Last updated: December 2, 2020
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The Best Devices for a Smart home – and what to do with them
Smart homes are here to stay. Right now, you can decide whether you want to turn your lights on manually or with your voice. Already, household electronics are being designed for Internet of Things so that one day soon, your home appliances and fittings will automatically adjust themselves to fit in with your lifestyle.
These devices will collect information, analyze the information, and respond to this information. This will make your home a smart home.
The promise of smart homes is an easier life as well as more efficient use of scarce resources like water and energy.
Defining Smart Homes
When the gadgets in your home are connected wirelessly, they operate in smart ways. The lights might come on when you walk into your home. Your entire home may even be able to secure itself at night without you doing anything – doors locking, curtains closing, thermostat dialing down, and lights going off. The whole routine goes on without you lifting a finger.
‘SMART’ stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, which means that a smart home is not just automated – it actively gathers information and amends its behavior accordingly. All these are possible features of an automated home. Pre-determined triggers prompt the home to do things. For example, lights can go off at a certain hour, or in response to a verbal instruction. Thermostats can dial up or down depending on the temperature. Soon, smart homes will feature cutting-edge artificial intelligence.
All the home automation options available rely on programming to connect all your devices into a truly smart home. Programs are designed to respond to voice commands, the location of the home owner, and other triggers.
Smart Devices for a Smart Home
Smart lighting is a good place to start if you want to achieve a smart home. Besides energy savings and convenience, smart lighting instantly makes your home cool. Smart bulbs can adjust intensity, oscillate between warm and white, even change color. Smart switches connect all the lights so that they are easy to control.
Smart locks add convenience and let in visitors securely. They save you from the hassle of carrying keys – or hiding them under a rug. A fingerprint, code, or phone is enough to let you in. They can also trigger other features like light or shut everything down upon departure.
With a little help from your phone, the locks, or presence sensors, your thermostat can know whether you are home and turn itself down or up. This saves energy. The thermostat can also adjust to more heat from the sun.
You may not have CCTV, but a smart home allows you to keep watch using cheap wifi enabled cameras that are motion activated. They are simple enough for anyone to install and use.
Burglars are more likely to avoid a home under surveillance because they provide evidence. They help you watch your pets, elders, or teenagers home.
The video doorbell is a special device that functions like voicemail on your door. Visitors who turn up in your absence can record a video message for you.
With a smart security system, you can monitor your home from anywhere using your smartphone.
Smart TVs are already present in most homes. Smart speakers are also super cheap and serve such a variety of uses as to be indispensible.
They can play a specific song on demand even enable your TV to receive voice commands.
You can connect your speaker to Alexa, Google, or Siri and it will take instructions like read the news or set a timer in the kitchen.
Why you should think about a Smart Home
There are three major reasons why people invest in smart homes. Smart homes offer efficiency, security, and convenience.
The interconnectedness of devices in a smart home makes it possible to manage your home more effortlessly. You can create a morning routine that involves setting off your alarm, getting the coffee maker started, turning on the lights, tuning into your preferred radio show, and starting off the shower.
With cameras and an internet connected smart home, you can always monitor the goings on while you are away. Someone showing up at your front door, any movement in the home, doors opening, can all trigger smart sensors to alert you. Smart locks can even tell you who it was that came in through the door, making it possible to keep tabs on your kids.
The smart thermostat drastically reduces energy consumption. But every aspect of the smart home contributes to energy efficiency. You can remotely manage your energy intensive domestic gadgets using a smart phone. You can ensure that rooms are only warmed and lit when they are being used. Smart plugs monitor home energy consumption and allow you to discern opportunities for cutting costs.
How the Smart Home Works
Smart devices are easy to install and use because they depend on wireless connections. You will not have to lay down untidy cable wires across your home. They run on Z-Wave, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, or Thread protocol most of the time. These wireless radio protocols make it possible for your electronic devices to communicate with each other and with the Cloud.
In a smart home, devices may communicate with each other through a hub within the home and only use the Cloud to store data and process commands. This data includes video footage, photographs, etc. This data is relayed to the Cloud over Wi-Fi.
Most devices need to be controlled and set up via an app installed on a tablet/smart phone. The app enables smart home users to interact with their devices at home. They can schedule things or hook up to their smart home network to automate your home and put in place routines.
Choosing a Smart Home Ecosystem
You can buy smart gadgets like video doorbells that can do their job autonomously but a smart home is a lot more than just a single gadget. Your gadgets have to coordinate with each other to create routines, automate functions, and generally adjust to your lifestyle.
You can achieve this with a Smart Home Ecosystem which connects to all your home devices and allows them to be programmed, manipulated, and coordinated to create routines.
There are now four leading smart home ecosystems in the market: Homekit from Apple, Home from Google, Alexa from Amazon, and SmartThings from Samsung. They are all easy to install and set up. You do not need to hire someone else to install them, unless you want to.
You are already on the right track if you have a digital assistant combined with an ecosystem like Apple’s Homekit. To start setting up a smart home, you have to first have a clear picture of your priorities. Elements like lighting, temperature, security, and entertainment all need to be modified to fit in with your lifestyle as it is. Your lifestyle and preferences should inform your Smart Home design.
Start by looking for devices that enable you to control the elements you need to control, like heating. Once you have the device, you now need to put in an ecosystem to support the devices. Anything else will come as an add-on.
Most devices are capable of functioning within multiple ecosystems. You will not have to spend too much money on hardware. And apps are free on the Playstore or Applestore. You can switch from one ecosystem to another or even use them simultaneously. They are not designed to be mutually exclusive.
HomeKit from Apple
Pros and Cons of HomeKit from Apple:
HomeKit is simple and reliable, as well a secure solution for people who care about their privacy. The HomeKit processes all your data locally and encrypts it before uploading it to the Cloud. This ensures the privacy of your personal information.
Apple’s HomeKit is ideal for Apple users because it works with iPhones, Macs, iPads, and Apple Watches. Siri provides voice control. The HomeKit runs on Thread, WiFi, and Bluetooth.
The downside of working with HomeKit is that it is only compatible with iPhones and iPads, not Android devices. Users will need to deploy the HomePod Mini, Apple TV or other Apple Hub. This drives up the cost of the Apple HomeKit.
Pros and Cons of Alexa from Amazon:
Alexa is named for the voice assistant called Alexa. Alexa is affordable and offers the widest range of compatibility with the devices in your home. This range has been enhanced by the addition of Zigbee radio to Alexa’s Echo speaker (it already has Bluetooth and Wifi). This means that it works well with everything from light bulbs to motion sensors.
Alexa makes it easier to create a voice-control enabled smart home system because so many affordable smart speakers, thermostats, displays, and light switches come with it already inbuilt.
Even though it is compatible with more devices than HomeKit, there are some devices that do not necessarily work properly with Alexa. Do not purchase any electronic device before first testing how it works with Alexa. One more downside to Alexa is that it is harder to access using a smartphone compared to the other smart home solutions.
Pros and Cons of Google Home from Google:
The app for controlling this smart home system is also aptly called Google Home and you can use your smart phone to run it. Google Home’s answer to Alexa is the Google Assistant and it enables a voice controlled home. You can operate the Google Assistant from anywhere because it is in your smart watch or Android phone.
Google offers two smart displays: Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub with a touchscreen for a control panel. You do not need your voice to adjust your thermostat, lights, speakers, and locks.
The range of home devices that work with Google is growing fast, but still relatively small. Google Home does not offer users the option of using sensors to trigger routines. It only has voice command, phones, and automated schedules. Plus, Google Home only has Thread, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It does not support Z-Wave or Zigbee.
Pros and Cons of SmartThings from Samsung:
SmartThings is one of the premier smart home solutions and is compatible with more smart home gadgets than the others. This includes most Samsung appliances, of course. SmartThings is capable of controlling Wi-Fi as well as Zigbee and Z-Wave devices.
This is an advantage because Z-Wave can work with smaller devices using less power. And it responds faster because it communicates to its hub and not the Cloud.
SmartThings can work with Alexa as well as Bixby voice assistant from Samsung. You can use both.
The downside is that SmartThings is the most complex system, especially when paired with Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. This is the downside of working with such a powerful and multifaceted system.
Building your own Smart Home System
What if you want a Smart Home but do not want to give tech companies access to your home? You could consider creating your own smart home. Use open-source software for your home assistant and Raspberry Pi.
This approach calls for the type of people who enjoy the challenge of building computers. It is rewarding and allows you to customize it and protect your private information.
Adding Voice Control to your Smart Home
All smart home systems can be voice-controlled. You should not have to get up from your couch to turn off the light (or adjust the temperature) after installing a smart home.
A smart speaker will give you the best voice control. Each of these systems has compatible speakers which have radio for wireless protocols. These speakers do more than just add voice control.
Smartphones, smart watches, tablets, and smart speakers have digital assistants. Only Siri from Apple works from a desktop computer.
Voice control works when you equip each room with a speaker which will automatically know which room it is placed in.
Putting it all Together
After installing your smart home gadgets, you want to create routines and scenes and automate functions. Thankfully, the ecosystems we have discussed are nearly similar.
You start by picking a trigger which will prompt the automated functions. The trigger could be your location, the time, or an event – like a door being opened.
You then decide on when or the ‘conditions’ under which these functions will happen. It could be daily or on weekends, or when you are away. You could put in place one condition or multiple conditions.
You can now decide what happens next. For example when someone opens a door, a camera comes on or the thermostat is adjusted. Multiple actions can happen at once. They are called a Scene.
To trigger a scene, you may use the app or voice command. For example, a ‘movie’ scene will turn up heat, dim lights, and start Netflix.
Here are some routines you can start with: Goodbye, Good Morning, Welcome home, and Goodnight. These are all fully customizable.
What 2021 is bringing to Digital Asset Management
Digital asset management is a growing market. It attained a global $3.88 billion mark globally in 2020 and it looks like the only way is up.
Digital asset management is a software solution to the problem of storing, retrieving, and using digital assets. Digital assets include web pages, text documents, blueprints, audio files, graphics, and videos among other types of files.
Digital asset management solutions make it easy to access data as well as edit and share it through an integrated interface. Organizations and businesses are increasingly working online and collaborating from remote locations. This makes digital asset management an essential business service.
Why DAM will Gain Popularity
DAMs will gain more and more users who will need help managing digital files. DAM software fits in well with content management systems for example. This provides a more cohesive experience.
There are multiple types of DAM software that one can either host on-site or on the cloud. Get the best by comparing a range of DAM software tools to find the one that meets your personal needs. You want a DAM tool that can do all this:
- Asset organization
- Easy asset sharing both internally and externally
- Doing away with duplicated assets
- Help with version control
To get the most out of DAM software, take time to understand it and what it can do.
Multi-Channel Automated Marketing
Last year’s lockdowns saw many companies ramp up their online marketing investments. This increase in online marketing spending continues into 2021 and will probably go on for years afterward.
This focus on online marketing has created more work. People have to work on blogs, build social media engagement, conduct analyses, etc. Marketing departments have to do a lot more work across multiple social media channels using the same budget that they had before.
DAM software can make this a lot easier. It can automate some tasks and create a more user-friendly interface.
They can make it easier for users to share files and distribute them in a usable format. Before 2022, DAM software will be even more widely used. More companies will appreciate the practicality of DAM.
Blockchain and DAM
Blockchain technology has great potential for uses other than tracing bitcoin. Merging bitcoin technology with Digital Asset Management could create a better solution that delivers a higher level of security – letting users know whether an image is unaltered or data unchanged.
Tools that Enable Automatic Tagging
Tagging images and text files can be tedious. DAM relies on metadata to enable users to search for files and find them. Automatic tagging is central to metadata.
DAM can recognize the information in image and text files and automatically suitable tags. OCR automatically detects the content inside text files and tags them automatically.
Soon, natural language processing will make it possible for DAM systems to automatically recognize video as well as audio files.
The evolution of these tools could soon make manual tagging a thing of the past.
Some of the Weird Tech Available: Smart Ear cleaner, anyone?
We are now in spring. Flowers are in bloom and the birds and bees are visiting gardens across the country. We wanted to know if we could find some cool tech to improve our experience of birds and nature. It is safe to say that our findings were more than satisfactory.
This is a smart bird feeder. I know. You are wondering why you need a smart bird feeder in the first place. This birdfeeder helps you to get acquainted with the birds that use your birdseed.
You will receive a notification on your mobile phone through an app letting you know that there is a bird nearby.
The smart bird feeder is fitted with an inbuilt camera that turns on only when a bird comes. It also records and photographs the bird as it feeds on your birdseed.
You don’t have to be there physically. You can view the action on your phone through the app. It also arranges the photos in attractive and shareable photo albums.
Bird buddy is a smart birdfeeder that is capable of recognizing more than 1,000 bird species. You can also help science by contributing your findings to an open-source bird population database.
The smart bird feeder is equipped with a built-in microphone that allows Bird Buddy to listen to bird phones and use them to identify approaching birds.
Your app will allow you to manipulate the spy camera as well as feed you with useful information on what to do to draw in new bird species. Your feathered guests will never run out of snacks with Bird Buddy because it lets you know when the birdseed is running low.
From the demo images, it looks like Bird Buddy takes decent pictures. And bird watchers will enjoy a different perspective on their favorite feathered friends.
The only downside to this otherwise amazing contraption is that you don’t want one near a pigeon coop or birdcage because the notifications will be endless.
You can buy Bird Buddy in yellow or blue.
If you are one of those people who find ear cleaning videos oddly satisfying to watch, you don’t have to scour Youtube to find them anymore.
The BeBird N3 Pro is an ear cleaning robot. The smart visual cleaner uses a robotic arm to clean your ears effectively and safely.
Designed by the same company that made the ear spritzer, the Bebird N3 Pro is meant to make ear cleaning simple and safe. It makes one of the important self-care actions high tech.
The robotic arm scoops wax from your ear and removes it without dropping it. You can watch the robot cleaning your ear via a mobile phone app. The robot scoops out all the wax, bleugh, and build-up from the inside of your ear.
A 10Mpixel camera provides High Definition footage of the entire process as well as helps the robot to remove all the goop accurately and safely.
A safety tweezer only removes ear wax when it is open. The ear spoon transforms into an ear cleaning rod when closed.
You can adjust the N3 Pro to fit small ear openings, as well as medium, or large-sized ear openings. It is built to d with in-built 360-degree detection and works with a 6-Axis Gyroscope capable of detecting every move the cleaning tweezer makes, no matter how small.
The manufacturers say that the smart gyroscope keeps the user’s eardrums safe by keeping the cleaning tweezer from going deeper into the ear.
The ear cleaning robot is safe for anyone from age three and up. To make it more comfortable, the Bebird N3 Pro matches your body temperature. So you won’t feel like there is a foreign body inside your ear.
A 300mAh capacity battery ensures that it lasts long. The smart ear cleaner has been taken through a series of safety tests and won certificates for safety.
To be sure though, you might want to run it by your ENT doctor before starting to use it.
The HumBird speaker is the tiniest bone conduction type of speaker that allows you to turn any hollow thing into a speaker.
You won’t get the same volume every time, but the experience is always exciting. You can have a speaker practically anywhere you go.
Weighing in at only 35g, the HumBird speaker is tiny. It works by connecting to your phone or Bluetooth and allows you to listen to any music at a louder volume than your phone.
Find something hollow around you, put the HumBird on it, and you are in business. According to the manufacturers, the HumBird gives you a volume that is up to five times louder than your average cell phone.
It goes all the way up to 115dB and you can adjust the tone quality to suit your preference. Makers of the HumBird recommend buying two of them to create a surround sound experience, thanks to the True Wireless Stereo quality and Bluetooth enabled.
The HumBird is interesting because it can give you a variety of sound effects depending on the hollow surface you place it on. You can try putting it on a helmet, a pot, a plastic storage box, or a basket to see the kinds of sound effects they will give you.
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