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Friday
May182018

Podcast #844: CNET’s Guide to Smart Living

While this may or may not be the year of home automation (or maybe it was last year?), the idea of making some aspects of your home more automated or “smarter” is becoming much more approachable and affordable. CNET recently put together a collection of articles about how to get into the game that offer some interesting tips and pointers. This isn’t a definitive guide for the hard core home or life hacker, but it helps those who aren’t yet in the game to dip a toe in the water.

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CNET’s Guide to Smart Living

While this may or may not be the year of home automation (or maybe it was last year?), the idea of making some aspects of your home more automated or “smarter” is becoming much more approachable and affordable. CNET recently put together a collection of articles about how to get into the game that offer some interesting tips and pointers. This isn’t a definitive guide for the hard core home or life hacker, but it helps those who aren’t yet in the game to dip a toe in the water.

 

4 Things to Consider Before Making Your Home Smart

You'll need to decide on a 'brain' first

Without a doubt, the biggest concern is fragmentation. It's certainly gotten better over the last few years, especially with the growing popularity of smart speakers like Google Home ($129.00 at Dell Home) and the Echo, and services like IFTTT that help fix the language barrier between different devices and services.

But if you're not careful when choosing the smart products to install in your home, you'll find yourself with a home full of devices only using half of their potential.

The best way to go about it is to pick a "brain" for your smart home -- be it Amazon's Echo, Google Home, Apple's HomeKit or Samsung's SmartThings -- and only buy smart bulbs, locks, cameras and other accessories or appliances that are compatible with it.

Can your devices 'talk' to each other?

Ease of use is another point of consideration. You're not building a smart home to make your life more difficult, and turning on any given light or appliance shouldn't be more complicated than its dumb counterpart.

Cost

Smart home gadgets are generally more expensive than their dumb counterparts -- and rightly so. A light switch that can be controlled with your voice (like the Lutron Caseta) and can be scheduled or controlled from anywhere in the world should cost more than a standard light switch. But outfitting an entire house with those smart switches will cost significantly more.

And don't be so quick to believe the purported energy savings. The cost savings will depend on what technology you're upgrading from. And even the products that do use less energy than their dumb alternatives will likely take several years to make up for the difference in the initial cost.

Wi-Fi and product security

Finally, you should be concerned with security. While you can DIY a smart security system easily for less money than a standard security system ($39.99 at Amazon.com) would have cost you just a few years ago, like anything with a wireless connection, it's also susceptible to exploits and other security flaws.

Your patchwork smart home security system is only as strong as your Wi-Fi password. And the same general security tip is still valid here -- give everything its own, unique password.

 

4 Clever Morning Routine Automations For Your Smart Home

Slowly turn on the lights

Getting a good night's rest is important. But just as important is how you wake up. No one likes waking up to a loud, abrupt alarm. Try waking up calmly to a gentle, gradual increasing light instead. It's more natural and will prevent you from being ripped out of deep sleep. You can do this a few different ways.

Many smart bulbs, for instance, can be programmed to come on at a specific time, and often you can choose how long it takes for the bulbs to reach the desired brightness -- instantly, a couple of seconds or even several minutes. Create a schedule for the bulbs overhead or in a bedside lamp to slowly turn on to full brightness around the time you need to wake up.

Create a schedule for overhead Lutron lights, LIFX bulbs in a bedside lamp or a Philips Wake-Up Light to slowly turn on around the time you need to wake up.

Gently raise the temperature

No one wants to peel off the cozy sheets early in the morning and wake up to a chilly bedroom. To avoid this, you can set your smart thermostat to slowly raise the temperature 30 minutes before you plan to get out of bed each morning.

Like with slowly turning on the bedroom lights, this will help gently pull you out of sleep and make getting out of bed less jarring. Or maybe you need the shock of brisk morning air to help wake you up. If that's your morning trick, just set the thermostat to lower a few degrees before your alarm.

Automatically make coffee

Who doesn't like a fresh cup of coffee early in the morning? With your smart home, you can wake up to hot coffee every day. And making it happen is easier than you think.

While they make smart coffee makers specifically for this, all you really need is any ol' dumb coffee maker and a smart plug. The one requirement for the coffee maker is that its power button is a toggle switch that will remain on, even after brewing has finished -- this is so you can control its power externally with the smart switch.

Pretty much all smart switches can operate on a schedule, but if you've got one that's compatible with Google Home or Echo, like the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug, you can tell your smart speaker to make coffee as soon as your feet touch the floor.

Try creating a Google Home shortcut that turns on the smart plug when you say, "Hey Google, coffee time."

Taking it one step further, you can use IFTTT (if this then that) to pair your fitness or sleep tracker, like a Fitbit, with the smart plug. A Fitbit wearable can detect when you start peeling yourself out of bed. With IFTTT, you can build an applet that begins making coffee when your Fitbit detects you're awake.

Get the morning news

With smart speakers spread around your house, staying up to date on the news, weather and traffic is easier than ever. With Echo Routines, you can have the Echo play your Flash Briefing every morning at the same time. Or you can simply ask the Echo to, "play my Flash Briefing." The same goes for Google Home speakers — automate your news and weather, or ask for it by saying, "OK, Google, good morning."

These morning automations are just the tip of the iceberg. The more smart gadgets you add around your house and the more you use them, the more creative you can get with how you use them each morning. Have a smart oven make toast automatically. Stream your favorite morning music while you shower. Or tell Google Home to play the latest videos from your favorite YouTube channel on the Chromecast ($35.00 at Walmart) while you get dressed.

 

 

 

 

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