Nest (free app that requires purchase of Nest hardware)
The "media darling" of home automation is the Nest, a controllable thermostat and associated app. Nest took the rather mundane home thermostat, applied some exceptional industrial design, and made automating the device fairly easy. While certainly not the first automated thermostat, the Nest device is Wi-Fi enabled and doesn't require any additional hardware. It also claims to "learn" your habits based on how you adjust the temperature. It can turn down the heating and cooling while you're away and send you pretty emails detailing your energy usage.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.