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12 home Automation Tips for the Holidays

Smaart House Blog

Well, putting that tech to work can make your life easier and give you more time to focus on playing host. Automation can also help you ramp up security and helps you to head away on vacation without worrying about your home being broken into and your precious smart devices stolen.

We’ll launch straight in now and give you a brief overview of how to make that tech sing and dance for you, almost literally in some cases!

Home Automation Tips

Our core focus today centers on the twin pillars of the quintessential smart home: convenience and security.

You can layer up products to make your home much safer and less prone to a security breach, but since it’s the holiday season, we’ll be layering on more on the convenience angle of automation.

1) Protecting Your Incoming Holiday Packages With a Video Doorbell Camera

While most burglaries take place in summer, that’s no reason to get complacent over the looming holiday season.

Property crime, mercifully, continues to fall to all-time lows but there’s something about Christmas you can’t ignore…

With so many households now ordering gifts online – here at Smart Home, most of us do the bulk of our gift shopping online – those incoming packages make potentially easy pickings for the opportunist thief.

Unless that is, you invest in a video doorbell camera.

Now, this type of device only acts as the first line of defense – we’ll look directly below at how you can ramp things up further – but it’s a highly effective starting point.

Obviously, the average thief is highly aware of exactly what smart home devices look like. They’ll be only too familiar with a video doorbell and what you do think is likely to happen if they spot a package at the same time they clap eyes on the all-seeing eye of a doorbell camera? Runoff in search of easier pickings!

There’s also the added bonus that you can liaise with couriers remotely to avoid the package being dumped somewhere risky in the first place while remaining in full control of your smart home’s entrance wherever you happen to be.

2) Ramp Up Security In General With a Full Home Security System

If you want to prevent break-ins over the holiday season and throughout the year, a video doorbell won’t do you much good. There’s simply no substitute for a comprehensive home security system.

Smart security cameras come in at a range of price-points suitable for pretty much any budget. Thanks to the Internet of Things and improved cellular coverage, it’s now quite possible to install fully wireless cameras with no need whatsoever for a landline.

Whether you want a full package with professional monitoring – ideal and super-convenient for many homeowners – if you’re renting or simply dislike being locked into contracts, you can go it alone while still keeping your smart home and its contents fully safeguarded.

Build things out further with floodlight cameras

Here’s an analog tip to sit neatly alongside all that digital automation…

Why not pop a security sign in your garden? Make it absolutely apparent to any intruder that they’ll be caught on camera long before they gain access to your home and that the police will be alerted to their unwanted presence. As much as we love tech, it’s a smart move to mix in some more traditional methods.

3) Enhance Your Entry System With Smart Locks

With your smart home fully secured for the holiday season, it’s time to think about home automation for the sake of convenience.

Smart locks simply replace one form of a lock with another, often slotting over your existing deadbolt so security is surprisingly not the main purpose of these slick devices.

The primary purpose of smart locks is to make your life easier so how about adding to that with a dose of fun when party time comes around?

August Smart Lock allows you to assign temporary virtual codes. Rather than spending your party running back and forth from the front door to the den, why not send out entry codes with your invites and allow guests to let themselves in instead? If that sounds like too much hassle, you could always grant them access in-app as they arrive.

Either way, stay in the thick of the action and let the tech do the work for you. This is exactly what the best smart home should do… automate processes that are otherwise tedious.

And the best thing? Once the hangover from the party has vanished, your smart lock will still be in place.

4) Automate Your Festive Lighting

If you’ve got some lighting out in the garden, why not consider some weatherproofed on/off modules so you can avoid the need for manual control?

You can apply this same principle to your lights and decorations indoors so you’ve got all that lighting covered and you can automate it sidestepping any need for manual input besides setting it up in the first place.

5) Use Smart Lighting For Your Party

Once the party has started, you can get a little more creative on the lighting front.

You can use smart strips and feature framing from the Philips Hue range along with the classic ambiance lighting so you can set the mood for your party without needing to lift a finger. Use If This, Then That to create lighting recipes to suit and take advantage of colored bulbs to inject some fun into the proceedings.

Imagination is your only limitation when it comes to automating your lights over the holiday season so what are you waiting for? Get started and see what other ideas you can come up with!

As an aside, you can automate your smart lighting so your home looks well lived-in when you’re taking a well-deserved break in the Bahamas. Take full remote control in-app on your cell phone or program routines so you can leave your phone in the hotel room and disconnect for a while. Either way, you can sleep easily knowing your house won’t be pitch black every night and an open invitation to any opportunist thief.

6) Consider a Hub If You Need One To Maximize Automation Over The Holidays and Into 2019

A general pointer as we hit the midpoint of these 12 home automation tips for the holidays…

Perhaps the key and the cornerstone to automating your smart home devices and getting them all to communicate harmoniously regardless of protocol is a solid smart home hub.

If you haven’t already invested in one, the holiday season is the perfect excuse to put that to rights.

Whether you roll with Samsung’s classic SmartThings hub, a Wink gateway or even a smart speaker, enter 2019 strong with the foundation of a fully automated home in place.

7) Use Automation To Help In The Kitchen

The holiday season is all about great food with the ones you love surrounding you.

Smart displays like the mighty Google Home Hub are the ideal tool for checking out recipes and being led through instructions step-by-step to simplify cooking no end. You can even get recommendations on the home screen if you’re stuck for inspiration and the time is ticking before your guests start arriving. With smart technology, these suggestions are seasonal and you can save them into your own personal cookbook using voice commands.

8) Take Smart Cooking Even Further

With the basics in place to help you prep your food hands-free even if you’re not the greatest or most experienced cook, you can smarten things up further by treating yourself to the Traeger Timberline 1300.

This smart pellet grill lets you access a vast database of recipes and afford you remote control of the temperature and timers so you can stay connected to your guests while also remaining connected to cooking duties even if you’re not in the kitchen.

Smart scales and precision WiFi cookers can also take a great deal of the sting out of those tedious jobs so you can spend more time relaxing and less fussing over ingredients.

As we edge toward 2019, these automated helpers are only set to increase in scope and by 2020, you might even have some form of robotic assistant to roll out as the ultimate party piece.

9) Create The Mood for Dinner

Now, with all the food in place, you can use automation to set the scene for the perfect mealtime…

If everyone is scattered around the house, simply mute the TVs and music in-app so you can make yourself heard and let everyone know it’s time to chow down.

Create a dining room scene so the lights are tailored accordingly and your holiday playlist kicks in.

With a smart thermostat in place, the temperature is dialed in without you needing to constantly fiddle with a manual alternative.

All that remains is to crack open the wine and enjoy all that lip-smacking food with your nearest and dearest.

10) Smarten Up Your Home Theater To Enhance Holiday Viewing

Automation can come fully to the fore for your seasonal entertainment. The home theater is the ideal forum for tech giants to really push the boundaries of seamless, effortless viewing.

Whether you’re wowing guests with your sleek new projector or 65-inch TV, ensuring that your soundbar provides fully immersive audio to bring any movie fully to life or you prefer in-wall speakers for a subtler approach, make your home theater the centerpiece of your smart home. Ensure this is one space where you don’t need to lift a finger, and you can kick back fully with friends and family.

In terms of general TV, take full advantage of affordable streaming devices like Apple TV, Roku, or Fire TV so you can once again let that technology do all the hard yards for you while you watch the latest series that’s got you hooked.

The sky really is the limit in terms of automation in this arena, so let your imagination run wild and buy whatever your budget will stretch to.

11) Take Advantage of Festive Playlists

Music is a staple year-round but all the more so when the holiday season is in full swing.

You can harness the full strength of your smart speakers and your favorite streaming services to take charge of party music with voice control. Even if you need to shout commands across a crowded and noisy room, Alexa is getting better than ever at picking up those instructions. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, enable the Christmas skill and ask your virtual butler to play those festive tunes.

You can keep things simple as well by allowing guests to play DJ. Just let them connect to your soundbar or Bluetooth speaker using their smartphone and you can allow everyone to play a part in automation.

Whichever way you choose to play it, the days of hustling back and forth to change records or swap CDs is dying the same death as non-smart homes as we push toward 2019.

12) Skip The Cleaning Up With a Robot Vacuum

Once the last guests have gone, what are you left with?

A trashed smart home if the festivities have been more boisterous than you expected!

If you’re feeling slightly tender but need order restored, the very last thing you’ll feel like doing is grabbing the vacuum and giving the house a thorough blitz but you don’t need to…

Automate your cleaning with a robot vacuum and you can enjoy breakfast in bed and ease into the last few days before hitting the office while the robot vac does all the tedious work for you.

Final Word

We hope you’ve found some real gems in this guide to home automation for the holiday season and on into 2019. Happy holidays!

 

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7 Things Every Homeowner Needs in a Smart Home Today

Voice controlled home automation

Manufacturers of do-it-yourself “smart” devices often claim that having a smart home is as simple connecting a few gadgets like light bulbs and electronic door locks. But as any custom install pro will tell you, smart homes aren’t that simple.

“If a homeowner picks products and doesn’t think about how to connect everything, they’re going to end up with a kind of IoT [Internet of Things] we call ‘Islands of Things’—in other words, a collection of smart products that each have their own app but don’t necessarily work together. “A Ring-brand doorbell, for example, won’t turn their WeMo lights on and off.”

You can’t “leave it to the homeowner to figure out” that a true smart home requires devices that interact within a thoughtfully engineered automation system. It’s going to cost more up front, but the long-term return on the investment—including reliability, functionality, serviceability, expandability, and client support—will be much greater than any DIY system can provide.

To help you educate your clients, here are seven features every homeowner needs in a smart home today—and why they need them.

1: A Platform

The first thing a homeowner needs to do is pick a platform upon which a whole-home automation system can be built, eliminating the possibility of getting lost at sea amid the Islands of Things. A smart home “platform” is much like a smartphone and its operating system: it’s the basic hardware and OS that makes it possible for everything else to function seamlessly. In order for the platform to work reliably and effectively, though, the home must include a robust network infrastructure with wall-to-wall coverage—and possibly Wi-Fi connectivity in select outdoor areas. Even the best hardware and software is useless if the components can’t communicate reliably.

2: Security

One of the most popular smart home features is home security. There are four parts to the security of a smart home, Lautner explains. The first—site access—includes the ability to monitor and control access to the home through entry points such as exterior doors and garage doors. The second—perimeter access—involves automation and control of access to property gates and driveways. The third—video surveillance—offers immediate (or recorded for later reference) views of activities occurring outside and inside the home. The fourth—individual sensors—is a collection of traditional alarm triggering devices, such as motion and contact sensors.

An all-important additional element is smart interconnectivity. Ensuring all these systems are interconnected delivers greater peace of mind,. It should be easy to view the status of your home. Is it secure? What is open or closed? Are there any alerts? This information, along with passcodes that have been used for entry, should be logged and stored so you can see what happened after the event. Did the service person come to fix the heater in the basement? Why did the second-floor motion sensor go off?” Whether the security system is professionally monitored is a personal choice. “Monitoring is important but not to everyone,” he says. “If you’re building or selling a home, try to avoid locking the owner into a required monthly fee.”

3: Energy

Balancing comfort and energy efficiency is a highly compelling smart home feature. However, thermostats that promise to “learn” your behavior often underwhelm and frustrate homeowners. What they need, solutions that give easy control and scheduling to keep their home in the mode they want, when they want.”

Many homeowners don’t know that energy management can include much more than a smart thermostat. “A benefit of integrated ceiling fans is that the system can start a fan prior to turning on the air conditioner or heater. The fan will cool a room by about 3 degrees prior to cooling, and can push warm air down prior to heating. Shades and other automated window treatments can help heat or cool a home, reducing energy costs. Many automation platforms can manage a home’s solar system as well. As a safety issue, systems including integrated smoke detectors can be programmed to automatically turn off the HVAC system’s blower and stop the ceiling fans in order to keep smoke—and possibly fire—from spreading.

4: Lighting

Lighting control is an essential feature in any smart home, but it goes beyond turning bulbs and fixtures on and off. “Lighting includes shades so you can control natural and artificial light together … and enhance ambiance for entertaining or watching movies. Controlling two dramatically different things—natural sunlight and artificial electric light—as one seamless entity is the epitome of what a smart home should be. Light and shade control can also provide an element of security by ensuring you’ll always come home to a well-lit house, have lights turn on automatically when doors are opened at night, and operate on a random or set schedule to make a home look occupied when the owners are away.

5: Audio

Whole-house audio is a feature that’s difficult for DIY systems to handle well—if at all. Music throughout the home is an area where integrators excel, but we advise that you make sure the home’s audio system speakers also integrate with intercom and security alerts so homeowners may enjoy the full benefit of audio distribution in a smart home.

6: TV

“One remote, one button-press TV control” is another specialty for custom integrators, but there are additional benefits to routing video within a smart home on a single, powerful platform. Giving customers the ability to use their TV to monitor their surveillance cameras—whether pointed at a doorbell, a driveway gate, or in the baby’s nursery room—is a tremendous comfort and convenience.

7: Outdoor

An entire blog post could be dedicated to what you can do outside the walls of a smart house, but let’s keeps it simple for now. “Smart outdoors includes extending the control of low-voltage lighting, music, and outdoor surveillance, as well as incorporating automation of the pool and irrigation systems.” Whether or not the homeowner intends to expand the smart home elements outside the house, it’s a good idea to plan for an outdoor network access point.

As these seven essential items of a smart home suggest, a true smart home is more than a compilation of connected devices. It encompasses many of the features described herein one simple-to-use package that reflects and serves the homeowners’ lifestyle. Is their home intended to be a weekend refuge or party central? The level of customization and service you provide your customers cannot come pre-packaged in a store. It can only come from the attention you provide your clients with your services and true smart home automation.

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Have a Spooktacular Halloween With Your Own Haunted Smart Home

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is in full swing, which means we’re all whipping out our decorations and decking our homes out for the festivities ahead. First up: Halloween. That means it’s time to get your spook on. Between monstrous masks that evoke the horror icons who haunt our nightmares (thanks, Chucky), and our favorite home decor (like […]

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How to be a Smart Airbnb Host

Being an Airbnb host can be simply great fun and rewarding, or leave you in disgust with a ‘never again’ feeling. Very few hosts will feel worry-free without having at least some insight into their guests’ stay.

As a host, one thing you can do to keep an eye on things — without being too snoopy — is to install a few smart gadgets around your space. Here are seven essentials every Airbnb host should consider.

Smart Locks

Smart Home Automation

With physical keys, you run certain risks that could be avoided altogether with smart locks. Physical keys can be copied, of course. But it can also be a little more difficult to enforce check out times, especially if your Airbnb property isn’t nearby or if you’re out of town.

With a smart lock, like those from August or Schlage, you can give temporary access that begins with check-in and expires after the check-out date and time. You can also assign different access codes to guests and others (such as cleaners) to see who is entering or leaving the property.

Video Doorbell

Smart Home Automation

Unlike controlling when someone has access to your Airbnb, it can be difficult to police how many people are staying. If you charge additional fees for extra guests, you probably want to know how many people are actually crashing at your place when you’re not there. Or if you have a strict no-pet policy and suspect a guest might be sneaking in a furry friend, you’d probably like a way to check on that.

You can monitor who is coming and going with something like a video doorbell. SkyBell or the August Doorbell Cam come to mind.

This is also a nice failsafe, in case the guest loses or forgets their access code or their phone is dead and they can’t unlock the smart lock. They can simply press the doorbell, which will give you two-way audio (and one-way video) communication with your guests and you can unlock the door for them.

Smart Thermostat

Smart Home Automation

With a smart thermostat, you will never have to run by your rental to turn on the air conditioning before a guest arrives or off after they leave again. Something like a Nest or Ecobee can determine when people are at home or away and adjust the controlled air respectively. And a thermostat as simple to use as Nest can make it easier for your guests to make themselves comfortable.

These simple automation will save you a lot of hassle and some energy costs over time, especially if your rental remains vacant for extended periods.

Smart Lights

Smart Home Automation

Smart bulbs are more tricky. They continue to work as normal lights, even without a phone app to control them. But without something like an Alexa or Google Home speaker or dedicated controller, guests won’t get to enjoy the full benefits of having bulbs that can change colors or operate on a schedule.

The perks of smart bulbs are more for the host than the guest, however. With connected lights, you can see if a guest happened to leave lights on when they checked out. Or you can set the lights to a schedule to simulate someone being home when the property is vacant.

Security Camera

Smart Home Automation

You definitely don’t want to make your guests feel uneasy, but most will understand if you equip your space with security cameras both indoors and out.

Security footage is one of the few protections Airbnb hosts have against theft. Investing in something like Nest Cam Indoor or Axis will be well worth it should something ever go missing or if anything expensive gets damaged.

If you go this route, just make sure you clearly list that they’re present and working on the Airbnb listing and keep them out of sensitive areas, such as bedrooms and bathrooms.

 

 

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Essential Health Apps Every Senior Should Have

 

Smart Home Automation

Aging Digitally

 

Seniors have found that, with the right repertoire of apps, smartphones and tablets can promote major lifestyle improvements. Smartphone and tablet apps allow seniors to:

  • Keep their minds active and engaged
  • Stay connected with friends and family
  • Keep abreast of news and world events
  • Set reminders for physician appointments and to take medicines
  • Pay bills online
  • Research and receive pertinent medical information
  • Listen to their favorite music
  • Stay well read
  • Easily take and save notes
  • Be entertained

Here are some essential medical information apps every senior should have:

  1. Lumosity: Evidence shows that seniors who keep their minds challenged and their brains active mitigate their risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia. Health claims aside, many puzzle-lovers enjoy Lumosityjust for the fun it provides. Lumosity is an ideal app for seniors, is continuously being updated with new puzzles and brain games, and is a great addition to any senior’s cell phone or tablet.
  2. Medisafe: Despite their best efforts, even seniors without memory problems can have a hard time keeping track of their medicines or fully complying with a treatment plan. Medisafe is a robust tool that seeks to help older adults manage their medications, set reminders, and create status reports about how well they have stuck to their medication regimen. At the same time, Medisafe takes privacy extremely seriously, and you can be confident that your personal medical information is safe and secure.
  3. WebMD: No app can replace a physician, but for medical information in the digital age, there is no name as trusted as WebMD. You can ask the app questions, which it responds to with highly relevant articles written by physicians who are specialists in the topic in question. It allows you to browse high-quality articles, and even get updated information about how current weather conditions may impact your health (for example, through reports on air quality and pollen levels).
  4. My Recovery app, designed by a surgeon, would help patients prepare for their operation, to understand what to expect during and after their hospital stay, and to guide them through any necessary rehabilitative physiotherapy exercises individually tailored to their needs.
  5. Blood Pressure Companion: If you want to obtain more comprehensive blood pressure data on your iPhone, try Blood Pressure Companion. This app not only lets you measure your blood pressure and heart rate, but it will also send you a test reminder. Over time, collected data will help you look for patterns in your readings. If you add your weight in the app, you may even see your blood pressure drop as you lose pounds. This is an ideal app for recording information between doctor’s visits — feel free to share your data with your doctor at your next appointment.
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Want your home to be Lighting Smart

Smart Home Automation

Smart lighting control is not a new thing. It’s been around since the dawn of home automation. It may be one of the oldest options, but it’s still one of the most important—and the one that may be the most difficult to live without.

1. Type of system. If you want a wired system, which is deemed the most robust and reliable, you’re going to have to get a pro. However, wireless systems are often easy to install (although pros do them, too) and are typically scalable.

2. Scene options. Probably one of the main reasons you want a lighting control system is for convenience. Make sure your system can deliver “scenes,” which can trigger several fixtures, dimming levels, and/or colors, all at the touch of a button.

3. Colors abound! Do you want the option to change the room color based on your furniture, party theme, or mood? There are several color-changing smart bulbs that can be easily tied into your smart lighting system.

4. Integration features. There are several ways to integrate lighting control into a larger smart home system, so make sure your lighting products are compatible with other devices you have (or want) around the house. For instance, lighting control is often paired with motion or contact sensors, so lights turn on when an unexpected visitor approaches or when your car pulls into the driveway. One of the newest ways to control lights is by speaking your wishes to a voice assistant, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

5. Types of control. If you don’t want keypads, don’t opt for a system that needs them. Many of today’s smart lighting systems offer different control options, including keypads and remotes. Most also work with smartphones and tablets, but make sure the system you choose isn’t an iOS or Android exclusive—or you may be out of luck.

6. Type of Bulbs. LED light bulbs are all the rage, so make sure the lighting system you select can not only control LEDs but can also dim them. If you’ll have a combination of different types of bulbs, like some incandescent and some LED, choose a system that can easily handle the control of both types.

7. Geo-fencing. By connecting your home lighting control system to your smartphone, you can set the home lights to automatically turn on when you are within a certain distance of the home. On the flip side, you can set the lights to turn off when your phone is more than one mile away.