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Smart Home

Give your old smartphone a smart home overhaul

Read on to find out why you shouldn't toss your last-gen smartphone in the junk drawer just yet.

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The smart home market is expanding. The Dropcam-Nest contingent, SmartThings , Wink and others have captured much of the early attention, but some plucky startups are taking a decidedly more DIY route.

Instead of presenting a polished finished product, these folks want you to use the out-dated smartphone or tablet you already have at home (and probably forgot about long ago) to create a functional security camera, smart thermostat and more. Naturally, borrowing key features from an existing product is much less expensive, and the makeshift smart home devices that result even hold their own against some retail-ready devices.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Manything iOS app

Manything is a free app that turns your old iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a security camera. Once you download the app, you're just a few minutes away from having a decent live-streaming device, complete with motion sensing capabilities, email alerts, push notifications and an IFTTT channel. The Manything IFTTT channel makes it possible for you to create recipes for your new security camera and other IFTTT-compatible devices, like Belkin WeMo products and Philips Hue LEDs .


MindHelix Rico

Rico is a cuddly-looking device that happens to have motion, temperature, smoke, carbon monoxide and humidity sensors built into its unassuming puppy frame. You can also stick an old Android or iOS device inside Rico and it quickly transforms into a pretty solid home security system. In addition to Rico, MindHelix also has plans for Belkin WeMo-style smart plugs called Smart Sockets. The startup successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for Rico and Smart Sockets in October and expects to send out its first production units in November 2015.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

People Power Presence iOS app

The Presence iOS app is very similar to Manything. It also takes your out-dated iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and gives it DIY security camera powers. Although it doesn't have an IFTTT channel, it does offer in-app rules that let you schedule Home and Away modes, receive alerts if your device gets unplugged and so on. It also has an online store with stuff that's particularly well-suited for integration with Presence, ranging from phone stands to gizmos that translate info from your electric meter to help you better understand your energy usage and possibly save you money over time.

Wise Labs

Wise Labs Bemo

Bemo won't turn your phone into a DIY security camera, but it will use your spare Android, iOS or Windows device to create a touchscreen thermostat display. We haven't reviewed one of these yet, but it appears to be as simple as removing your old thermostat, hooking up your thermostat wires to Bemo's enclosed baseplate unit and mounting your old phone to the baseplate. Wise Labs also intends to introduce an app with features on par with traditional smart thermostats.