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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

13 December 2019

Host Michael Wolf as he explores the smart home universe. The Smart Home Show features interviews with smart home leaders, analysis of the latest smart home news and even the occasional Q&A and product review.

Business & Home Security Installations

13 December 2019

Advanced Digital Security System Installations


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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...

Adding a screen for the time transforms the Echo Dot into the best bedroom smart speaker

Amazon has a new twist on its popular cut-price Echo Dot smart speaker, now setting its sights squarely on your beleaguered bedside alarm clock with a new LED display embedded in the side.

The Echo Dot with Clock is one of those true Ronseal products - it says what it does on the tin. It is literally the same as the excellent third-generation Echo Dot, but is only available in white and has a white LED display showing the time peeking through the fabric side.

Pros: can always hear you, small but loud enough, great device support, clear when muted, activity can been seen from across the room, Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio socket, LED time

Cons: music distorts at max volume, no real bass, general knowledge not quite as good as Google Assistant

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

Amazon Echo Show 5 review: smaller, cheaper Alexa display

Amazon Echo Spot review: cute smart speaker with a screen

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

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Camera with local AI for face recognition allows proactive display of personalised information

Google’s latest smart display is larger and can recognise your face for proactively showing you personalised information making it just that little bit smarter than competitors.

The £219 Nest Hub Max is Google’s second own-brand smart display and is essentially a super-sized version of the excellent original Home Hub (now renamed Nest Hub). But where the Nest Hub is a veritable bargain at £119 or frequently much less, the Nest Hub Max is a different proposition at a little under twice the price.

You can broadcast a voice message to the rest of your Google smart speakers, handy for announcing when dinner is ready or similar

There’s a green light and a message on the screen when the camera is actively streaming to the internet for Nest functions

A mute switch on the back disables the mic and camera temporarily, or you can disable the camera permanently in settings (but there’s no physical shutter)

Volume buttons are on the back side of the display, or you can request volume levels via voice or sliders on the screen

Pros: big, good-looking display, Google Assistant, Face Match, Voice Match,...

There are more than 100m Alexa-enabled devices in our homes. But are they fun time-savers or the beginning of an Orwellian nightmare

One day in 2017, Alexa went rogue. When Martin Josephson, who lives in London, came home from work, he heard his Amazon Echo Dot voice assistant spitting out fragmentary commands, seemingly based on his previous interactions with the device. It appeared to be regurgitating requests to book train tickets for journeys he had already taken and to record TV shows that he had already watched. Josephson had not said the wake word – “Alexa” – to activate it and nothing he said would stop it. It was, he says, “Kafkaesque”.

This was especially interesting because Josephson (not his real name) was a former Amazon employee. Three years earlier, he had volunteered to sit in a room reciting a string of apparently meaningless phrases into a microphone for an undisclosed purpose. Only when Amazon released the Echo in the US in 2014 did he realise what he had been working on. He bought a Dot, the Echo’s cheaper, smaller model, after it launched in 2016, and found it useful enough until the day it went haywire. When the Dot’s outburst subsided, he unplugged it and...

British Gas owner to harness smart appliances to help balance National Grid

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, plans to use its customers’ hot water tanks to create a virtual power plant which could help National Grid prevent future blackouts.

The UK’s biggest energy supplier hopes to harness household gadgets with energy capacity equivalent to a large power plant by 2025. The plan could help to balance the energy system without any perceptible impact for British households.

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A Twitter user’s claim to have tweeted from a kitchen appliance went viral but experts have cast doubt

A resourceful teenager appeared to have taken the rise of increasingly powerful smart home devices to its logical conclusion – tweeting from her family’s smart fridge after her mother confiscated her phone.

An Ariana Grande fan known only as “Dorothy” tweeted last week to say she was barred by her mother from using her phone but said she managed to find a number of innovative ways to reach her thousands of followers – a handheld Nintendo device, a Wii U gaming console and, finally, her family’s LG Smart Refrigerator.

I do not know if this is going to tweet I am talking to my fridge what the heck my Mom confiscated all of my electronics again.

— dorothy (@thankunext327) August 8, 2019

hey guys omg. my mom is at work so i’m looking for my phone. wish me luck. lov u #Mii #MiiMaker #WiiU pic.twitter.com/BaaAWUUjoV

— dorothy (@thankunext327) August 6, 2019

This story was updated on 15 August with additional reporting casting doubt on the accuracy of Dorothy’s claims, including the analysis of Luca Hammer and Igor Brigadir. It also includes fresh comments from LG.


High street bank says Google Home trial could let you do the banking as you make a cuppa or iron a shirt

Get ready to say: “Hey Google. How much do I have in my bank account?” NatWest is to begin voice-only banking that will give customers direct access to their accounts by talking to the Google Home smart speakers now in millions of British homes.

The trial – the first by a UK high street bank – will let customers ask Google “What’s my balance?”, “What’s my latest transactions?” and “What’s my pending transactions”. Google devices will answer verbally, and also flash the answers up on the customer’s smartphone.

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Whoever takes over at the UK’s biggest energy provider must do more than just deliver gas and electricity to consumers

Would any other chief executive have done things differently? The question has been the topic of conversations in the energy industry since Iain Conn, Centrica’s chief executive, said last week that he would step down.

The boss of British Gas’s parent company will move early next year, leaving a company shaken by seismic shifts in Britain’s energy industry and facing an existential crisis.

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Camera shutter, tap gesture, better speakers and 5.5in screen make for an appealing smart alarm clock

Amazon’s latest Echo Show 5 Alexa smart display is smaller, cheaper and has improved privacy, but is a £79.99 5.5in screen with a camera ready to replace your alarm clock in the bedroom?

The Show 5 isn’t the first Alexa smart display aimed at being your bedside clock. The Echo Spot, with its pleasingly round screen and ball-like shape, was released in 2018 and is still available for £120.

If you don’t quite manage to swipe upwards on the display far enough to dismiss an alarm you end up snoozing it, which is really irritating.

The quick access panel is responsive, but there’s a noticeable delay when you tap into one of the sections.

Swipe down from the top to access brightness control, activate the “do not disturb” mode, get to the settings app, go to the home screen or view the currently playing music.

You can choose from a few wakewords, including non-gendered ones such as “Echo”, but the voice is always female, which is a shame.

Pros: relatively compact, sounds good, Alexa, good smart home control, 3.5mm output, extra clock and alarm features, relatively low cost

Cons: too small to...

She livestreams her dates, once became a real-life Alexa and built a light that dims in boring company. As AI: More Than Human opens at the Barbican, meet an artist for the tech age

In a gallery in downtown Manhattan, people are huddling around four laptops, taking turns to control the apartments of 14 complete strangers. They watch via live video feeds, and respond whenever the residents ask “Someone” to help them. They switch the lights on and off, boil the kettle, put some music on – whatever they can do to oblige.

The project, called Someone, is the latest in a series exploring our ever more complicated relationship with technology. It’s by the American artist Lauren McCarthy and is a sort of outsourcing of Lauren, an earlier work in which she acted as a real-life Alexa, remotely watching over a home 24 hours a day, responding to its occupants’ questions and needs like a flesh and blood version of Amazon’s voice-operated virtual assistant.

You get things like Facebook because Silicon Valley people just don't know what it means to be a person

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The latest smart speaker with screen looks better, sounds great and has built-in smart hub

The new second generation Echo Show is bigger with a better display, but is size enough to keep Amazon ahead of stiff competition from Google?

Since the original Echo Show launched last year the software has been refined, but the experience is broadly the same. The Show is a voice-first Alexa speaker, with touch interactivity as an additional input rather than the core experience. If you never wanted to touch the screen beyond the initial set-up ,you wouldn’t have to.

It routinely got stuck on one particular photo in my library, showing it for hours on end.

If you’re listening to music while cooking, the Show will just display recipes and steps without interrupting via voice.

You can’t turn off the tips of things to try through Alexa that show at the bottom of the screen when just showing photos, which is very annoying.

You can disable the camera entirely if you want to, but if you don’t trust Amazon with your data you shouldn’t be buying an Alexa device.

You can use the Echo Show as a Bluetooth speaker or connect it to a Bluetooth speaker.

Despite the screen, shopping on the Echo Show is still...

A new generation of devices featuring a host of clever features will make conventional alarm systems obsolete. We review four of the best

The days of alarms and floodlights being the only choice for home security are behind us with the growing availability of more intelligent and flexible options, such as smart cameras.

Placed outside or within the home, these internet-connected cameras offer a live view of what’s happening from practically anywhere, send alerts when they detect motion – and some can even recognise friend from foe. They promise full control and piece of mind through your smartphone, tablet or smart display.

Continue reading...

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. ...