Thursday, October 17, 2019

Smart Home, Practical Home

The Google Home and the Amazon Echo have become staples of the modern house, and can be even more integral to the functionality of Smart Home technology. For people with disabilities, it can be extremely powerful to control the home environment through either voice control or the touch of a button. As a quad-amputee and a power wheelchair user, I’ve taken full advantage of this technology. Let me tell you how some of these devices work and how they’ve helped me become more independent.

To get started, you need to figure out what to purchase. Ask yourself: "What am I trying to accomplish?" There are a multitude of products out there, so I would recommend starting small. As a wheelchair user, maybe there is a lamp that you have difficulty reaching. I know that I’ve certainly been there. Smart Home devices can assist you with either turning that pesky lamp on or turning it off, without straining yourself. If you can operate a smartphone or tablet, you can use Smart Home technology control that lamp, or any other lamp in your house. If you have the use of your voice, and experience difficulty using a smart device, you can even use a Google Home or Amazon Echo product to operate your Smart Home devices.

Either way, every product will require you to download some kind of app. Some will require you to purchase a hub, like Samsung’s SmartThings Hub, which can control a wide variety of products, made by a variety of manufacturers. This list includes: Philips Hue, Sylvania, Cree, Leviton, and IKEA, to name a few. These devices range from motion sensors, to lamps, to fans, to in-wall switches, to thermostats, and to even TV’s. All of these devices are operated through the SmartThings app. Some products, such as the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb by TP-Link, don’t require the purchase of a hub. If you plan to add more devices to your Smart Home, I’d highly recommend that your purchase a product like the SmartThings Hub. If you only want to control a few lamps, and don't think that you'll use a variety of Smart Home equipment, hubless light bulbs may be the way to go. Either way, you can't go wrong.

I actually use Smart Home technology in my room, and marvel at the amount of independence that it has given me. Through my Google Home Mini and my Samsung SmartThings Hub, I can operate everything in my room. With my voice, I can control the Leviton in-wall switches, which operate the fan and the bathroom lights. Two lamps are plugged into Leviton Lumina RF Plug-in Dimmers.

All of these switches can be dimmed to my liking. I even use a few devices in unconventional ways. Before I owned Smart Home technology, I needed assistance charging my wheelchair. Now, I’ve plugged my charger into a Leviton Appliance Module, and even have it on a schedule so that it turns on and off at specific times.
Because it’s easy to over- or under-charge wheelchair batteries, this addition has been priceless. Power wheelchair users, take particular note of this product. Additionally, the light for my saltwater aquarium is controlled via a Plug-In Module, and is also set on a timer.

Let my bedroom function as an example of what you can achieve through Smart Home products. In fact, this example merely scratches the surface of the technology’s potential. There are a number of additional devices that can be operated with Smart Home technology, including: air conditioners, blinds, alarm systems, cameras, and even doorbells. All of these products may even be linked to motion sensors, meaning that you would neither need to use an app nor a Google Home or Amazon Echo, to turn them on or off. Smart Home technology could be that one thing, which you never knew that you needed.

Kyle Romano

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