way to live a greener life. But it's becoming an increasingly popular option to install a thermostat that you can control with your cell phone.

This option is great if you work variable hours every day or often find yourself wishing you'd come back to an abode just a bit cooler (or hotter) than you've found it. (If you're anything like me, I want the air conditioning pumped up to max after a surprise 98-degree day.) If I had one of these beauties, all I'd have to do is call up my thermostat app and set the temp to a cool 68 degrees. Of course, that might not sit well with the rest of the family — but that's okay!

You can pick up a remote thermostat on Amazon or at some local hardware stores. Highly rated names in this area include the Ecobee Thermostat for around $275, the Nest Thermostat for $250, and the Honeywell Wireless Focus Pro for $215. Be sure to check for sales, too; if you shop around, you can find these devices steeply discounted (especially at places like Amazon).

Your TV: Now controlled by your phone

Controlling your home theater is another easy way to bring your house under the control of your cell phone. The options here seem to be growing every day, too. Perhaps the best known and most popular way to control your theater system is with the Apple TV and its iPhone/iPad remote app.

All you need is an Apple TV (buy the Apple TV from Apple for $99) hooked up to your theater system and an iPhone (or iPad) handy and nearby. Install the free official app from Apple (download the Apple Remote for iPhone and iPad), and you'll be all set to direct your Apple TV to play your selected music or change the volume, right from your phone. You can even use your phone to tell your Apple TV to play movies. Quite simple and polished, and all made possible thanks to Apple's AirPlay technology.

Of course, Apple doesn't have a monopoly in the market of home theater control. The popular digital media box Roku (buy a Roku box from Roku for between $50 and $100) has an app (download the Roku remote for iPhone and iPad) that allows you to control it much the same way you'd control an Apple TV. Pick music and movies, then load up some of your other digital media — it's all possible via the Roku app.

And if you've got a desktop or laptop computer hooked up to your TV, you won't be disapointed with the VLC remote control (download the VLC remote for iPhone and iPad). Again, functioning much like the Apple TV remote app, it allows you to tell the popular VLC media player what to do via your phone. This is a great option if you live in a small space or are tight on cash (students, take note!). Hook up the laptop to the TV via a HDMI cable, fire up VLC and the app, and you've got a quick and dirty remote-controlled home theater system.

High tech laundry and beyond
Smart appliances are everyday items that have a bit more processing power behind those cold metal doors. For instance, with LG's SmartThinQ line, you'll be able to check your laundry, see how much milk is in the fridge, or find out how your roast is doing in the oven, all from the comfort of your chair in the living room. No need to get up!

These smart appliances can even help you diet more effectively; if you use the technology correctly, you could see yourself becoming healthier. Of course, the freezer isn't going to lock you out of that late-night ice cream snack — yet!

Play around with smart home tech
Pick up your smartphone, grab the Sphero app along with a Sphero ball, and you'll soon be zooming the toy around on the carpet like a 5-year-old at Christmas. A favorite at CES and E3 in 2012, Sphero is available today for around $120 at retailers like Amazon. Sphero works via a series of motors inside the ball. Wireless signals from your phone allow you to control the ball — get ready for your pets to go wild.

Hot outside? Why not head under your electronic palm tree and cool off with a nice, refreshing mist? The PalmShower by Dometti is completely controlled by your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You can move its leaves and pick the color of therapeutic lights on the tree. Want to take an actual shower? Dial the water up, and you're getting clean with an artificial tree. Just be sure that you don't take your iPhone to close to the tree!

Whether you want to just have some fun with a ball or automate chores, you can find exciting technology that can help you out in just about every price tier. While we're still a bit away from having Rosie the Robot buzz around our homes cleaning up every spill, we're certainly getting there!