As more homes start using wireless Internet routers, appliance manufacturers have taken notice. Including a small Wi-Fi chip and some simple programming in an appliance doesn't cost the manufacturers much, and it greatly improves the functionality of many home appliances.
Here are a few appliances that you might not expect to have Internet capabilities, but offer cool, simple features that any homeowner can appreciate.
Garage door openers
I frequently leave my house without shutting my garage door, which isn't a big problem in my neighborhood. However, it's a bad habit. Even if nothing's stolen out of my garage, rain or wild animals are a constant concern. Internet-enabled garage door openers allow me to close my garage door from the office, airport, or anywhere else. I can also open the garage door, which is useful if I need friends to check on something while I'm at work or on vacation.
While an Internet-ready garage door opener costs about $200 and may require professional installation, new garage door openers will open and close very quietly and may offer motion detection and other high-end features. They're worth the investment, especially if you're prone to leaving your garage door open.
I certainly don't want to share my weight on Facebook, but Internet-enabled bathroom scales do allow me to track changes in my weight from day to day. I can view graphs that show my progress toward weight-related goals, which is helpful whether I'm losing pounds or trying to maintain a constant weight.
Internet-enabled bathroom scales are a fairly new technology and can cost $100 or more. If they provide you with the motivation that you need to stay in shape, however, they're well worth the price.
Coffee machines and other kitchen appliances
I drink a lot of coffee, and Internet-controlled coffee machines are great for me because they give me a way to make sure that my coffee will be ready when I get home from a long trip. I just hate the idea of spending my first few minutes back home preparing a simple cup of coffee, and I appreciate the convenience of a java machine that I can trigger with my smartphone.
If you're the same way, an Internet-enabled coffee machine will set you back anywhere from $50 to $100. Though they do not completely automate the coffee-making process, they're great for true caffeine addicts.
There are dozens of other great Wi-Fi kitchen appliances, including Internet-ready refrigerators ($1,000 and up) that keep track of inventory automatically. Internet-ready ovens and microwaves are also on the way, although I dislike the idea of operating an oven remotely.
The big advantage of an Internet-ready kitchen is that most of these devices either track their energy usage or automatically use less energy due to their remote-control functions. If you're looking for ways to save energy, outfitting your kitchen with Internet-ready appliances might make sense.
As with all of the devices listed above, kitchen appliances need to connect to your home network to work through the Internet, but by following the setup procedures included with each device, you can enjoy some seriously improved features with Internet-enabled appliances.