Valore Voices

In the first part of this series, I will set the context for my home automation and artificial intelligence goals. In part two, I will describe the data and business opportunities from these technologies.

Ever since I acquired my first computer, I have felt the desire to integrate technology into my daily life. I am not just talking about using a computer for work, rather, I have wanted to use technology to replace mundane physical tasks, such as turning on the lights.

As the years have gone on, technology has become more prevalent in pop-culture and the cost of technology has decreased to the point where the average person is able to outfit their home with “tech” that rivals that of the bridge on the star ship Enterprise. Two years ago, when I purchased my new home, I vowed to realize my childhood dreams. Was it a serendipitous twist of fate that Amazon chose that same moment to debut the Echo speaker and its digital assistant Alexa?

The ink on my closing documents were barely dry when I took delivery of an Echo speaker and boxes of smart switches. The first two weeks of living in the home, I spent hours removing the old switches and replacing them with Z-Wave smart switches connected to a Samsung SmartThings Hub. Boom. Just like that I had voice control of all the lights in the house.

Quickly, I followed with a Nest Thermostat, August Lock and Logitech Harmony Hub which automated my ability to: control the temperature, lock the front door, and control my television.  Finally, adding an Amazon Dot to every room, I gave Alexa ears and a voice as I moved throughout the house.

So, here I am two years later and I rarely touch light switches anymore.  In fact, the greatest benefit has been for my father who suffers from Parkinson’s disease – he is able to turn lights on and off without getting up or walking to the switch, using only his voice.  Everyone in the house uses Alexa as their alarm clock and as a reminder service without batting an eye.

At this stage, I would say that the home has graduated from high school. That being said, there are so many more things that I would like to do. I am excited at the prospect to truly ‘automate’ things.

My next goal is to integrate an outdoor weather station that will be able to direct the Nest thermostat to set the inside temperature, based on the outdoor temperature. I know, it sounds geeky, but really that will be a critical step to reduce energy usage/cost. Imagine automating for when the temperature outside drops enough that you can turn off the A/C and open windows to get more fresh air. Who wouldn’t want that?

In our busy lives, most of us do not have time to monitor the weather and the current home temperature to decide when it’s appropriate. My solution will be a small weather station that can monitor both the outdoor as well as the indoor temperature AND the set point and status of the thermostat. When the conditions are right, it will automatically adjust the thermostat and send a message to alert my family and I to open windows and enjoy the fresh air. Maybe someday I’ll be able to automate the windows too, so they open on their own.

The point is that modern technology has finally made these dreams well within the grasp of most people.  My advice is to choose a couple of devices and start small. You don’t have to automate your whole house at once and you can mix and match devices from various manufacturers to build a solution that works for you.  In a short time, you’ll find that your home is much smarter and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without Alexa.

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