Have Smart Homes Finally Caught Up to Science Fiction?

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Living in a smart home used to be a concept that was only possible in science fiction movies. Fast-forward to the present day and the amount of science fiction concepts that are already being used by regular homeowners is staggering.

In this article, we are going to look at some of the famous examples of smart technology from the media and show how they accurately predicted the future.

Smart Assistants

One of the most famous examples of smart home technology was Tony Stark’s Jarvis from 2008’s Iron Man and its subsequent sequels. In the film, Jarvis is able to respond to a number of voice commands including turning on appliances and finding information. Both Apple and Amazon have famously created virtual assistants that can do just that. Techradar showcased the Atmos Smart Home Control System, which when integrated into the home, allows you to control all your connected devices through one easy-to-use central hub. In 2008, the technology looked as futuristic as the Iron Man suits, today it is available to everyone.

Smart Lights

Many films accurately predicted the smart technology that we have today. The movie Ex Machina has a scene where colored lights are synchronized with whatever music is playing. In the film it is a billionaire’s toy, but today, the average consumer can achieve the same effect with the Philips Hue. It synchronizes your lights with your music so you can watch it come to life. Even as far back as the sixties, smart home technology was predicted. The Ambient notes that from the Jetsons House is a great example of smart technology, as it showed robot vacuum cleaners, smart TVs, and many more smart gadgets that we have today. It goes to show that the concepts were always there, someone just had to bring them to the consumer market.

Smart Appliances

The 1999 movie Smart House, also got a few things right about future home tech including AI assistants and smart home devices that can send messages to your contacts without you picking up the phone. The house in the movie also lets the homeowner create personalized alarms that can wake them up, as well as smart kitchen helpers that can make coffee even before they get to the kitchen.

Artificial Intelligence

Science fiction has always looked at how technology will advance, and many of the concepts that were conceived in the 20th Century have come to fruition in the 21st. Of course, science fiction has generally been more focused on the negative aspect of advancing technology with an emphasis on how technology will turn against humanity. This particular topic has been very popular among some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters such as the Terminator and Jurassic Park franchises. Slingo Slots has a series of titles based on technology and science going wrong including the cinematic classics Jurassic Park and Terminator 2. Both games cover today’s controversial topics, AI and cloning, and the original conception of both titles were conceived when AI and cloning were considered purely science fiction. It goes to show just how far technology has come that games based on futuristic themes are now out-dated. The same is true with smart homes, which are now more advanced than some homes featured in science fiction films.

Of course, it is not just science fiction that smart homes can be associated with. Here on Smaart House we featured several ways to incorporate smart technology in your home for holiday celebrations like Halloween. Spookify is a great option, as it lets you play eerie tunes around your home. Accompany it with a creepy story from Audible and you’re all set for a spooky night.

 

Your Smart Home just got more secure with Alexa Guard

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Alexa, I’m leaving.”

OK — I’ll be on guard.

That’s the gist of Alexa Guard, a new feature from Amazon that lets your Echo devices keep an ear out for trouble when you’re away from home. If Alexa hears something after you’ve put her into Guard mode — a smoke alarm ringing or the sound of shattering glass, for instance — she’ll send you a notification. If you’re an ADT or Ring subscriber, she’ll notify your home security monitoring service, too.

Another feature: If you want, Alexa will cycle your smart lights on and off while you’re away to make it look like you’re home.

First announced back in September, Alexa Guard is now rolling out to Amazon’s customer base in the US. I was able to turn the feature on in my own home over the weekend, and spent some time testing it out. Here are some early takeaways:

Yep, it works!

With far-field microphones in every Echo device, Alexa is already a pretty good listener. Alexa Guard puts those mics to use by listening for the sound of glass breaking or the sound of alarms when you aren’t home.

And, my early impression is that it works pretty well! I didn’t have a spare window to smash at my place, but I played a YouTube video of glass break sound effects near one of my Echo devices, and immediately received a notification on my phone that Alexa heard something that sounded like glass breaking. The same thing happened when I tested with the sound of a smoke alarm going off.

Home Automation Installation

 

Amazon’s algorithm doesn’t seem to be as advanced as that, but it’s still an additional layer of protection while you’re away. And when Alexa hears something, her notification offers the immediate option of using Drop In to listen through your Echo device. If you wanted, you could even broadcast yourself telling the potential intruder that you’re calling the police as a means of scaring them off.

Alexa can’t call 911

Still, as Amazon notes as you’re confirming setup in the Alexa app, “Alexa Guard is not a replacement for an alarm system or life safety devices. Amazon does not monitor Smart Alerts and cannot contact emergency services on your behalf.”

That last bit is really important. Say you’re out on vacation with Alexa Guard turned on. Your Echo device at home hears the sound of your smoke detector going off, and Alexa sends you a notification. Unfortunately, you’re playing in the hotel pool with the kids, and you miss the notification. Alexa won’t act on your behalf at this point the way a professional monitoring service would. It’s on you to see the notification and act accordingly.

That said, with Ring, Amazon says that users can request dispatch of emergency responders directly from the Ring app if they are subscribed to the Ring Protect Plus plan.

And if you’re using an Alexa-compatible home security system that she can already arm and disarm with voice commands, you’ll be able to set it so that happens automatically whenever you turn Guard mode on and off. And if you’re disarming your system, she’ll still ask you for a numerical PIN code before doing so. That’s a touch that saves you from needing to give two separate voice commands as you come and go. Just say, “Alexa, I’m leaving” when you’re walking out the door, then “Alexa, I’m home,” followed by your PIN code when you return.

Away Lighting is smart and simple

Along with listening for trouble, Alexa Guard will let the assistant toggle your smart lights on and off while you’re out to make it look like you’re home — and potentially deter any would-be burglars from attempting a break-in.

You can enable the feature with a single tap when you’re turning Alexa Guard on in the Alexa app for Android and iOS devices. Once you do, the app will list all of your smart lights and include them all in Away Lighting by default. If there are any you’d like left out, just uncheck them.

The feature asks for your zip code when you’re setting it up — Alexa uses that zip code to know what time sunset is in your area each night. Away Lighting will only run when it’s dark out.

From there, you should be all set. When Alexa Guard is active and set to Away mode, your lights will automatically cycle on and off. The feature worked well when I tested it, and was even smart enough to automate some lights in tandem where it made sense — “Bedroom Ceiling Light 1” and “Bedroom Ceiling Light 2,” for instance. I didn’t need to set that up; Alexa just figured it out.

I also appreciated that the Alexa app gives you a detailed rundown of Alexa’s automated moves during Away Lighting. That’s good for micro-managers (and, admittedly, for guinea pigs like me that want a closer look at what Alexa’s up to).

Cheers!

 

12 home Automation Tips for the Holidays

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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!