CNET Magazine celebrates spring and the home -- the smart home

In the second edition of our quarterly magazine, we look inside homes outfitted with locks, lights, thermostats and coffee makers all controlled over the Internet. The surprise: You may not need to spend much to raise your home's IQ.

James Martin/CNET

Imagine this: A friend wants to share the keys to his snow cabin with another friend at the last minute. The cabin sits 250 miles away from each of them, and they live in opposite directions. With overnight delivery o­ff the table, the two decide to juggle schedules and rearrange their day, load up their cars with snacks and fuel and meet in the middle. The keys are exchanged in person after hours of driving and gallons of gasoline burned.

Now imagine if the cabin had a smart lock -- the key swap could have taken place over the Internet in minutes. The concept behind a smart lock is simple yet brilliant: Your smartphone is the key, with an app that allows you to send time-limited "keys" to other smartphones.

The idea of homes outfitted with locks, lights, thermostats and coffee makers all controlled over the Internet goes by many names. Some call it home automation. Others say it's the Internet of Things. We call it "smart home," and devices, apps and robots that make your home smarter and safer are here today. They're easy to find, install and manage, whether you rent an apartment in Manhattan or own a ranch in Missouri. Even better, you may not need to spend much to raise your home's IQ.

It's boom time for companies competing to dominate the smart home. The Spring issue of CNET Magazine takes you on a tour of the companies and tech reimagining the home. Ry Crist and Rich Brown search out the next Nest thermostat, profiling the startups working on everything from smart door locks to ceiling fans and sprinkler systems. Andrew Gebhart explores what it takes to make your yard smarter, and Bridget Carey offers tips on installing smart-home features when you're a renter.

Plus, actress and entrepreneur Sofia Vergara tells us why she decided the time was right to design and build a smart home for her family that gives her control from the palm of her hand. So charge up the robot vacuum, fire up the smart slow cooker and settle in for a good read.

The spring issue of CNET Magazine goes on sale this week. You can subscribe here.

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