Why Is Turning On Smart Lights So Frustrating?

phone, smart phone, unlock smart phone screenAccessing your Smart Home environmental controls via your phone is handy. It’s the easiest way to control your lighting, heating, air conditioning, even answering the door. So why is it so difficult to take master these controls without having to unlock your phone?

It’s not the worst of all First World Problems, but it does create a frustrating delay when what we all want is immediacy and the instant satisfaction that we get from flipping a switch.

Smart Home integration is supposed to be quick and convenient, but if you have to unlock your phone every time you want to dim the lights, it’s a bit of a faff. Other functions don’t require your phone to be unlocked. Want to snap a fast photo? You can do that without unlocking. Need to pay at a shop counter? No need to unlock there either when you’re using ApplePay (providing it’s less than a set amount). But when you want to adjust the lights, or put the heating on you have to fumble around unlocking the phone, going to the app and sliding the toggle. 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

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

Top Ten Smart Devices To Get The Most Out Of Alexa

If you got an Alexa for Christmas you’ve been living with her for a month now. How’s that going for you? Many people will be getting used to having her around and thinking about what else she can do. As a stand-alone device she can be a lot of fun, but her real benefits only come when she is synchronised to the rest of your Smart devices.

It’s easy to choose the smart tech which will work with Alexa, because the answer is basically anything! If it’s an Amazon or Echo product it will work with Alexa with the minimum of fuss. Then there are all the third party products which Amazon has given licenses to. Manufacturers have recognised that if their product is going to sell then it’s necessary to make it compatible with the leading Smart home interface, which is essentially Alexa. Google Home is right along side Amazon with market penetration, so it’s handy that these two major players are working together to create a ubiquitous format which will support all devices.

But now that you don’t have to worry about whether your new investment will work with others, which are the top choices of nick-nacks which will bring joy and ease of function to your life?

Why not check out these top ten purchases to begin with, and see where the Smart home revolution takes you?

Read more

Prepare & Position Your TV To Get The Best Picture Possible

flat screen TV, television, installation, wall, wall hangingPeople admit to watching around three hours of TV a day, but we all know the reality is that while you might only remember watching TV for that long many of us switch the TV on when we get in and probably won’t turn it off again until we go to bed. It keeps the kids quiet after school, then there’s the soaps, followed by the news, then a movie and before you know it you’ve been watching television for six hours. Maybe not really concentrating, but still, that’s a quarter of your day when the TV has been on.

Considering how large a part television plays in our homelife today it’s important that you choose the right one for you. In the days when we only had one big TV per household the choice was easy, pick one which was big enough to be seen from the other side of the room and put it where it wouldn’t get glare from the sun streaming through the window. But things change. We now have more channels via Freeview, Freesat and Sky than we could ever hope to watch, and that’s before we even begin thinking about Netflix, Hulu (via a VPN), YouTube, and streaming sites.

There is choice not only in size, but in picture quality too, both factors which naturally affect the price of the television set you ultimately end up bringing into your home.

Simple economics would dictate that you get the biggest screen for the lowest price if you want to score yourself a bargain, but in reality that’s far from the case. A large TV in a small room will absolutely overpower the space and you won’t be able to get physically far enough away from the screen in order to be able to enjoy the picture. The rule of thumb is that the screen should be positioned one and a half to three times the screen’s diameter from your head. So if you have a 70cm screen the closest you would want to be from it is just over a metre, and the furthest you would want to sit would be approximately 2 metres. You would most likely want to sit within a 30 degree angle of the screen. Flat screen TVs are made up of laminated layers which perform a different task in the makeup of your picture. Increase the angle you’re watching at too far from 90 degrees and your view of the layers goes out of phase, meaning that colours change or invert entirely. Read more

Preparing Your Home For Another Stormy Winter On The South Coast

poor aerial installationAs October draws on it’s a good time to think about preparing your home for the storms and snow that houses in the south east of England face this winter.

People who live on the south coast and along the South Downs will be more than familiar with the gales which can batter the region for days any time between October and April. We’re inured to it and laugh inwardly at those who are new to the area, who think that an umbrella will be of any consequence against weather which is coming in sideways.

But right now is the perfect time to prepare your house for winter, and all that it brings. Summer is a time when we’re all out enjoying the benefits of living in southern England, but now, as the nights draw in and the thermometer falls, it’s time to plan for the worst it has to offer.

Maintenance and Repairs

Autumn is the perfect time to carry out domestic repairs as the jobs which need doing reveal themselves. You won’t have noticed the rattling draughty windows during summer as they were all flung open to let the fresh air in, but now you’ve closed them you notice how much care they need. The same goes for many maintenance jobs.

Sash windows are prone to rattle and let in drafts. Wedges in the corners will hold them still and reduce a lot of the drafts, however, a draft excluder designed for small gaps inserted where the bottom and upper sash meet fill the equivalent of a two inch square home in every window in the house. Read more

Top 5 Gadgets for Starting Out In Home Automation

home automation, smart home, connected devices, connected homeAs Smart Home installation engineers we meet people at every stage of their Home Automation journey. From those just starting out to those who are fully cognisant with the tech but need help with the labour it takes safely and securely fit the Smart devices they want in their homes.

Many people still don’t grasp what a connected home has to offer. They see the devices fitted with Smart technology as simply gadgets, knick-knacks which you put around your house for entertainment’s sake, but have no real practical use. It’s only when we explain the many different applications these devices can be put to, the way they can be controlled and control one another that the potential benefits become clear.

The ideal place to begin is to explain what practical tools a Smart Home can be started off with. Once the concept and application have been grasped the possibilities explode! Everyone’s needs and wants are different, so the fact that Smart Home Technology can be so adaptive and expandable is just what the doctor ordered!

So, if you’re one of those people who’s heard about Home Automation, who likes labour saving, energy efficient tools, but you’re not sure what the Smart Home has to offer you, read on.

Video Doorbell

Intercoms are nothing new. From old buildings converted to flats to businesses in office blocks we’ve all buzzed and struggled to hear the voice coming from the panel on the door frame. But today’s Smart access control is very different. Now there’s no need to go to the handset on the wall to let people in, you can admit anyone you want from wherever you are instead. Not only can you speak to people on the doorstep, you can see them, but they can’t see you. That means that if you’re in the bath, in the garden, on the sofa, even away from home, you can see who’s calling and either let them in or ask them to come back another time. Read more

What Smart Home Technology Should You Be Fitting In Your New Home?

installation, fibre, broadband, home technologyOne way out of the current housing crisis, the most obvious one some would say, is simply to increase the housing stock with affordable new homes so that people on median incomes can afford to put down roots and set up a home of their own. There are currently many brownfield sites both inside and skirting towns and cities throughout the UK which would benefit enormously from the stimulus of having housing available to people who are currently spending up to half their income on rent. But what does this have to do with Smart Home Technology Solutions?

While this housing stock will need to be build with cost savings in mind, it will also need to have technology which will adapt as future needs change. No builder today would forego wiring or pipework on the understanding that “if anybody wants running water or electricity they can put it in themselves!” And equally builders, architects and specifiers need to start thinking about media in the same terms.

Buildings Of The Future Need To Be Future-proof

Britain has a commitment to providing superfast broadband to anyone who wants it by 2020, but it’s of limited value if it stops at the front gate and the home isn’t prepared for accepting everything that it affords.

So what should the Home Of The Future have built in to be ready for this Superfast internet revolution?
Read more

Is Smart Home Tech Still A Mystery? Here’s Your Brief Introduction

alexa, echo, echo dotAre you new to the Smart Home trend? Is all “Automated This” and “Synchronised That” a complete mystery to you? Then read on and find out what Smart Home Automation is, and what it can do to help you live a life of ease and leisure!

I was thinking “perhaps it’s just me, I work writing about Smart Home Technology, so I go looking for more information about it than most, do other people even think about it?” but then you see adverts on TV and even the Prime Minister speaks to the United Nations about it, speaking from the point of view of someone who’s watched one too many dystopian science fiction movies featuring the nightmare world of limbless chickens and mind reading beds.

It’s only natural for people to fear change, and if you watch those scary movies today you’re likely to see ads for Smart Tech during the breaks, so perhaps there is a reason why the conflation is made, so why not look at what the Smart Home is all about and how to stop worrying and learn to love it! Read more

Kitting Out Your First Smart Home? Start With The Basics

We’ve all been there. We’re browsing online, popped into a shop or visited an exhibition stand at the mall only to be pulled in by a great looking ad or snappy sales patter, then coming away with a bit of tat masquerading as tech that never gets used.

You get it home, open the packaging, set it up and find that it’s nothing like as good as you thought it would be, it’s cheaply made, poorly performing and probably makes a funny smell if you leave it switched on too long. But you’re ashamed of yourself for being tricked, so, instead of sending it back and asking for your money back it just falls into redundancy or gets put in the cupboard under the sink/stairs/attic or garage in the hopes that you’ll either find a use for it or give it to the jumble next time they come looking for collections.

The problem is that the more technology which is available to go into our homes, the more rubbish there is blocking our view of the good, helpful gadgets and tools which would help make life that much easier. And different people have different needs. We’re sold on ‘lifechanging appliances’ but unless we actively want to change the way we live our lives, a bit of tech we can pick up for a few pounds at the supermarket isn’t going to make a huge difference to our lifestyle. Read more