The home tech revolution is here and our houses are becoming increasingly connected — as is everyone in them. Gone are the days of keeping the kid’s hands off our expensive adult toys. Many of them know how to use them better than we do.
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So how do you create a home setup that is safe, convenient, cost effective and fun for everyone? Here are ten tips.
#1 Separate Profiles For Streaming Services
Streaming services are awesome — you have a tonne of fantastic content and a click of a button. The only problem is that your kids do too, which is particularly problematic if they have access to their own devices and you can’t always supervise them.
The good news is that services such as Netflix offer parental control and separate profile options so you can block younger eyes from viewing content inappropriate for their age. Giving your kids their own profiles also means that your favourite shows, saved list and recommendations won’t be infiltrated by suggestions to watch Angelina Ballerina.
#2 Family Sharing
For the gaming families out there, Steam’s Family sharing is a great option to save money and promote sharing in a modern home environment. It allows family members to play each other’s games on different computers — you don’t even have to be in the same house.
Apple also offer a similar service for music sharing through iTunes.
#3 Cost-Effective Home Automation
Thanks to home automation, the majority of your appliances can be controlled from your phone.
Imagine being able to turn on your heater or TV before you even arrive home. How about setting your lights to get progressively brighter in the morning?
The convenience this poses is becoming hard to ignore — and the investment doesn’t have to be as big as you may think. You don’t need to rewire your house or replace all of your old appliances with Smart ones. These are certainly options of course, in which case — party at your place.
For cost effectiveness, consider something like the Belkin’s WeMo Insight Switch. They look similar to a regular three-pin 240-volt socket and can be connected to a single device or even a whole power board. Working over your wi-fi, anything connected to the Insight is controllable and customisable.
You can even monitor energy usage through the companion app and setting up rules accordingly. So you could calculate how much your TV costs and set it to turn off once it reaches a certain dollar value per day.
#4 If This Then That
Once you have your your appliances hooked up, it’s time to start automating. There are a few great apps around for this, but one of the best that also allows third party usage is If This Then That.
With ITTT you setup rules known as “recipes” which are based on cause and effect. It’s been around for a few years now and can do everything from link a YouTube video to Twitter when you like it to text you when it’s raining outside.
ITTT is finding new life with home automation — and it’s pretty awesome. Want your aircon to turn off after two hours — you can set up a rule for that. How about programming your kid’s Xbox to turn off after an hour? No problem. What about controlling your slow cooker from work? You can do that too.
Remember when we mentioned lighting earlier? One of our journos uses ITTT with Phillips Hue lightbulbs to ‘motivate’ her teenage son out of bed. If it gets to a certain point in the morning the lights turn on really brightly and flash different colours. It’s genius.
And let’s no forget safety. No more worrying that you’ll burn the house down by leaving the iron on. You can create a recipe where it will turn off automatically after a certain amount of time.
#5 Voice Control
Turning on your lights and devices, pumping up the music volume, checking the news, texting your friends, adjusting the temperature, reading recipes out loud — these are just a few of the thousands of skills that devices such as Amazon Echo’s Alexa are capable of. This is growing exponentially as more third party apps are jumping on board.
Sadly, there aren’t a whole lot of options for home voice control devices in Australia yet, but our friends at Gizmodo managed to install Alexa with just a bit of trickery. If you prefer waiting, it is being rolled out in Europe soon so hopefully we won’t be too far behind.
#6 Space Friendly Living Room
This is doubly important if you have a family of gamers who are getting on the virtual-reality train. You’ll need the extra space to engage properly in the next generation of virtually-driven gaming devices. Nobody wants to accidentally walk into the TV.
#7 Go Wireless
Wires are the worst. They get tangled easily and they’re far too easy to trip over.
Thankfully, more devices are joining the wireless revolution. This is great news if you have just set up your family friendly living room. In addition to wireless controllers, invest in wireless speakers such as a UE Boom or Sonos.
Reports or school assignments due? Get a wireless printer so you can panic-printer from anywhere in the house at 5:30am.
Speaking of which — if you don’t need a a desktop or even a laptop, invest in something smaller. Tablets are cheaper, more portable and of course, wireless. They’re also a good cost effective choice if you need a few for the family.
#8 Go Digital
As the housing market gets more tear-inducing, families are having to get used to living in smaller spaces. Every little bit of extra room counts, and getting creative with your space saving is key.
Streaming services like Netflix and Presto are removing a lot of the need for physical media, but the danger is that content can get cycled out.
Fortunately, there are digital media providers that you can buy your favourites from permanently, like iTunes, Google Play and UltraViolet.
The same goes for new games and books. You may not have the heart to do away with your libraries, but you can save space with your future purchases by grabbing digital copies of games and utilising a tablet for reading. The best part of this strategy is mobility — you can take your books wherever you go and access your game collection from other consoles.
What’s more family-friendly than keeping your loved ones safe? Home-based security tech has exploded in recent years and there’s a number of different ways you can utilise it to keep your house secure.
Security cameras are becoming increasingly common in modern homes. There are even solutions if you don’t want to be locked into an expensive, permanent installation process. Products like the NetGear Arlo are battery operated (wireless saves the day once again) and can be used both indoors and outdoors to monitor and record.
Not only do they add to the security of your home, they’re super convenient and perfect for someone like me who is prone to forgetting their keys. Imagine being able to unlock the front door from an app before you grab the armful of shopping or the pram from the car? Some of the latest smart locks even offer voice activation and geolocking.
#10 The Fridge Of The Future
Samsung have finally confirmed that their Family Hub fridge is coming to Australia… and it’s going to change everything for food and tech lovers.
In addition to being mammoth in size, the Family Hub is exactly that — a place for the family to gather around. Featuring a massive screen that’s reminiscent of a smart phone, it can display shared calendars, remote notes, photos from your phone or tablet, and digital artwork — which is adorable. You can even watch TV on it.
Short on time? You can do your online grocery shopping from the screen itself. What if you’re at work and don’t know what ingredients you have? No problem, the build in camera can take a photo of the fridge’s contents and send it to you.
What a time to be alive.