How Cleaning Up Your Google Assistant or Alexa Device Will Improve Performance

google assistant, smart home assistant, smart home automationGoogle Assistants, smart speakers, Alexa devices and all kinds of IOT Smart stuff are a way of life for many of us. While once they were a gadget which it was just kind of cool to have around the house, their usefulness and practicality has made them a firm favourite with anyone who used them regularly. However, over time you might find that your home network is slowing down. And here’s why.

Of course it’s down to age, but this isn’t a blog bemoaning built in obsolescence. The fact is that if you’ve been living with a smart home network for any length of time you’re going to have added smart devices which you no longer use, they may have not been as useful as you expected, you may have bought it on a whim, connected it and forgotten all about it, or, the device may have been lost, got broken, or thrown out. Read more

What Happens If You Stream Pirated Moves Via VPN?

home cinema, tv hanging, tv mounting, tv wall hanging, tv wall mountingYou’ve got your VPN set up to protect your anonymity online, now should you use it to watch pirated streaming movies?

First of all, of course not! That would be illegal and, as we all know video pirating is killing the entertainment industry.

But… As there are so many foreign language streaming sites out there which only give you the title of the film in English you might have absolutely believed that you were on a legitimate website right? And of course the VPN (Virtual Private Network) disguises your location anyway, so IN THEORY nobody would know it was you in the first place.

The purpose of a VPN isn’t to protect you from unwanted advertising, nor stop your web browser from tracking your visits and keeping cookies, and won’t stop anyone you live or share a computer with from seeing your history. So while there are many VPNs available, free or subscription based, using browser extensions or apps, they’re not necessarily the best, and certainly not the only option for more secure video streaming. Read more

Getting the most out of your Google Assistant

google assistant, smart home assistant, smart home automationGoogle Assistant can help with almost anything these days, including looking up your old photos, helping you find new podcasts to fall in love with, and finding your phone.
If you’re forgetful or absent minded and you’ve got a Google Assistant then you’ll most likely already know how to use your Google Assistant to remind you to do things but there’s a whole world of things your Smart Assistant can help with.

Making lists and notes

First of all you’ll need to add an app such as Google Keep, Any.do, or Bring to your Google Assistant. Keeping things on brand will probably cause the least friction, and Google Keep is a great resource for keeping everything online you want to read, listen to, or watch later in one place. Even before you start adding your own lists or sheets to it, you can identify any websites you find with labels of your own, making them easy to organise. Read more

New £10m Fines To Ensure Smart Home Devices Are Secure

secure Smartwatch Photo courtesy of Smartpixel.netThe British government are showing how seriously they are taking smart home security by introducing laws to protect consumers from poor smart products.

With many generic manufacturers using apps which are vulnerable to hacking or scanning and Black Friday deals which see some less scrupulous retailers attempt to sell off old tech which has a very limited period of ongoing software support, (as well as offering “deals” on goods which have been the same price for weeks prior to the sales) the government is putting responsibility for basic security protocols onto shops and makers by ensuring that insecure devices are not put up for sale.

Manufacturers, importers and retailers will face fines of up to £10m if they fail to comply with the requirements. While that seems like a huge fine for what is to many simply a software issue, it demonstrates how seriously security for consumers is being taken. It also reflects the size of the market in smart home devices, as only a fine this size can act as a deterrent for businesses who continue to make or sell substandard home automation. Read more

Can You Make Your Kitchen ‘Smart’ Without Brand New Appliances?

Modern white kitchen with white marble counter top and pendant lighting.Smart devices around the home are a boon, of course, but they can be especially helpful in the kitchen. The oven that already knows how to cook the perfect chicken, the fridge which you can peer into to see if you need milk while you’re actually in the dairy section of the supermarket, and the bin which updates your shopping list when you throw packaging into the recycling certainly make keeping ahead of the housekeeping easy.

But can you do it without investing in brand new white goods?

If you’re refitting your kitchen with a raft of new appliances it is certainly tempting to buy those which have all the Smart Tech available already installed: Fridges with built in cameras, ovens which are programmed to know the cooking times of all your favourite meals, along with cameras and sensors which know when your roast has reached the perfect shade of brown, even bins with barcode readers which can order grocery deliveries for you because it knows you through your rubbish.

But what if your budget doesn’t stretch that far? Or you want to Smarten up your kitchen, only you don’t want to junk all your old appliances just yet? Can you get the same usability without buying the latest goods? Read more

Your Smart Home Checklist For Leaving Your Home Alone

Hikvision security camera mounted on a brick wall next to a drainage pipe.Many of us were stuck at home last year, unable to do the usual rounds of Christmas visits to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. This year it looks like we’ll be able to make those trips again, but who’s going to look after the house while we’re away?

The appeal of Smart Home technology to most people is the convenience it offers to people as they potter around the house. Mundane tasks can be done by voice command or set on a schedule which can be set via an app on a phone. Thing is, those tasks can be just as easily taken care of if you’re away from home too.

The first thing people think about when leaving the house for a few days is whether they should leave the lights on or the curtains closed. Putting a table lamp on a timer isn’t fooling anyone any more! Instead you can use your home automation technology to turn lights on and off throughout the house, turn on a radio or TV and turn it off again as part of a routine that makes it look to anyone outside the house like the family are going to bed. It’s far from the perfect security solution, but if it keeps burglars guessing while you’re away for a few days, it could make a real difference.

Give The Impression Someone’s Home

Other signs of human activity which keep intruders on their toes is automated blinds and curtains. Anything that makes it look as if there is someone at home will help them move along, and curtains which are either shut all day or open all night are a sign that nobody’s home. Read more

Buying Tech Presents Early During The Black Friday Sales

wireless, smart home, home automation, smart speaker,We, like you hate the encroachment of Christmas into months where it doesn’t belong. Yule is at the far end of December, and if it’s to remain special, that’s where it should stay. Mince pies becoming part of Halloween fare indeed! BUT… But with the supply chain problems that many retailers are currently experiencing, for whatever reason, it may be worth getting a few of the presents which are going to be most in demand early, rather than trusting Santa to deliver a little Christmas magic nearer the time.

So how do you decide which presents it’s worth buying now, and which to leave until Christmas Eve when you can rush around the High Street in a blind panic? (You know who you are!)

On the one hand shopping for kids is pretty easy. They like toys and sweets. They don’t like clothes, books, or educational games. To find out what your, or any child wants for that matter, just watch an hour of kids’ TV with them. You’ll be subject to so many ads and characters from favourite TV shows that you’ll find that you want them as badly as the young ‘uns do!

But buying for a discerning teen or young adult is a trickier proposition. I bet secretly they’d love some Octonauts or Alphablocks merch, but not from you, that just wouldn’t be cool! Instead they’re going to want something beautiful, or practical tech. Both if you can find it. Read more

Smart Doorbell Owner Receives Fine For Neglecting GDPR

ring, ring smart doorbell, smart doorbell, access controlMost of us either get on with, or are completely oblivious to our neighbours. When we get home after a hard day’s work we’re not really interested in hearing from the people next-door’s kids or from the student flat across the street at half past two on a Sunday morning.

 

Most of us like a quiet life where we live in mutual, amicable ignorance of our neighbours. We say ‘hi!’ or nod in recognition and go on about our day. So keen on avoiding any kind of friction are we that we make accommodations for our neighbours, because letting things slide is SO much easier than the awkwardness and potential for embarrassment that confronting them over their inconsiderate behaviour presents.

However, this week a county court had to decide in the case of a neighbour who’s Smart doorbells overlooked a neighbour’s property. And because he wasn’t neighbourly, he now faces a maximum fine of up to £100,000.

He probably won’t have to pay that much, but there are other things he should have done before it ever got to the county court. (The fact that it was a county court means that no legal precedent has been set, so if you own a Smart doorbell you won’t need to be hiring a solicitor just yet!)

The case revolved around an audio-visual technician in Oxfordshire who installed Smart doorbells and some dummies as he wanted to deter thieves from returning to his property after it was broken into. He set one to watch from the front door, covering the street and the approach to his house. Others were pointed at a shared parking space, the drive leading to that car park and a portion of his neighbour’s property, including a window. The neighbour who brought the case brought it on the grounds of harassment, nuisance and breeching data protection legislation. And it was mostly on not fulfilling his obligations as the data controller that the defendant lost his case. Read more

Starting Out With Smart Home Tech? A Smart Plug Is Your Easiest In

smart plugOne of the handiest and easiest Smart Home devices to set up is the Smart Plug. Because it’s either off, or on, it’s easy to get to grips with and will allow you to familiarise yourself with the principles of how Smart devices work. This week you’ll be connecting your smart plug, next week you’ll be securely installing and enjoying a complete Smart Home environment!

They’re handy because they allow you to control all the little devices you have around your home which wouldn’t normally be smart or be controlled remotely. So if you have floor lamps, desk fans, electric heaters, or a radio or TV which you’ve had for years but don’t need to be replaced, you can at least make them on-and-offable via a phone app, smart speaker, or home hub.

Each Smart Plug manufacturer is different, but the idea behind the settings on your new Smart Device remain the same, so if your device isn’t exactly the same, you should be able to figure out how to get the same results from your device notwithstanding.

Step 1, Download The Smart Plug App

First of all, it needs something to connect to, so download the plug’s user app to your phone or use a universal app which can detect and control any number of different Smart Home devices. Once you’ve got the software choose ‘add a new device’ from the menu and you’ll be offered a range of different items which can connect via the app, all other devices that the manufacturer makes. Choose the Smart plug and then plug the plug into the wall. The plug will tell you, usually via a blinking LED that it is in pairing mode. The app on the phone should detect this as well and you can now connect them. Once the smart plug is connected to the app you will be asked to give a name to the device. Don’t call it ‘Smart Plug’ but instead call it the object you want to control, and remember whenever you unplug the device, unplug the Smart plug to, or things will get VERY confusing! (You’ll likely have to pair your Smart Plug to your app each time you remove it from the socket, so best to decide where you want everything to stay before you start installing a raft of new Smart Plugs!) Read more

Switching Broadband Providers Is Going To Get Much Easier

image courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@magellol - broadband, changing providers, switch, digital switch, isp, wisp, As with many services, such as your bank, energy or water supplier, the rigmarole, hassle and mistakes which can occur when switching are often the most common reasons people give for not wanting to switch. That is true for broadband data too, or at least it will be until April 2023 when Ofcom introduce the “One Touch Switch” (OTS) service for broadband consumers. OTS, which is currently modelled on the template available to landline phone users takes all of the bother out of the process of switching from one ISP to another, so it will certainly be welcomed by digital data users looking for a better deal.

Currently it’s necessary to deal with both your new and old internet service provider, you’ll be setting up one account and making sure there is as little overlap as you leave your old provider, while also making sure there is no service gap between leaving one and starting with the next either.

Instead the OTS system means that all you will have to do is contact the company you want to have a new contract with and they will arrange the rest.

Depending on which service you want to take up, switching can currently be very easy, provided you are moving from a like to like service with the same infrastructure. Problems arise though when you want to switch to a company which is on a different physical network from the one you’re currently on. As a broadband data provider we, and Ofcom, feel that switching should be as easy and transparent for you the consumer as possible. You don’t care about infrastructure interface, Code Powers, or Physical Infrastructure Access, you just want to get better broadband as quickly as possible. It’s our job to care about that, and then to get you the fastest broadband data as quickly and efficiently as possible. Read more