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What Is Smart Home Technology?

What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, door bells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It's not science fiction; it's the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's a key component of home automation and smart homes.

Smart Home Hubs and Controllers

Smart devices are electronic devices equipped with wireless protocols that allow them to be controlled and activated by voice command, or more commonly, through mobile app technology that can be accessed through a smartphone or tablet.

Smart Home Surveillance Cameras

Wouldn't it be great to know what's happening at home, anytime, from anywhere? It's easy to do with a smart video camera. Just take out your phone, open your app, and you have an instant view of activity inside or outside your home.

Smart Locks and Home Security Systems

While lock technology has always evolved, only recently did it become smart enough to ditch those keys altogether. Thanks to smart home security technology, we can now enjoy keyless convenience with better awareness and control of who enters our homes.

Smart Heating and Cooling

Smart temperature-control devices — such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures — are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

Smart Lighting

When we talk about a smart light bulb, we’re referring to an internet-capable LED light bulb that allows lighting to be customized, scheduled and controlled remotely using a smart phone, tablet, or smart home automation system via an app. The app enables you to change the brightness of the bulbs, and if the bulbs have colored LEDs you can change their colors, too.

Smart Home Show

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Business & Home Security Installations

26 November 2020

Advanced Digital Security System Installations

According to a UN study published last year, smart assistants with female voices are often programmed with contrite and demure responses to verbal abuse or harassment, entrenching harmful gender biases. In the second of two episodes, Alex Hern takes a look at the sexualisation of female AI and robots, what this means for how we treat them, and asks how we can give them a feminist reboot

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From Rosie the Robot in the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons to Siri and Alexa today, technologies that perform the roles of housekeeper and secretary are often presented as female. What does the gendering of these machines say about our expectations of who should be doing this kind of work? In the first of two episodes exploring the world of fembots and female AI assistants, the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, examines whether smart assistants are reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes

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If software is not kept up-to-date, items can lose functionality and become a security risk

Smart appliances that can be controlled remotely and will let you know if there is a fault or other problem may not be worth paying extra for unless manufacturers commit to keeping software updated, Which? has warned.

The consumer group said that smart fridges, dishwashers and tumble dryers cost hundreds of pounds more than their conventional counterparts, but in some cases could be rendered obsolete after as little as two years.

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From energy-saving bulbs to leak detectors, smart tech offers many benefits at the touch of a button

Almost everything in your home, from lights and thermostats to door locks and security cameras, can now be connected to the internet. With a few taps on an app or a voice command you can turn down your heating, let visitors into your home or check for leaks.

But while many of these gadgets appear to be simply a way to impress visitors (“Hey Google, dim the lights and play some romantic music”), others can save you money. And at a time when many of us are working from home and running up bills during the day, this is likely to be their biggest selling point.

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Everything in your smart home, from the lightbulbs to the thermostat, could be recording you or collecting data about you. What can you do to curb this intrusion?

During an interview with the BBC last year, Google’s senior vice-president for devices and services, Rick Osterloh, pondered whether a homeowner should disclose the presence of smart home devices to guests. “I would, and do, when someone enters into my home,” he said.

When your central heating thermostat asks for your phone number, your TV knows what you like to watch and hackers can install spyware in your home through a lightbulb security flaw, perhaps it’s time we all started taking smart home privacy issues more seriously. Just this week the National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning to owners of smart cameras and baby monitors to review their security settings.

When hackers can get spyware into your home via a lightbulb, maybe it’s time to take smart home privacy issues seriously

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Upgrade keeps what is good and improves sound for Google’s smallest, cheapest smart speaker

The second generation of Google’s smallest smart speaker gets a new name, more eco-friendly, a little smarter and more bass.

The £49 Nest Mini replaces the Google Home Mini as part of a revamped and renamed line of Google smart home products under the Nest brand, pushing its predecessor to a clearance price of only £19.

Dimensions: 98mm x 42mm

Weight: 181g

Connectivity: Wifi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, Chromecast

Speakers: one 40mm driver

Pros: good sound for the money, wall mount, made of recycled plastic, Google Assistant, Bluetooth 5.0, native BBC radio playback

Cons: No 3.5mm input, privacy concerns of a smart speaker, not quite room-filling sound

Google Home review: the smart speaker that answers almost any question

Google Home Max review: bigger and smarter sound

Google Nest Hub review: the smart display to buy

Google Nest Hub Max review: bigger, better and smarter display

Sonos One review: the best smart speaker for audiophiles

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) review: better all round

Amazon Echo second-generation review: smaller, cheaper and better

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With ever more tech in our lives, our data is vulnerable. Here are our six top tips to keep it safe in the new year

Technology is changing our lives for the better; yet it’s also exposing us to organised crime, online scammers and hackers – and whole industries built around monetising our personal data. But you don’t have to be resigned to cyber-victimhood. Give yourself, and your devices, a security update for 2020 and start fighting back.

Hackers don’t like a liar – especially if the fibs are about the questions sites ask you as a means of identification

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Top-end smart TV box can’t quite live up to the promise of the voice-controlled TV commander

The Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s attempt to combine a smart TV streaming box with an Alexa-powered smart speaker, producing a small black box that doubles as an Echo device.

The Cube doesn’t look like anything else. The combination of shiny and matt black plastic makes it stand out at first, but the 86mm-wide and 77mm-tall cube is small enough not to be distracting sitting next to your TV.

The blue LED strip pulses from side to side when Alexa is turning things on or off

Volume control via Alexa caused wild jumps until I manually adjusted the IR controls through the settings on the Cube

Alexa mutes your TV when it hears its wake word

“Alexa, go home” takes you back to the Fire TV interface even if you were watching Sky or Virgin

You can turn off the mics on the Cube and still use the button on the remote to talk to Alexa

Pros: fast, comprehensive audio and video support, most streaming services including YouTube and Apple TV, Alexa remote, voice control of Fire TV interface

Cons: no BT Sport, variable volume output bad as a smart speaker, device control more trouble than it’s worth, more than twice...

DIY wireless home security system is a great alarm that’s smart enough without trying to do too much

Amazon’s new Ring Alarm smartens up the traditional home security system without radically changing how it works, combining the best of both worlds into a DIY-friendly wireless alarm arrangement that just works.

It’s been a 16-month wait in the UK since the Ring Alarm line of products launched in the US in July 2018, but it has been worth it.

By default, the sensors trigger a little chirp from the base station when activated, meaning there’s a tone every time a door is opened – it felt like living in a corner shop, so I turned it off

If you have an Alexa device such as an Echo Dot, you can set the alarm via voice

You can bypass a sensor if you want to temporarily deactivate one of them when you arm the system

You can change the arming or alert delay

The siren produces 104 decibels at 30 metres, which is louder than a jackhammer and similar to a rock concert

Pros: wireless, effective, simple to install, rental-friendly, smart but not complicated, works as well as a traditional alarm, expandable, dependable, good app, individual pins, temporary pins, integrates with other smart devices...

Home automation

Home automation or domotics is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house. ...
A home automation system will control lighting, climate, entertainment systems, and appliances. ...
It may also include home security such as access control and alarm systems. ...
When connected with the Internet, home devices are an important constituent of the Internet of Things. ...
A home automation system typically connects controlled devices to a central hub or gateway. ...
The user interface for control of the system uses either wall-mounted terminals, tablet or desktop computers, a mobile phone application, or a Web interface, that may also be accessible off-site through the Internet. ...