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A world of sensors around the home

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Security alarm sensor in corner of room. (AP/© 2006 Duncan Babbage)

Smartphone-connected sensors -- one of the hottest tech trends this year -- allow you to track just about everything going on in your home and in your life with just a few swipes on your phone, including the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, the plants growing in your garden and even your sleeping habits. Here are some of the best new technologies on the market and what they can do for you.

Around the Home

Nest Thermostat: The Nest thermostat has become a favorite of tech geeks and penny pinchers. Forgot to adjust the temperature before you left for work? No problem, just fire up the Nest app and make the changes from your phone. The Nest is more than just a thermostat with an app, though. It actually learns your behavior. With a built-in motion sensor, the thermostat can figure out your schedule, programming itself on the fly to raise and lower the temperature throughout the day.

Lockitron: Set to be released this summer, the Lockitron looks to replace your house keys with your smartphone. By trading a physical key for a digital one, you can give access to guests without having to meet up in person, making it easier to, say, have a friend or family member look after your houseplants and mail when you go on vacation. The app can also notify you if you’ve left the door unlocked, giving peace of mind to the forgetful.

Around the Yard

Koubachi Plant Sensor: For the green thumb who’s lost one too many gardens to the scalding mid-summer sun, there’s the Koubachi garden sensor. With its ability to monitor sunlight, moisture and temperature, the Koubachi takes much of the guesswork out of gardening. Tell the app what sort of plant you want to monitor, and then stick the sensor into the dirt at the base of the plant. You can track the plant’s progress from your phone and get alerts when it’s running low on water or is getting too much sun. Even without the sensor, the app is a helpful gardening guide, giving you info on hundreds of plant species.

Netatmo Urban Weather Station: While the Koubachi is great for monitoring individual plants, if you want to get the complete weather picture, there’s the Netatmo Weather Station. With sensors giving you realtime readouts of temperature, barometric pressure, humidity and other conditions, the Netatmo keeps you up-to-date on whatever Mother Nature throws your way. For city dwellers worried about daily smog levels, the weather station can alert you when air quality dips. There’s also an indoor sensor, which tracks conditions inside the home and can inform you when CO2 levels begin to rise, telling you it’s time to open a window.

Personal Sensors

Jawbone Up Band: Sensors aren’t just for the home and garden. Personal activity trackers, which give you realtime data on your own movements, have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Jawbone’s Up Band tracks how much you move throughout the day, allowing you to set targets for yourself to motivate you walk and exercise more. By tracking your tossing and turning at night, the app can also keep tabs on your sleeping habits, letting your know when you’re not getting enough shuteye. You can even set it to vibrate when it notices you’ve been inactive for too long, reminding you that it’s time to get up and stretch a little. The app also allows you track your eating habits, so that you can monitor both calories burned and consumed.

Withings Scale: A wifi-enabled bathroom scale might seem a little silly at first, but the Withings scale does much more than just measure your weight. The device can also track your standing heart rate and body mass index so you get a total picture of your health. By taking regular measurements, the app gives you helpful graphs that allow you to track your progress, clearly showing you when you’re starting to slip from your exercise and diet regime.