Smart Home Tech

In today’s modern world we see and hear a lot of hype about the smart home and the interconnected home. Being a technologist I like technology that makes life easier, simpler and more efficient as long as it actually works and doesn’t complicate life. These are some of the smart home technology I have played with, installed, used and own.

Yale Keyless Digital Door Lock

111002_R_Z001As I recently changed my front door (long story but after having moved house I only received one key for the lock, the other lock broke the key off in the barrel…) I bought a new lock. I wanted the door to lock when closed without me having to keep inserting a key and intentionally locking it, it obviously had to be waterproof and I didn’t have a fortune to spend on it. I also didn’t ever want to be locked out of the house so a digital door lock seemed to be the perfect answer. After having looked at a lot of options I didn’t want NFC, or Bluetooth as options (not only are there technical vulnerabilities, it means if I forget my phone I’m locked out!)This Yale keyless door lock allows me to enter separate door codes for me and a separate code to hand out to guests which I can change at a moments notice. It also has a fake pin code feature that allows you to prevent onlookers from seeing your true code while still granting you access – which is neat! The lock is affordable easy to fit and also has external battery terminals to connect a 9V battery in the event the internal batteries go flat (there is plenty of advance warning telling you the batteries are going flat well before they fail). It also has a lock out feature to prevent multiple attempts at guessing the code.

Nest Smoke Alarm

Nest-Protect1After many years of owning smoke alarms that either were fitted to the house when it was built or buying and fitting them, I can’t honestly say that they’ve been positive experiences. They invariably do go off when there’s no danger (which often says a lot about my cooking) or when the batteries are running low. If they do go off due to toast or some other relatively innocuous reason I can tell you that having a smoke alarm that is mains powered is a hideous experience (cos you can’t just remove the batteries to silence the thing!) When the nest Smoke alarm launched here in the UK I was an early adopter. The ability to get an early heads up of a problem without all the sirens going off is an immediate benefit, however the features expand when you add more Nest Protect’s to the same network. The devices will take to each other and provide the occupants in the house more information to help in the event of an emergency. For example, if the downstairs unit detects smoke, the upstairs unit will say “there is smoke in the kitchen” (if that’s where the downstairs unit is placed) this is essential at night when the occupants are in bed and might not hear the downstairs unit and it helps you understand where the problem is rather than just shrieking at you. As it’s also a carbon monoxide alarm too it also protects you against a danger you can’t see or smell. It tells you every night when you turn the lights off that everything ok, and it will glow softly if you walk under it at night to gently light up the way. The Smartphone app provides notifications of alerts and events from your home so if you’re out and something’s wrong you can at least call your neighbour to check on your house and warn them of a potential fire. That way you might still have a home to return to!

Nest Learning Thermostat

slide1-c_2x-5e1cc99246237141dfbca8831e78b9dcThe Nest Learning thermostat is a thing of beauty. It is made of stainless steel and glass and extremely simple to operate. With absolutely no technical expertise required to operate it at all, once installed you merely rotate the dial to turn up or down the temperature and the thermostat then learns what you want and creates its own custom schedule. It monitors the weather to understand if its already going to be a warm day or not, and it monitors the home to check if you’re home – if you’re not, then it turns off the heating to save you energy until you return and then resumes your schedule. Nest will send you a weekly email showing you how much energy you have saved and once installed it will start to reduce your energy usage immediately. The smart phone app allows you to manually turn off the heating if you find yourself away unexpectedly, and turn on the heating as you are returning home so the home is warm when you arrive. If the thermostat is also connected to a Nest Protect, and it detects carbon monoxide, the thermostat will shut off the boiler (the primary source of carbon monoxide issues in the home)

USB Mains socket

ae235With so many devices in the home now using USB plugs and sockets to charge or power them, its easy to run out of chargers, or have all of your plugs full of USB chargers and no where to plug in lamps etc. However these replacement wall plates have two USB plugs and are able to support 2.1 amps of power to the USB. That means they will charge tablets and Blackberries that traditionally have required a higher powered charger. In addition if you have an iPhone 6 it will charge faster as it has support for rapid charging when supplied with a higher powered supply. These will allow you to charge and use a phone and tablet as well as plug in two separate mains devices all at the same time and all from a standard faceplate. $_12There is also the option of a single mains faceplate (rather than the double pictured here) which also has two USB sockets. To accompany theses I bought these multi device cables which mean I never have to hunt for the right cable. The three connectors support Apple’s 30 Pin iPhone and iPad connector, Apple’s newer lightning connector and micro USB (which in itself supports nearly everything else from Kindle to Nokia and most other Android handsets.

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