February Update #

The holidays have past. The new year has begun. And I am (finally) getting around to publishing an update!

“Tech Talk”, a bi-monthly round-table discussion group that I host, is a forum wherein a group of neighbors and I get together to talk about all things “tech”. We, Baby-Boomers/Senior Citizens, have varying skills when it comes to using tech “stuff” (smartphones, tablets, smart home devices and the like) so we spend time together asking questions, sharing experiences and, in general, helping each other move forward along the digital highway.

Someone recently asked, on an alternative community neighborhood web site, a question about home security/automation systems, services and recommendations thereto. There were a few responses (use this, try that, avoid this one…) and a little more discussion. One of the members of the Tech Talk group sent me a message suggesting that I address the topic at an upcoming Tech Talk meeting. I agreed. Little did I know how little I knew about home security/automation systems!

Based upon my research, here’s what I learned: home security is either a monitored service for a monthly fee, installed and maintained (for a fee) by professionals OR it is quasi-monitored (you and your smart device[s] get notified…), installed and maintained by you. Where it gets even more interesting (and confusing) is when we start considering home automation!

What IS home automation? A garage door opener is a early form of home automation. Pressing the button on the remote in your car as you approach the garage opens the door automatically. What about when you leave home? When you’re a few miles away and you wonder “Did I close the garage door?” Today’s digital garage door automation devices allow you to “look” using your smart device and, if you DID forget to close it, you can close it with the touch a button on your screen as you continue driving rather than going back to check and close!

There are home automation devices that lock and unlock your home’s front door; that light up a room and play prearranged music when you walk into a room; tell you about the traffic report, weather report and stock market activity (if you want to know about all that). Did you notice that I said “tell you”? Devices like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home Assistant can speak to you and they “understand” when you speak to them! Now THAT’S home automation.

Ask Amazon’s Echo, “Alexa, what’s the weather in San Francisco” and a pleasant-enough voice will explain the current weather conditions and forecast as well as commute traffic and the latest news if you like.

I recently installed a “smart hub” (details to follow later) the enables me to connect various home automation devices together such that I can tell Amazon’s Echo “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights” and it’s done! The lights are LED lights and V E R Y bright so I had a dimmer switch installed. It’s a smart dimmer switch and it’s now connected to my smart hub. So, I can say to Amazon’s Echo “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights to 45 percent” and not only does Alexa turn the lights on, she sees them to only 45% illumination!

Soon, I’m installing a home security video system with cameras both inside the home and at strategic points outside. The system connects to my smart hub. I’ll be able to talk to my smart device, ask whether or not there’s been any activity in or around my home, and get an answer or a look for myself.

Gotta’ L O V E this technology! What new tech have YOU tried lately?

(Home automation, communication protocols, and devices next post).

(My usual disclaimer: I am NOT compensated for any recommendation nor am I earning any income from any manufacturers, developers, resellers or others for my comments in these posts. The opinions expressed are mine [unless otherwise noted].

 

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