Rolling into Home Automation

Thursday, June 6, 2019


by MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

The number of items in your home that can now be controlled remotely, by smartphone, or by voice is staggering and growing every day.  I’ve been slow to upgrade my home to “smart home”, but now that I’ve been bitten by the bug there may be no stopping me.Over the holidays, I purchased a Nest learning thermostat, and when I enrolled in a peak energy program through my provider, it cost me almost nothing.  The large print display lights up as you walk by the thermostat, and you can control the temperature using the ring along the side, your smartphone, or voice, using Amazon’s Alexa devices.  I found this to be much easier than the small button you had to hold down on my old thermostat.  You can also schedule when to turn the heat up or down, or the Nest also learns your favorite settings in about a week and you can enable it to auto-adjust.  The”leaf” icon when you choose a setting that saves energy.  For me, this is a good reminder that even a degree or two can lead to savings.

ADT pulse app showing door lock and alarm statusWhen we decided to get a security system for our home, I decided that I had to be able to manipulate the door locks, or else they would go unused.  There are many assistive technology devices designed to help with holding and turning keys, but I always met them with varying levels of success.  Initially, I was only considering a numeric keypad lock.  I have several personal care staff that come in on different days and during different times, so I was looking for something that would allow me to program multiple unique access codes that I could easily change if there was turnover.  However, when the home security company came to install the system, they showed me a smart lock that had both the numeric keypad and the ability to lock and unlock from my iPhone.  The smart lock works with Z-wave technology to send a signal wirelessly from my phone to the lock. It’s also tied in with the app that controls my security alarm system, which means I can lock and unlock the doors, arm and disarm the alarm and monitor, who is coming and going all from my phone.  I can’t get out of bed without the assistance of my personal care staff, so it’s been extra helpful to be able to disarm the alarm from bed from when they arrive (they can still unlock the door on their own using the keypad).

When it comes to environmental controls, lights are one of the easiest things to make hands-free.   You can now buy many smart plug outlets for under $20.  You simply plug any lamp into the outlet and it can be turned on using your smartphone (typically with an app that works with the outlet) or smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon Alexa.  If you really want to add to the ambiance of your home. you can purchase smart light bulbs that advertise millions of color choices that you choose from an app.

TKohler shower system showing jets and wall mounted displayhe world of home automation and environmental controls is beginning to go far beyond outlets and door locks.  For example, Kohler recently unveiled its “smart home” products, which allow you to control your sink, bathtub, toilet, lighted mirrors and more using an app or voice.  I’m happy with my relatively low-cost smart home products, but I can always dream….