Why You Need a Smart Home Lighting Automation System

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Smart Home Lighting Automation System San Diego, CA

Not long ago the idea of automating your entire home was unfamiliar to most but today adoption is rising rapidly. Smart home lighting automation systems are innovative breakthroughs in how lighting is handled. They simplify day-to-day living by offering a way to easily control your home environment.

A smart home lighting automation system connects all your lighting fixtures together. This enables the management of all lighting from one central location in your home or portable device.

These systems are designed to be highly customizable in order to meet individual home needs. You can customize wireless components, integrate with other wireless devices (e.g. your smartphone), and even expand overall functionality as needed.

All of that value and more are possible with smart home lighting automation.

All-around Home Convenience

Systems are super-easy to maintain, program, and make adjustments to. You can do things like control heating and air conditioning, entertainment systems, and create lighting pre-sets (e.g. settings for parties, dine, cooking). Also, you can schedule when lights come on and off throughout the day.

Central control over your lighting means you no longer have to be in the same room to switch lights off/on. One master wireless controller gives you complete control of your home. Making it possible to adjust how your system works quickly and easily.

Integrate and Maintain Control With Mobile Devices

Your Android, iPhone, iPad, etc. can be used to program and control your lights, including any custom functions you’ve added. That means you can give commands to your automated lighting system from any Internet-enabled location. No need to rush home whenever you forget to turn on/off your lights.

Smart Home Lighting Automation Saves You Money

Occupancy and vacancy sensors allow lighting automation systems to automatically shut off lights whenever a room isn’t occupied. Alternatively, rooms can be automatically lit when there are people in a room.

In addition, some smart lighting systems support the integration of your automated window shades. Some even track your patterns using AI to further automate how your home lighting works. Here is an example.

Let us assume that you always come home from work at 7 PM and usually leave the light on for about an hour. Your smart lighting system will begin to mimic this behavior, which means you will no longer have to give it commands.

All of the aforementioned ensures that energy isn’t being wasted, which saves you money on electricity.

A Sense of Elegance

There is a sense of elegance that comes with having an automated lighting system. Homeowners can pre-set or create the perfect ambiance for different occasions. You can even set something neutral for the entire home. The end result is a more comfortable living space with good tone for social gatherings and relaxation.

Safety and Security

Lighting automation can deter crime and prevent accidents. For instance, your lights can turn on whenever motion is detected outside your doors. Simple things like automating patio lights so that people can climb up the stairs safely can help prevent injuries.

Also, creating or using an existing vacation setting can make it seem like your home is still occupied when vacant. Though you may be away on a trip.

From monetary to comfort to security, smart home automation systems offer a variety of benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.

Meet the Amazon Echo Family

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The Amazon Echo Family consists of a number of smart speakers, many now in their 2nd and 3rd generations.

With the enduringly popular Echo family with the ubiquitous digital assistant Alexa onboard, Amazon has already exerted a stranglehold on a key segment of the market.

Amazon’s approach with smart speakers exemplifies the ethos of a connected home: user-friendly tech capable of controlling gadgets throughout the house hands-free.

Amazon is nevertheless locked into stiff competition with Apple and Google for complete dominance of the home operating system.

Today, we’ll outline Amazon’s emerging home automation line, and the growing range might surprise you in its depth.

And the obvious starting point is those world-famous smart speakers…

Smart Speakers

Amazon smart speakers debuted in late 2014 for Prime members. They soon went mainstream in mid-2015 when the first generation Echo was rolled out.

Until then, Amazon had focused fully on the expansion of its retail platform as well as pushing Amazon Web Services. As the revenue growth of the retail arm started slowing and margins remain very low, Amazon pivoted in an attempt to boost the stock price and swell the bottom line.

By December 2017, Amazon had shifted 36 million smart speakers. One year later, this had practically doubled to a staggering 66 million units. Revenue from smart speakers sold domestically is estimated at $1.2 billion in 2018. This is based on an average price of $60 for the 20 million units sold in the US that year.

With smart speakers launched across all major international markets, growth looks inevitable. CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners) data projects that growth at almost 100%.

Combined with an ever-growing range, Amazon are making it tough for Google to compete, even given the popularity of the Google Home smart speakers packing Google Assistant. Apple’s Home Pod cannot be considered serious competition and appeals to a far slimmer market segment.

We’ll briefly highlight some of the strongest performers in this robust line of smart speakers.

6 Echo Smart Speakers Worth Adding To Your Smart Home

As a foundation for home automation, an Echo device is the default option for millions.

Here are some of the multiple variants at your disposal:

  1. Echo Second Generation
  2. Echo Plus Second Generation
  3. Echo Spot
  4. Echo Dot
  5. Echo Dot For Kids
  6. Echo Show

1) Echo Second Generation

Rebooted with a superior speaker and a fresh fabric design, the newest iteration of Echo is still flying off the shelves in volume.

While Amazon don’t divulge too much specific information about the drivers, you’ll get a pair of speakers equipped with Dolby processing. While “room-filling” is pushing it, you’ll certainly an immersive soundscape to liven up your streaming.

As with all smart speakers, the audio is actually not the USP, though. If the sound disappoints, you can always hook up Echo to external speakers or headphones via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm outlet.

The key attraction, of course, is Alexa. Here, the 7 microphones and innovative beamforming mean Alexa can hear you across a busy, noisy room. You’ll be able to take charge of all your compatible smart devices using voice commands as well as organizing your day.

With hands-free calls and messaging possible between Echo devices, this original model is still a smart home stalwart in 2018. All that remains to be seen now is when a third generation will be announced.

2) Echo Plus Second Generation

Upping the ante is Echo Plus, a smart speaker boasting an integrated Zigbee home hub.

The hub means you can take enhanced control of Zigbee-enabled devices without being bound to a third-party gateway. This makes Echo Plus a strong choice if you only plan to invest in a handful of smart devices and you want to keep costs down.

The same dynamic bass and clear upper end as Echo give you more than serviceable audio. You can tweak equalizer settings with voice commands. You can also drop in a second Echo Plus if you want true stereo sound.

Finished in fabric with a choice of 3 colorways, this unobtrusive smart speaker is our overall favorite from a broad and impressive range.

3) Echo Spot

A tiny disc measuring just 4.1 x 3.8 x 3.6 inches and weighing less than 15oz, Echo Spot punches above its weight.

While marketed as a smart alarm clock, Spot can do so much more than wake you in the mornings. Once up, you can stream your favorite tunes to ease into your day. Ask Alexa for traffic reports and weather forecast to streamline your planning. Organization is where this digital assistant excels.

Just like with the larger stablemates, you’ll also be able to take control of the compatible smart devices in your home hands-free.

If you want the ultimate in portability or a second Echo device to add to your collection, Spot is well worth investigating.

4) Echo Dot

Now into a third generation, Echo Dot is also tiny with a price tag as skimpy as its footprint.

Sound has certainly improved, but it’s advisable to hook up Dot to a third-party speaker using Bluetooth or an audio cable. That way, you’ll get a far richer streaming experience whether from Amazon Music or Apple Music, YouTube or Spotify.

Hands-free calling between devices turns Echo Dot into a makeshift intercom. Drop-in allows you to stay in touch with your nearest and dearest or to call the kids down for dinner.

Boasting more than 50,000 skills, Alexa just keeps getting better. As with all Echo devices, smart home control is a breeze.

Set-up couldn’t be simpler, and if you want to know what to do once you’re up and running, we’ve got you covered here.

5) Echo Dot For Kids

If you want to introduce your children to home automation in a safe and user-friendly way, the kids’ version of Echo Dot is the obvious choice.

Blue, green, and red covers add a splash of fun to proceedings. You can also get multi-packs, ideal if you’ve got several children and you’re on a tighter budget.

This smart speaker comes with a year’s subscription to FreeTime Unlimited thrown in. Audible books, games, songs, and skills are all immaculately kid-friendly. You’ll be able to take charge of everything using the Amazon Parent Dashboard. You can monitor activity, implement time limits and allow calls to designated numbers.

As with all Echo smart speakers, you can also encourage your kids to control the lights or plugs using voice commands. It’s a nice, gently way to ease them into home automation without them tampering with your main Echo device.

The crowning glory is a 2-year limited warranty so you won’t have any concerns about unleashing your children with a breakable device.

6) Echo Show

Echo Show is not cheap but steps the smart speaker game up by adding a 10-inch HD screen.

From watching videos to making calls with an added dimension, you should ask yourself honestly how much use you’ll make of the screen. After all, if you’re only planning to watch the occasional YouTube clip, it’s senseless. If you’re looking for a kitchen companion, though, you’ll be delighted you made the investment. Following recipes and setting timers is brought to life on screen.

Packing the usual smart home control, you’ll be able to discover and set up compatible Zigbee devices with no need for an additional hub.

Smart Home Lighting Saves Energy

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Smart Home LightingSmart Lighting Solutions

A smart home lighting solution is a clear win in many aspects. When it comes to energy efficiency, you have plenty of options. However, many homeowners overlook a key energy-saving opportunity – lighting. It accounts for almost 20% of the average homeowner’s monthly electric bill. Lighting controls can help increase energy savings throughout your home and provide a meaningful return on investment within a short time horizon.

Light control offers many ways to help the environment while beautifying your home. Dimmers and light control systems let you use just the right amount of light, reducing electricity usage and extending bulb life. With eco-home products, you can save energy without sacrificing comfort or style. Whole-home light control systems extend energy saving throughout your entire home and our advanced technology allows you to control the latest energy-efficient light sources, such as LEDs and fluorescent lamps. Shading solutions help optimize daylight in your home by reducing heating and cooling costs while making the space more comfortable. The perfect complement to light and shade control, temperature control gives you the ability to adjust heating and cooling systems any time of day—even while you’re away from home, saving on your energy usage. We also offer a variety of single room solutions to further increase your home’s energy efficiency.

Installing dimmers is one of the easiest green home improvements you can make. With our full line of eco-home dimmers, sensors and timers, you have a variety of options to help you add energy-saving to a single space or throughout your home.

Residential Rebates & Incentives

Smart home lighting energy savings may qualify for federal and state rebates. Many rebates and other incentives exist for those creating energy efficient settings. You can check out this database to see if you qualify for any lighting upgrade benefits.

 

Smart Lighting

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Smart Home Lighting

Along with shading, lighting control has become an enormous part of contemporary residential design. It cleans away wall acne, lets the homeowner arrive in style and depart with ease, and centralizes control across every fixture with their varying intricacies for optimal effect.

As it turns out, and much to the chagrin of all involved (homeowner, architect, lighting designer, technology integrator), it’s a real challenge to pull this off correctly.

The complexity of lighting design has created a gauntlet of potential headaches. The right performance depends on compatibility across several variables for every circuit: Fixture, driver, wiring, dimming module… One oversight in any element can prevent lights from dimming smoothly—or at all. Poor design could lead to the bottom 10 percent of dimming cutting off completely, or your lights flickering. If you have been on a project site you have likely seen when this goes wrong. It is a nightmare.

There is no single manufacturer that covers all bases. Applications, interface, and aesthetic preferences all vary. We’ve spent the last few years building our “dream team” of solutions covering entry-level products, warm dim, tunable white, circadian, high CRI, indoor, and outdoor lighting.

Lutron provides the broadest and most stable backbone (and user interface) for both commercial and residential applications. Most circumstances tend to be a fit for their Homeworks QS or RadioRA2 platforms. They also offer fixtures. Their entry-level Finiré series (don’t worry, nobody else can pronounce it either) offers 3-inch and 4-inch recessed lights with warm dimming—“Cool white” at full brightness and “warm white” at lower levels.

Early last year Lutron acquired Ketra, which brought products capable of tunable white and circadian rhythm. This technology allows white light to span the full spectrum and do so at the same color temperature and cadence as the sun. The lighting system knows your location on the globe using latitude and longitude, current season, and time of day. It is, hands-down, the most impressive demo you will ever see.

It’s difficult to predict where technology integration will be in 10 years, but if the recent past is any indicator, the days of helping with installation alone are gone. Lighting technology is just one example of rapid evolution. Along with it comes the need for more insightful guidance through the growing landscape of options.

Lutron Authorized Dealer

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!

 

7 Things Every Homeowner Needs in a Smart Home Today

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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.

Have a Spooktacular Halloween With Your Own Haunted Smart Home

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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 […]

How to be a Smart Airbnb Host

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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.