Keeping Up with the Jetsons
Posted on Mon, 14 May 2018 in: General Comments: 1
Like many Canadians I grew up on classic cartoons like the Flintstones and Jetsons. The latter was made 30 years before I was born, and yet the gadgets and tech in it still seemed like a lifetime away growing up.
Thanks to rapid advances in the Internet and smart devices I didn’t have to wait a lifetime to enjoy some of the same conveniences as George Jetson. Today I can control most of the appliances in my home with my voice, I can better secure my home, and I can browse through movies, TV, and music without even reaching for a remote.
I’ve been talking about smart home devices more and more often, and a lot of people have told me they’re not sure how to switch to a smarter home. I thought it would be helpful to do a Pinch blog on where to get started, and what devices I’ve enjoyed in my home.
To set-up your smart home you’ll need to decide how you want to control all of your devices. There are three options to choose from; apps for each device, a voice assistant, or a universal remote.
Controlling each device with its own app is the simplest method, but requires you to download multiple apps, which can become disorganized and requires you to use your phone for each command.
Most people go with the second option, using a voice assistant. The three most popular assistants are Amazon’s Alexa on its Echo products, Google’s Home products, and Apple’s Siri, now also available through HomePod.
The voice assistant you choose will determine which devices you’re able to control down the road, so make sure you research which devices are compatible with each voice assistant. Another consideration is whether the voice assistant is compatible with your personal organization tools, such as your calendar or email.
If you’re not interested in issuing commands through voice, or are uncomfortable with some of the privacy concerns that come with a device listening to your every word, there are new universal remotes on the market specifically designed for smart home devices.
Lighting and Temperature
Smart thermostats and light switches have seen the highest rates of adoption, largely because they provide both convenience and cost savings. Some smart thermostats can even act as voice assistant devices, which saves you buying two separate devices.
One of the leading smart thermostat companies, Ecobee, is based in Toronto. If you want to support a Canadian company make sure to pick up one of their devices. The other leader is Nest, which is owned by Google.
We have an Ecobee in our home and have been very happy with it. In particular we like having a temperature sensor on the second floor that keeps our heating and air conditioning consistent throughout our home.
Ecobee also makes a smart light switch that has Amazon’s Alexa built in. This means that in addition to controlling the lighting you can also control your thermostat in a different room, ask for the news or weather outside, or change the song playing.
Smart lights, like the Hue from Phillips, can help you save money on your hydro bill and allow you to set the mood in any room with different ambient lighting colour options. Other smart switches allow you to set timers for your lights and control them remotely.
The last few years have seen home security transition from subscription-based monitoring services towards smart devices, such as video cameras and door locks. With these new devices you can watch live footage from wherever you’ve placed the camera, receive alerts on your phone if there’s someone in your home, and sound alarms remotely.
We use Arlo for our security camera system and have really enjoyed the peace of mind it provides while we are away on business. Thanks to the long battery life of each camera we can go away for weeks and not worry about the cameras dying. They have also been built to withstand Canada’s winters.
In addition to video camera systems there are also smart door locks that allow you to lock your doors remotely, know when your child arrived home, give access to home service providers, and even have Amazon parcels delivered inside your home.
While all this new functionality and simplicity is great, it also creates risks, namely that someone can hack into your home. To make sure you’re protected from these risks it’s important to keep all devices’ software up to date and look into getting additional protection. Soon there will be a device that monitors all your smart home products and can shut them down if it detects any irregularities.
I hope this has helped answer some of your smart home questions and gave you a good place to start. If there is anything I didn’t answer, or products you’d like to know more about, message us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or send us an email at email@example.com.
By Miguel Cassana Wed, 16 May 2018
Great tips, I feel the electricity saving features are useful but I don't think I'm ready to use security features like smart locks that could easily be hacked.