Home automation isn't what we'd call easy to set up. Enabling wireless control of all of your stuff is a hassle, and for most things we just want to be able to turn them on and off at will. At CES, a company called Tetherboard was showing off Tethercell, a battery hack that allows wireless control of anything that runs on AAs.
AA batteries are damn small as it is, and it's not like they have electronics inside them to hack. It's more or less impossible to squeeze anything else into battery compartments on most gadgets, but Tetherboard came up with a solution: instead of using only AA batteries to power devices that use them, Tetherboard swaps out one of those AAs for a much smaller AAA battery encased in a shell stuffed with electronics and Bluetooth connectivity that ends up at the same size as a regular AA. It's very clever, and looks like this:
As far as the device can tell, AA and AAA batteries are functionally identical. The only difference is that AAAs give you less capacity, but with Tethercell, you don't need to swap them all out, just one of them. And once you have that Tethercell-enabled AAA in there, it's like having a wireless on/off switch that you can control with an app your phone. You can set schedules and timers, get notifications when the batteries are running low, and the app even integrates with social networking sites (and lots of other services).
Tethercell was invented by a father of three who wanted some way of keeping his kids from playing with a super annoying electronic toy guitar, but didn't want to make A Big Deal out of taking the guitar away all the time. With a Tethercell battery inside, he could make the guitar stop working whenever it was starting to drive him nuts, and the kids would just find something else to do.
The biggest downside here as far as home automation goes is that the range of Bluetooth is limited to things that are near you. That said, It's not impossible to imagine a little Bluetooth thingy that hooks up to your router and enables true remote control, and despite the additional layer of complexity that that would bring, you'd still be getting the benefit of wireless control of virtually anything that runs on batteries. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, and as it is, Tethercell is a nifty way to give anything that runs on AA batteries a wireless on/off switch, which is impressive enough all by itself.
Tethercell is currently on Indiegogo, and you can pick up a Tethercell plus the app for $35.