Those fifth appendages all humans have these days, otherwise known as Smartphones, have become so relied on that just going to the supermarket without one can send someone into a panic. Our lives are built inside those addictive devices, and we depend on them for everything from doing our banking to monitoring our blood pressure, from counting our footsteps to providing our entertainment. They are also, hands down, the most-used camera in the world. In fact, making phone calls seems to be one of the least important features on the top ten list. Now the technology has gone one step farther: your phone can now be the central control hub for our ‘Smart’ homes.For Seniors, these devices can be the key to remaining in your home and aging in place. Yes, they really do offer that much assistance!
What exactly is a Smart Home? And is it a good thing for Seniors? Is it right for you?
First ask yourself a few questions:
- How many times do you forget to turn on or off the porch light?
- How often are you snuggled into your bed for the night and then decide it’s too hot and you need to get out of your comfy-cozy position to turn up the air-conditioning or turn on a fan?
- How often do you hear the doorbell and get to the door only to find out it’s a solicitor?
- When you travel to visit with the grandkids or Yellowstone Park, do you ever wish you had turned on some lights or the TV to make it appear as if you are home?
In today’s Smart Home, you can control all this and more from your Smartphone, tablet or laptop with simple voice commands. For those of us who may have mobility issues and not able to get up and down easily, for those of us who love to travel and for those of us who love the idea of someone or something doing some of the work for us, Smart Home gadgets can be invaluable.While there is a plethora of companies throughout the world who are jumping on the bandwagon in the ‘smart’ market, Amazon and Google are by far the forerunners. With Amazon, most of their internet-capable devices are reasonably priced and become even more so on ‘Prime Day’ (July 16 this year). Black Friday sales, big box stores (think Costco andSams Club) and online deals are also great opportunities to find smart devices at reasonable prices.
Here are a few of the many convenience choices available:
Although Alexa kicked off the Smart craze and is now a household word, it now has competition by a host of others with varying features.Smart Assistants are able to tell you the weather anywhere in the world, play music, read books, make intricate calculations, order items, create your grocery list, answer almost any question, make phone calls (to numbers you have pre-set),tell you how to roast a turkey, and about a zillion other skills. Smart Assistants have become an essential aide in many daily situations and activities. Alexa and others are also the hubs by which one can verbally control the compatible Smart gadgets in your home.
LED bulbs with built-in ‘brains’ are programmable to schedule on/off times, or on demand. They are installed by just screwing them into the lamp or light fixture, they can be dimmed, and some can even change colors. Many bulbs may also be programmable to blink notifications, such as when asocial media or email message is received, or a delivery is made.Smart Assistants and Smart Phones link with the Smart Bulbs to control the devices even if you are not at home!Smart Plugs: Available in a variety of sizes and shapes, an adaptor plug are used to plug in a multitude of items such as lamps, coffee makers, fans, Christmas tree lights, televisions, and others. Once plugged in, the compatible app will help you to set up timers or turn something on and off, either via a schedule or voice command. Again, this can be controlled by yourSmart Assistant or your smart phone.Smart Thermostats:The quintessential answer to not only staying comfy in our beds when we need more air or heat but to saving money as well. These little beauties can be programmed to go on and off and change temperatures to your preferences. When traveling, you can control them remotely or program temperatures to fluctuate to help keep the monthly energy bill low. In bed, just tell your SmartAssistant to make the adjustment.What could be better?
Tired of fumbling for your keys with an armful of groceries? Or getting up to let the housekeeper or home healthcare worker in? Maybe you need your neighbor to get into your home to water the plants or admit the pet-sitter to take care of Fido while you’re on your cruise? This is the answer. Using Wifi and Bluetooth, you can grant access to others, track who and when someone enters your home, or lock/unlock the door at will, all without the need of a physical key. Your locks can be securely linked to yourSmart Assistant or your smart phone.Smart Doorbells: Today’s answer in opening your door–or not.MostSmart Doorbells come with cameras and speakers which allow you to see who is ringing and converse with them if needed. A perfect counter to the dreaded porch pirates, most delivery personnel will drop the package and ring the doorbell, alerting you to the delivery and allowing you to retrieve the package before someone else does. Another essential function of the video doorbell is being able to talk to someone through your smart phone giving the impression that someone is home, whether they are or not. In summation, it allows you to see who is at the door at all times and gives you the choice of whether to answer or not, and whether to open the door or not. (And to tell those irritating solicitors to go away!)
These are Smart Assistants with a screen. Coming in various sizes, the monitors can display time, date, weather, best traffic route to work, enable video chats, stream music, tv and movies, display notifications and reminders, play YouTube videos, wake the camera when the doorbell is rung and so much more. They do what the assistants do both verbally and visually.
About the size of a small Smartphone, Smart Cameras are the modern day surveillance security camera. They are an invaluable asset in monitoring pets, activity in other parts of the home, and an ideal method to keep an eye on the house when traveling. Worried about your kitty in your absence? Want to know if the pet-sitter is spending the contracted time with your pets? Or how efficiently the housekeeper is doing his/her job in another room? Or worst-case scenario, being notified of malicious activity taking place in your home? Most of these cameras come with ‘cloud’ options to store videos, sometimes for an additional fee, and may have speakers offering two-way conversations as well as motion alert sensors. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to talk to kitty or inform the burglars you’re calling the police?
While these are definitely on the pricey side, they are wonderful techno creatures to have and make a great conversation piece! The latest in these wireless devices will not only vacuum up dirt and debris but have their own ‘smart’ features. They can learn the layout of the home with repeated use to increase its power usage and efficiency as well as empty itself into a supplied receptacle and find its way back to its ‘home’ when finished or in need of power. Most robotic vacuums also come with are mote control allowing you to send it where you want, program it, use it repeatedly in one area and a number of other functions. Finally, the Jetsons’ robotic maid Rosie has made her way into our homes!
Although the idea of hearing the word ‘smart’ once more does get on one’s nerves, it really does describe what these devices can do for us. Remember, our Smart Homes can ‘think’ for themselves and take care of many daily routines, but we, the humans, maintain ultimate control. All smart devices require internet and/or wifi connection. By either using an appropriate app on our Smartphones and laptops or saying the ‘wake word’ to the Smart Assistant, you control everything the smart device can do. Set up is remarkable easy and step-by-step instructions are always included and easy to follow. Many people tend to keep all of their smart devices in the same ‘family’, for instance all will be Alexa controlled, or Google controlled. Before buying anything, however, research the device first and read the reviews by verified customers, or ask someone who already has Smart gadgets at home.
The sky is the limit on just how many functions all these devices can offer and how valuable they can be in our everyday lives with routines and security. You’ll be surprised at how much you come to rely on them and how FUN they are!