, , ,

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!

 

,

Smart Lock Buying Guide

Looking to upgrade to a connected lock? Here’s what you should know before you take the plunge.

The thing that makes smart locks so popular among homeowners not because they look futuristic and cool, but rather for the simple fact that smart locks try to find the balance between convenience and efficiency. Smart locks are often used on rental properties to give tenants and landlords peace of mind.

The smart lock industry wanted to make a basic action and make it even more convenient. However, some might say that the pursuit of convenience has made security an afterthought. How do you know that the smart locks installed in your home are actually protecting it?

In an attempt to help you answer this question, let’s talk about some of the highest rated smart locks on the market, and see how secure they really are.

1. August Smart Lock

The August Smart Lock is one of the best smart locks that has emerged from the smart lock industry. The August Smart Lock has a circular design, that almost makes it look like a stylized hockey puck. This cool design makes it look like something out of a modern sci-fi movie. The August Smart lock is also loaded with features that help you keep your home and property secured.

This smart lock allows homeowners to control their locks by using their smartphones. This means you will no longer have to rely on your old keys. The benefit of this is that homeowners will never have to worry about being llocked out of the house. In addition to this, this smart lock is built to work with the current deadbolt that you have installed in your home.

From a physical security standpoint, the August Smart Lock is as secure as the deadbolt that it installed on to. This means that if you have a good, secure, deadbolt installed in your home, the August Smart lock builds off the security you already have. However, there are some inherent flaws in the smart lock that make it less secure than one would think. Smart locks work with software, which means that some of the issues plaguing the August are hard to see just by looking at it.

These issues raised several red flags about the remote hacking of the August Smart Lock. Although many other smart locks focus on cool, unique designs, the new generation of the August Smart Lock has built upon the flaws of other smart locks to build a truly exceptional and secure lock.

2. Danalock

Danalock is another top contender in the security industry. Similar to the August Smart Lock, this lock simply wants to help homeowners lead more simple and convenient lives. The Danalock looks very similar to the August Smart Lock because it has the same hockey puck design. Also, it lets homeowners open their lock using their smartphones.

The lock is able to accomplish this by using BLE and Z-Wave features. Match the names “BLE” and “Z-Wave” with the manuals of some of electronic products around your house to see if they will be compatible. These are the software and hardware that helps your smartphone control the way your lock works. Additionally, it helps you connect your door locks to other parts of your smart home, like smart lights.

Being able to connect different parts of the smart home helps homeowners do a lot of complex tasks by simply clicking one button. Similar to the August Smart Lock, Danalock can work with the lock you have on your door, or you can use the lock cylinders that come with the package.

These cylinders are not high-security lock cylinders which means that there is a chance that a burglar might be able to overcome them. However, in this situation, the Danalock seems to be better than the August Smart Lock because there is no keyway on the lock. This means that a burglar won’t be able to pick your lock.

The Danalock seems to be a much safer option than the August Smart Lock. On the physical side, the lock functions similarly to the August Smart Lock, so it would be false to say that it was far more secure than the August, but doing away with the keyway makes a world of difference.

3. Kwikset

The Kwikset Kevo smart lock is not impenetrable, but it is one of the highest rated smart locks on the market, and for good reason. Similar to the locks discussed above, the Kevo smart lock wants to bridge the gap between smart home technology and security. The Kwikset Kevo helps you do away with your keys and rely on your smartphone to open your locks.

If you do not have a smartphone there is no need to worry, because there is always the option of using a key fob to open your lock. A key fob is a device that helps you operate your lock remotely. Another great feature that the Kevo gives homeowners, is the ability to give your guests temporary keys. For example, if you know some family members are coming over for dinner, you can send them a temporary key from your smartphone, which allows them to let themselves in.

However, unlike the two smart locks discussed above, The Kwikset Kevo has a much better grasp on security. First, the Kevo is an actual lock cylinder, whereas the other smart locks were controlling only your deadbolt. The secure locking mechanism in the Kevo makes it hard for burglars to break into your home. The lock is very resistant to lock picking attacks.

The Kwikset Kevo most definitely has some growing to do, but it is a rather effective lock for homeowners that want to ease their homes into the age of smart locks.

4. Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt

The Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt is (In my opinion) the leading Smart Lock on the market in both convenience and security. The lock comes in two basic trims, either the Century trim or the Camelot trim. Each one lends itself to a particular home design, either modern or rustic. Homeowners can choose the lock that best fits their design style.

The Schlage Sense gives homeowners multiple ways to control their locks. Homeowners have the option of using their smartphones, a keypad, a traditional key, or by simply using voice commands. With so many options at their disposal, homeowners will no longer have to worry about being locked out of their homes.

To make homeowners feel even more secure with their smart lock, the Schlage Sense has a built-in alarm and a high-secure deadbolt. These are the kind of features that security minded homeowners will love.

This smart lock is the perfect blend of the Kwikset Kevo and the August Smart Lock, except it seems to get everything right. This is not to say that it is the perfect lock, or that it is impenetrable, but it does make it harder (than any of the locks listed above) for any unwanted guests to make their way into your home or office.

Conclusion

The smart lock industry obviously still has lots of room to grow, but homeowners can rest assured that these locks are on the right track. Smart home technology makes your life a lot more convenient. If you are using the smart locks discussed above, you will not have to worry about your security either, because they have it covered.

Author Bio
Ralph Goodman is a security expert and lead writer for the Lock Blog, the #1 locksmith blog on the Internet. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about locks, safety and security. They offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, homeowners, locksmiths, and security professionals. Ralph has been featured widely throughout the web on sites such as Business Insider, Zillow, Bluetooth, Apartments.com, CIO and Safewise.

, ,

3 Easy Home Security Upgrades for Older Adults

Seniors Home Security

Outdated technology and unreliable hardware have made some traditional home security setups tough to live with, especially for older adults. Inconvenient wall-mounted control panels can be difficult to access in a hurry if you have limited mobility, and many old-style systems feature small controls and clumsy interfaces that can be especially frustrating for arthritic hands.

Thankfully, the recent wave of smart home innovations (including those from your local cable company) has brought many new products and technologies to the marketplace that make it easier than ever to secure your home. Here are some of the best upgrades to make your home safer, and an all-around better place to live.

1. Video Doorbells
Home security starts at the front porch, and one of the best smart gadgets on the market is a simple upgrade to a common household feature: the doorbell. Products like the Skybell WiFi Video Doorbell and the August Doorbell Camera can provide an excellent first line of defense to your home that is surprisingly easy to use and install.
Simply remove the old doorbell button, attach a few small wires and connect the unit to your home’s Wi-Fi. This simple 10-minute project will provide you with a motion-detecting video feed of visitors and deliveries, all visible via a mobile app on your phone.

With this system in place, seniors can easily screen visitors without ever having to make their way to the door — which means being able to dismiss solicitors through smartphonesion, smart phone or tablet, without even getting up.

2. Smart Garage Door Systems
Upgrading your garage door opener is probably the last thing you think of when you contemplate home security, but seniors may find today’s smart garage sensors to be a huge help in keeping their homes safe.
Systems like MyQ from Chamberlain and other similar products connect a few simple sensors in the garage to a smart home hub, giving users wireless control over their garage doors from inside their home, or even from afar. The app makes it simple to close a forgotten open door while you’re lying in bed or away visiting family. Many cases of theft are due to something as simple a homeowner leaving a garage door open overnight, and this simple tool can help prevent that from happening.

3. Smart Sensors and Cameras

Older adults looking for more traditional ways of securing their homes may be happy to learn that the clunky security products of the past have been replaced with smarter, more reliable solutions that are much easier to install. Visit your local hardware store or talk to your internet service provider or cable company, and you’ll discover some excellent home security kits that operate with battery-powered sensors instead of wires.
You can place these cameras and sensors throughout your home in a matter of minutes, or have the installation done for you by a professional. Use the products in conjunction with a wireless wall panel, or even as part of an all-inclusive smart home hub that you can control through a mobile app on your phone.

These systems are effective on their own, but they’re especially useful when you throw a few indoor and outdoor smart cameras into the mix. Outdoor cameras can give you an early alert to unexpected visitors (whether you’re at home or away), and indoor cameras can provide a valuable safety net of additional security and comfort, as many include temperature and air quality sensors, too.

, ,

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.