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Step One with Smart Home

Posted On - 22/09/2017 08:48:29

How do you make a home Smart? Not iKettle Smart, proper Smart. So it does useful stuff like flashing lights in different colours depending on the alarmHow do you make a home Smart? Not iKettle Smart, proper Smart.

So it does useful stuff like flashing lights in different colours depending on the alarm. Like blue for intruder, red for smoke... you get the sort of thing.

Or so you can add to an online shopping basket while washing up.

There are all sorts of useful things possible with Smart Home. But how do you find out what they are? How can you make them happen?

It's easier than you think: just take the first step.

Click! Time for a tea-break

I have to admit I found the idea of switching a kettle on and off with my phone clever, but pointless? I thought it a stunt until I looked beyond mere function. Until I stopped thinking only about what it does and started thinking about why.

It's said you should work in bursts with breaks in-between. The idea is you don't over tax your attention span plus you know a break is coming. Using alarms can help - they free your mind of clock watching. Whether you're staving off getting engrossed or struggling with boredom they give peace of mind. Concentrate and get on, the alarm will go off. Eventually.

But why bother with an alarm clock telling you to stop so you can go to the kitchen? Why not be uber-productive and turn the kettle into an alarm? Let's face it, your break doesn't start when you switch on the kettle, it starts when you sit down with a brew. Making the kettle an alarm cuts out the waiting. So you can max your time relaxing. That's smart!

Stumbling block

There's an issue with Smart products – lights, plugs, whatever – it's to do with how they're sold. When you buy a Smart bulb, plug, sensor, voice assistant… you buy an individual Smart product. You don't buy instructions on the ways to use it. Or anything about how to make it work with other Smart products or web services.

The result is you're left thinking about your Smart stuff based on what you already know. And what's that? You switch lights on and off, turn the heating up or down... My point is this: you don't know what you don't know and you can't appreciate what you've yet to experience. It's hard to imagine how Smart products and services could be used when you've no concept about what they make possible.

How would you know a Smart bulb can link with a Smart fire alarm? Or anything else? How would you even know if there is such a thing as a Smart fire alarm? And even if you did know, how would you find out how to make them work together in the way you want? If there's one stumbling block with Smart, it's getting a grip on what's possible and how to make it happen. It really is a barrier. But it's not one you can't get over.

Applet

The world of Smart is a bit convoluted. Complex in so far as different Smart products can and can't talk to others. But this doesn't make Smart dumb and difficult to use. In a curious way it makes it better – let me explain.

Smart Home is very real and can be pretty sophisticated. This is no pipe-dream so if you're struggling to get it you need some help. So some advice - learn about a piece of software called If-This-Then-That (IFTTT). IFTTT is a free web based service that allows you to create Applets. An Applet is a chain of simple conditional statements that trigger actions. The clever part is they connect different products and services through their APIs.

Enabling this connectivity is what's behind being able to send an email if a thermostat registers a certain temperature. Or switch a light to a certain colour if a smoke alarm gets triggered. If you want to get into Smart Home you have to know how to make it work. IFTTT can help you do that. But learning about IFTTT isn't the end of it. What you have to do is apply IFTTT. You have to use it. And that's what "Step One" is.

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