As if we were in any doubt, we are living in a time when technology development is moving faster than ever before. During the last two decades, we have seen the advancement of the simple mobile phone to smartphones, a little computer in our bags and pockets from which many of us now run our lives. For the last few years, technological advances have had a new focus – the ‘Smart Home’. Although the vast array of technology available to create a Smart Home may seem a little overwhelming, there are many advantages to having a connected home. Comfort, security, time saving to name but a few of the benefits.
In this article, we take a look at how you can develop a Smart Home and outline the essential tech -and a few novel gadgets too!
Voice Assistants – Alexa, Google etc
‘Alexa, what’s the weather today?’ ‘Hey Google, play my Summer 2021 playlist’ are common phrases heard in many households up and down the country as we use voice assistants in our homes for convenience and information (and for some fun commands too!). Need a timer for your morning boiled egg? No problem. But novel and helpful as all this is, this is not all they do. Voice Assistants, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Assistant can be the central hub to control all the other Smart technology in your living space, giving you a truly connected home. Controlling the lights, ordering items for your home and knocking the thermostat up or down a couple of degrees are all simple tasks that a voice assistant can accomplish. When you are used to the basics you can explore the hundreds if not thousands of other apps and skills these assistants offer, like first aid, exercise, meditation, games, you can even turn speakers into “guard” mode for additional security, the list of activities are seemingly endless.
Technology has now allowed us to advance way beyond the usual security steps we all take in our homes, giving us the ultimate peace of mind. Smart cameras, locks and doorbells now enable us to protect our homes, all from apps on our smartphones. Doorbells, such as Ring, allow us to see, hear and even speak to callers to our home, wherever we may be. Setting up Smart Cameras in and around the perimeter of our homes means we can see 24 hours a day what is going on when we are not there. Notifications are sent to our phones when motion, or even smoke, is detected or we can simply log in via an app to check on our pets or just reassure ourselves that all is well. Key (sorry) to any home security is a lockable door. But what if you are constantly misplacing your keys? No problem with a Smart Lock. This clever piece of technology allows you to open your door with a smartphone app or just with a simple voice command. And gone are the days of putting a key under the mat for visitors who arrive before you are back. Simply unlock the door for them from your phone.
One of the most inexpensive ways to begin your Smart Home journey is the Smart Lightbulb. These can be controlled by smartphone app or voice control, via Voice Assistants such as Echo or Google, and often don’t need to be connected to a central hub. No playing ‘rock-paper-scissors’ anymore to determine who has to get out of bed and turn off the light. Although they do cost more than a standard lightbulb, their benefits are obtained from convenience, long lifespan and energy saving features. PC Magazine review some of the best Smart Lightbulbs here.
With the changeable UK weather, the setting on our thermostats can go and up and down more times than a yo-yo. Smart Heating, such as Hive, come in the form of thermostats that can be controlled by app or voice and can make the necessary adjustments a breeze and potentially save you money in the long run. Which.co.uk has carried out some research on just how much you could save and they detail the results in this article. These clever pieces of kit can learn your daily routines, be programmed to turn off and on at the opening or closing of a door (if connected via a companion app to a specific window or door motion sensor) and even adjust according to the weather.
Companionship and Care
We’ve covered the essentials for creating a truly Smart Home, there are also real benefits for those combatting loneliness, there are care home apps and even first aid advice available through these marvellous devices.
With loneliness a huge factor during the recent pandemic and beyond for many, Voice Assistants are being used to help combat loneliness as this BBC article explores. There are already companionship skills and care aids for the isolated and older population with new programmes and features available on an almost daily basis. Care homes across the world are adopting voice assistants for important tasks such as alerting carers to falls, and reminding residents to take medication, there are also success stories of how these handy assistants are being used to help support those living with dementia and their families. Now that really is useful technology.
Fun and Frivolity
On a much lighter note, how do you fancy a Smart Toilet? Self-cleaning (yes!) via UV light, seat warming, automated hands-free open and closing features and a night light too, to be sure you hit the target in the dark. Some will even give you a wash and blow dry – and we don’t mean like you get in a salon. Although expensive (you’ll be spending more than a penny) and a little ‘Space Age’ feeling, a Smart Toilet could be one of those little luxuries that make life a little more comfortable or not!?
Remember Teasmade’s? Although they do still exist, things have moved on considerably since their heyday in the 80s. Most of us need several cups of coffee to get going in the mornings and not having to leave the cosy, warmth of your bed to make the perfect cup is bliss. Smart Coffee Makers can allow you to select the strength of your coffee (an extra shot please!), size of cup and what time you want it made, all from the touch of an app. Want a fresh brew waiting when you get home from your commute? Simply tap the app from the train.
For more Smart Home ideas, Pcmag.com let you in on their round-up of the best Smart devices for 2021 in this article.
We hope this article has been enlightening and informative and maybe given you some inspiration as to how a Smart Home could benefit you. There is no doubt that this technology will continue to evolve and whilst some aspects are rather frivolous, the more serious benefits cannot be denied. We are still not convinced about the Smart Toilet though!