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7 Things Every Homeowner Needs in a Smart Home Today

Voice controlled home automation

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

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

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

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

1: A Platform

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

2: Security

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

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

3: Energy

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

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

4: Lighting

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

5: Audio

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

6: TV

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

7: Outdoor

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

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

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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.

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Have a Spooktacular Halloween With Your Own Haunted Smart Home

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

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How the Internet of Things will enable seniors to stay in their homes longer

Ninety percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age. Livability can be optimized through the incorporation of universal design principles. One-third of American households are home to one or more residents 60 years of age or older.

Senior Living

Cheerful senior couple making faces and having fun while taking a selfie with smart phone.

Technology can be an enabler for aging in place. There are four categories of technology that may help seniors stay in their home longer: Communication and Engagement, Health and Wellness, Learning and Contribution, and Safety and Security.

Emerging sensor and connectivity technology has made possible the development of a new generation of monitoring systems that don’t require the person being monitored (the resident) to wear a device. Instead, networks of sensors within the home connect to a cloud-based algorithm that learns the daily living patterns of the resident. The algorithm recognizes if there is a deviation that may require sending an alert to a smart phone or social media app so someone can take action, or at least pay closer attention.

The behavior patterns that Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring systems are able to detect and learn include these activities:

  • location of the resident within the home
  • light sources being used
  • bed time and awakening time
  • television watching
  • cooking
  • bathroom usage
  • leaving the home and returning
  • heating or air conditioning temperature and adjustments

As you can see, all of these depend on either motion or an electric appliance or source being utilized, which pretty much encapsulates everyone’s home life. Surely anything that can reduce the astronomical number of human caregivers that would be needed over the next few decades to care for the exploding elderly demographic is welcome.

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How I got my grandmother hooked to Audible

Home Automation

Amazon Alexa

First, Evelyn Moore tried to read books with a magnifying glass. Then, she turned to a tablet to make the words on her e-books larger. Eventually, she couldn’t even see that. The 95-year-old was losing her sight, and with it, one of her favorite hobbies.

“She wasn’t able to read anymore, and that was a big loss,” said her son James Moore.

Last year, the younger Moore had an idea: What if he could get his mom a device that could read books to her without the need to navigate a control screen that she had a hard time seeing?

That device turned out to be the Amazon Echo, an internet-connected smart speaker that responds to voice commands. James Moore figured that he could buy his mother audiobooks from Audible, then teach her to use voice prompts to have the Echo play the audiobook.

At first, Evelyn Moore was a little wary.

“It took a little while to convince her of it,” James Moore said. “Her thought was that we’re going to have wires everywhere.”

Eventually, she agreed to try it. It’s been nearly a year, and she’s listened to 178 books.

Smart home gadgets like the Amazon Echo can provide an extra layer of comfort and protection for older adults who want to stay in their own homes as they age. They can also give caregivers or adult children like Jim Godek a means to monitor them, especially if they don’t live close to one another.

Evelyn Moore isn’t alone. Roughly 90 percent of seniors intend to continue living in their current home for the next five to 10 years, according to a survey taken by the AARP in 2012. But change — in the form of new technology — can be scary and intimidating. How do you tell your parents you want them to use a smart home device to help them live independently?

“Starting any kind of conversation with the elderly can be tricky,” said Barbara McVickers, an elder care expert, and author. “Mom and Dad sometimes don’t want to talk about this. They see this as a role reversal. They still want to be in charge. It becomes a tug-of-war with the parents wanting to be autonomous and the child caring about the well-being of their parents.”

Here are some tips on how to start a conversation with your parents about upgrading to smart home tech for their benefit — and yours:

  • Include them in the conversation instead of telling them what to do. “If we just go blaring in there as adult children, they’re going to really dig their heels in,” McVickers said. Listen to their own concerns, and share your own, too.
  • Call a family meeting to talk about how you want to help your parents. Bring in your siblings or other family members who provide care for your parents so “everyone is deciding together what is best for mom and dad,” McVickers said. Consider bringing in a third party your parent’s trust so they can provide some perspective, too, such as their physician, insurance agent or a family friend.
  • Provide a real-life example of how a gadget could help. Do you have a friend whose parents’ home got broken into who could have benefited from a security system? Use stories like that to illustrate the need to add some devices to their homes. And discuss how a device could help make your life easier, especially if you are the primary caregiver. McVickers suggests that you make a statement like this: “I’m doing this out of love and safety, but we need to know how we can help you age the way you wish.”
  • If your parents are on board with adding a smart home gadget to their routine, pick something that’s simple and requires little interaction. New technology is intimidating, and something too difficult to learn can turn off aging parents. For your parents to successfully make a new device a part of their lives, “it almost has to work flawlessly without their interaction,” McVickers said. (Check out these smart home devices that are easier to use.)
  • Install new devices for your parents and write down step-by-step instructions for how to use them. “If Mom and Dad can’t use it, it’s not helpful at all,” McVickers said.
  • Make sure your parents have a reliable internet connection and Wi-Fi network if the devices you choose rely on Wi-Fi. Here are some Wi-Fi systems that will help make sure your parents and their devices stay online.
  • Reevaluate how your parents are doing with the new device.Check in regularly to see if the device is helping them. Stay on top of your parents’ needs since they could change and require new and different technology.
  • Know when to accept defeat. Your parents might be adamant against changes to their routine. “There’s a certain point you can’t do anything else,” McVickers said. “They’re adults. Forgive yourself if you don’t get everything in place.”For Evelyn Moore, the introduction of the Amazon Echo into her home has had a huge impact, according to her son.”She has made the comment that she can look forward to something brand new every day when she gets up,” he said.

    They’ve added a smart thermostat to Evelyn Moore’s home that she can voice-control, too. But all of the additions have to be on her terms.

    “It’s still her life,” James Moore said. “I can have all the input I want, but it’s her choice.”

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How to be a Smart Airbnb Host

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

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

Smart Locks

Smart Home Automation

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

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

Video Doorbell

Smart Home Automation

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

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

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

Smart Thermostat

Smart Home Automation

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

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

Smart Lights

Smart Home Automation

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

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

Security Camera

Smart Home Automation

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

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

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

 

 

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Want your home to be Lighting Smart

Smart Home Automation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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