The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow in home automation technology space, and some devices appear to be more useful than others.
An app-enabled slow cooker? OK, I guess. I can see the utility for some people. An app-enabled garage door opener? Now, that's something that's truly useful. That's exactly what we have with Chamberlain's $130 MyQ Garage system.
Some higher-end Chamberlain garage door openers — the company also makes openers under the LiftMaster name — included internet connectivity for a while, but the MyQ Garage, launched earlier this year, allows users to add app-enabled connectivity to most garage doors made after 1993, including those from Craftsman, Genie, LiftMaster, Stanley, and many more (compatibility chart).
Thanks to an ingenious solution, the MyQ Garage doesn't require any changes be made to your existing garage door setup. There are two components. A base station installs with a pair of included screws on the ceiling near the main drive motor of the garage door opener. A second, smaller battery-powered box (about three inches square) attaches to the garage door with adhesive tape. This is the clever bit.
The door-mounted box has an accelerometer inside that knows when the garage door is open, closed, or when it's moving. All the base station does is send open/close commands to the door opener, similar to the remote control in your car.
A box checking to see if the door is open or closed is an elegant solution that saves homeowners (and renters) from needing to perform a costly and unnecessary garage door opener replacement. Instead, they simply to add their garage door to the IoT.
The companion app, available for iPhone and Android, is very simple. It can be set up with multiple garage doors or even a front gate or lighting, plus other locations for those who have a vacation home, for example.
On the front page of the app — which, handily, can be set to not ask for a password if desired — is an illustration of a garage door that shows the current state of the door (open, closed, in motion) and how long it has been in that state. Figure A shows that my door has been closed for some 15 hours.
The app shows that my door has been closed.
Simply tapping the door will send a command to either open or close it. It only takes a second or two for the door to respond, even if you're around the world.
Here's one interesting part — the opener, when it's trying close the door, emits a long series of beeps and flashes its on-board light repeatedly. This is because you may be hundreds of miles away from your door when it's trying to close, and if there are people in the garage, they may not expect the door to start moving. It's a warning of sorts, and — though it's annoying when you're in the garage — if you're closing the door from afar, it gives you some peace of mind that the thing won't just start moving and squish your neighbor.
The company also strongly recommends that users only use the system with garage doors equipped with obstruction sensors, made mandatory on all new systems in the early 90's. It also says the system should be used only on sectional doors, not larger and heavier one-piece doors.
Early reviewers have noted some difficulty in getting the system installed, but it appears Chamberlain has worked out most of the kinks as our system installed flawlessly in about 15 minutes. Any homeowner that's moderately handy can set up the MyQ quickly and easily.
Though it's annoying to need yet another app on our phones to control a home device, Chamberlain's app opens quickly, and the company is working with other device makers on partnerships.
Chamberlain is adding "Works With Nest" support, allowing users of Nest Thermostats to automatically set their thermostat to Away mode when leaving the house.
The company was also announced as a HomeKit partner by Apple at WWDC last month, suggesting that garage door openers will be made part of Apple's integrated home automation platform when iOS 8 launches later this year.
Do you have plans to automate your home with IoT devices like the MyQ Garage and MyQ app? Share your thought in the discussion thread below.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.