How “Smart” Is Your Home?

Content provided by our partner Tom Bull, Two River Computer ~

The whole movement kind of started with devices we could plug into the wall and add a lamp to it.  Then we could add that device to our wifi (albeit painfully) and install an app on our smartphone to turn it on and off.  Amazing stuff! You could create a schedule where it turned on and off at the same time each day. Wow, that’s progress!

Fast forward to 2018 and there’s loads of devices that work using our in-home wifi to control our stuff.  Maybe it’s a Nest thermostat, the front door lock, garage door opener, holiday lights, outdoor spotlights, smoke and CO detectors or a video camera or two that you were able to get working in your home…with a little finesse and some patience.  But things have gotten better and easier.

There’s still a few unrelated technologies that allow these items to work in our home.  They are considered protocols and go by the names of Z-wave, Zigbee and Thread to name a few.  Then there’s the ones we already know, like ethernet, wifi and Bluetooth.

The idea is to integrate some needed tech into our homes and make it easy to control and manage it.  That’s not always how it goes. I started doing this a while ago when Verizon actually had their own solution which included a video camera, thermostat and smartplugs.  It was good, but not great and didn’t really grow beyond the initial offering and eventually fizzled and they abandoned it. Short of buying something really expensive and high-end, I was forced to cobble together something that suited my needs.  I did loads of research and decided I was going to settle on Nest.

First, I added their thermostat.  That’s an amazing device! It saves money, gives you feedback by learning your habits and one of the best things is the ability to raise or lower the temp from my smartphone…from ANYWHERE in the world!  Nothing better than cranking the heat or the AC when you’re in the airport and come home to perfect temperature.

Then I added Nest cameras.  I put one inside aimed at the front door and one outside aimed at the same front door.  When I’m away I can put the motion detection on and know when the kid comes to feed the cat or when a package may get delivered because I get an alert on my phone.  The quality is great and it is in the same app as the thermostat. I love it when the items play nice together!

Nest also has some other products, so I added the Smoke/CO detectors.  I have 2 and know from the same Nest app on my phone if there’s a smoke condition (Alex, stop putting the cast iron pan on so high when cooking your steaks!) or if the batteries need changing.  I also have the door lock, which has a keycode system so I can see who comes and goes. I can give separate codes for each person and even give out temporary codes to allow one-time access. Nest has even more products, like video doorbells, an alarm system and more.  I want to do more in my home, but Nest doesn’t have ALL the stuff I need and want, so now what?

Enter Alexa.

Actually, it’s the Amazon Echo, but we all just call it Alexa.  Since Nest can work with Alexa, I can simply say, “Alexa, lower the temperature to 72 degrees” or “Alexa, is the front door locked?”.  Alexa has these “skills” that can be added to control the other devices in my home that are not Nest products. I have light switches and smartplugs that control all kids of things like the island lights in the kitchen, table lamps in the living room and family room, outdoor lights for my deck and pergola and even the Christmas tree.  “Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree”. Or better yet, create a “routine” where items can be set to turn on or off at certain times…all controlled with your smartphone app or asking Alexa. When I come down in the morning, I say, “Alexa, good morning” and she turns on a few lights and tells me the weather report for the day. I even have a Sonos wireless sound system that Alexa can control.  “Alexa, play Grateful Dead on the deck” or “Alexa, play my party playlist in the whole house”. The possibilities are almost endless.

There are many smarthome devices out there to make your home more efficient, more convenient or just more fun!  The idea should be to create an easy to manage collection of devices that can be controlled with your smartphone or your voice.  I see almost no need for a permanent wall-mounted control panel solution that will become outdated. I avoid anything that requires a control panel.

Think about the things you could control or monitor; temperature, lights, TVs, security system, door locks, cameras, sprinklers, water spill or high/low temperature alarms, robot vacuums, window shades, garage door openers and more coming each day!  To get going with this in your home, start small with a thermostat or video doorbell and then start adding on. Try to stick with devices that use wifi and work with Alexa to make things easier.

Have fun with it and in the end you and your home will be smarter.  Plus, it’s really fun to show off to family and friends!

120 Fair Haven Road    Fair Haven, NJ 07704    (732) 747-0020


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