Smart Home Technology For Individuals With Special Needs

Written By Guest Blogger & App Reviewer Christopher Wright

Smart Home Technology is essentially taking everyday average appliances you would have in your home, and increasing their usefulness by connecting them to the Internet. They can also connect via Bluetooth technology, although this may not be quite as convenient due to the limited range of Bluetooth. You may also hear this topic called IOT or Internet of Things.

Since these devices are connected to the Internet, it means they can be controlled by another device. For example, you could install some lights around the house and then turn them on or off using an app on your cell phone. These apps also allow you to set up schedules which can do things like automatically turn devices on or off at specific times.

This technology also has major positive implications for those who are disabled. If you’re blind, you can turn lights on or off and query the status at any time. An Internet connected thermostat is also useful as it allows you to independently check the current temperature and change it at any time, even if you’re miles from home. Of course, blind people aren’t the only ones that can benefit. Imagine how much easier it is for someone with motor issues if he/she can speak to something like an Amazon Echo or Google Home and turn lights on or off, raise or lower the temperature, answer the front door from anywhere, etc. When you stop and think for a moment, you realize that people are not being “lazy” when they use this technology. There are practical uses for everyone.

It is hard to say just how many smart home products are out in the wild. There are many manufacturers that make the same basic types of products. This is a rough list of the currently available tech, and is not guaranteed to be complete. The broad categories are:

1. Kitchen appliances such as microwaves, ovens, stoves, crock-pots, pressure cookers, etc. These allow you to control settings like heat levels and timers as well as get status info.

2. Washers and dryers. These let you adjust settings, start or stop the machines, and alert you when a washing or drying session is done or interrupted.

3. Lights, ceiling fans, light switches, etc. If you get dedicated bulbs, you can also do things like change colors and manage the brightness.

4. Wi-Fi enabled thermostats. These let you manage the temperature, set up schedules including events for leaving or coming home, etc.

5. Cameras and video doorbells such as the products from Ring. In most cases, these allow you to see a live video feed no matter where you are. You are also able to conduct two-way conversations if the device has a microphone and speaker. Some can also record footage that you can review later.

6. Voice Assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. These are primarily voice driven interfaces that allow you to do all sorts of things like play music, check the weather, look up information, control smart home devices, etc. You speak your command, and the device will provide verbal feedback. Some devices have screens, so you can see the information as well as hear it.

7. Wi-Fi connected locks for your home. These allow you to remotely unlock or lock your door as well as grant temporary access if guests will be coming over.

8. Wi-Fi plugs or switches. These are probably the most basic smart devices you are going to find and are a good place to start when building a smart home. These plugs connect to your Wi-Fi network and the wall. They are designed to connect devices that are not Wi-Fi enabled. For example, you could connect a regular lamp to one of these and control it from your phone or a voice assistant. The caveat is that the device you intend on using must be able to turn on or off when it receives power or power is cut off. In other words, your device must be able to automatically power up when you plug it in and power off when you unplug it. This works well for lamps or fans that have manual power switches. Simply move the switch to the on position and leave it that way. When you want to turn it on, turn the smart plug on and vice versa when you want it off. If the device requires you to press a button after connecting it to power, these will not work.

Smart home technology has a lot of exciting use cases and potential. If you are at all interested, go out and check it out! The smart home market is just getting started, so there’s no telling what we will have in the next 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years. We live in exciting times!

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