Wake up and smell the coffee!

“Wake up at 7am, take a shower, have a light breakfast, off to work at 8am, return home at 6pm, have some dinner, play with your kids, watch a little TV and off to bed at 10pm.”

lazy-morning-coffee-1320334Sounds like you? Well, you are not alone! Most households live on a schedule that they follow on a daily basis. So how could home automation streamline your day?  Well lets start with the first part of your routine day.  You want to wake up at 7am and take a shower?  How about a system that could do this for you?

“Turn on bedroom lights at 6:50am to 40% of their brightness, then to 60% a few minutes later. Turn on the radio (or TV) to some news or music channel, and turn them off half hour later. Turn the light on in the bathroom and adjust the temperature of the shower for a pre-programmed user!”

Home automation means different things to different people and it’s a trend that’s expanding rapidly.  Generally speaking it covers remote control and monitoring technologies that most of us don’t have, either because they’ve been too expensive or too complicated to install and use. But all that is set to change as the technology becomes cheaper and systems able to support up to 200 devices are not uncommon.

So while we may think that home automation is prohibitively expensive and out of the reach of the average consumer there are a number of suppliers and developers looking to change all that.

These new lower priced kits (about £130) will allow consumers to monitor and control their homes via a smart phone, tablet, or Internet connected computer.  Two formats will be offered – “Safe & Secure” includes motion and contact sensors to monitor movement in the home; “Comfort & Control” includes a smart thermostat and plug that can be remotely controlled. Both systems allow users to set up rules for different events, such as when you are home versus being away.

Given the fairly low entry price these are likely to be a hit with consumers, with other manufacturers already offering compatible devices.  A home automation system aimed at consumers is only going to fly if it’s compatible with brands consumers already buy.

It also doesn’t seem to require a professional installation, which is required with many other home automation systems on the market.

Your Smartphone – a window into your home

www.firsteye.co.ukWith the new generation of Smart Home Automation, you can integrate your home security system and access control system into your home automation design. This can not only provide the ultimate in security but also bring a new level of convenience to your lifestyle.

Image the scenario…..

You arrive home and as you press the first button the main gates slide open, pressing the second opens the door to the garage, the third button deactivates your home security and finally the fourth releases the access door into the home simultaneously switching on lighting, heating and closing the blinds – All at the touch of a button.

Access Control

From a simple gate station integrated to a phone system to a complex managed and monitored multi-entry system, the options are endless but an experienced installer of access control systems will be able to give you advice and allow you to customise the solution that best suits you with total security, within your budget and requirements in terms of  providing you with ease of operation.

Operated via your Smart Phone, or a combination of integrated keyfobs and proximity readers, your system would allow you to activate lighting, security systems, the gate or the front door from your audio visual remote or even to activate any lighting control panel in the home.

Home Security

This kind of integrated system obviously gives you peace of mind and safety but did you know it can also save you money on the premiums for your home insurance? A local survey by www.firsteye.co.uk suggests that such savings can be not insignificant.

Lighting can also be programmed with an “Away” mode to supplement the core security system, generating random lighting scenes throughout the evening to give the home a lived in look whilst unoccupied.

By installing CCTV, remote cameras and sensors can give you in-house and remote monitoring of the connected home. Whilst we would all be familiar with a system that gives you the facility to monitor rooms from any TV screen in the home, the new generation allow you to view these same cameras from anywhere in the world in real time via the internet or your Smart Phone, literally providing you with a window into your home.

With a system like this coming home will always be a pleasure.




Space Odyssey, when “Waking Up Is Hard To Do”!

Sleep: Definition “….is a reversible state during which you’re not aware of anything and you don’t respond to your environment”

image: lars jensen freeimages.com

image: lars jensen

As humans, we tend to sleep an average of about 6-9 hours each night during which we experience several sleep cycles, each of which lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours. Each of these cycles has several stages which starts with non rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and progressing to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It is this REM stage which is associated with dreaming., which is associated with dreaming.

The quality, timing and length of our sleep are dependent upon an interaction between two biological systems in our brain. Firstly, there is a body clock which drives daily 24 hour rhythms in our body functioning and also in our behaviour including our sleep/wake patterns. These daily rhythms are known as circadian rhythms. Secondly, there is a ‘sleep monitor’ (called the sleep homeostat) which essentially acts like an egg timer in our brain and tracks how long we are awake by a build up of sleep pressure (sand filling up the egg timer). The longer we are awake the greater the sleep pressure (fuller timer) and when we go to sleep this pressure disappears (timer turns over and empties) ready to begin again when we awake. Particular groups of cells in the brain, and the substances they produce, are involved in maintaining a wake state whilst other groups of cells can produce substances to oppose this and induce sleep.

However, research has shown that our 24hour body clock is actually not programmed over a 24 hour period and for some people is nearer 25 hours which essentially leads to a non-synchronisation between our biological systems which may need “rebooting” by assisted lighting to maintain a good sleep cycle.

A new LED light bulb could help to ease those pesky transitions between night and day by coaxing cooperation out of your melatonin levels. Domestic lighting solutions such as can be fitted by your Electrician nationwide,

Melatonin is the hormone in charge of making you feel sleepy, and your levels go up and down on a 24-hour cycle each day. When you wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed, your melatonin levels tend to be low. But as the day gets longer and the sun starts to go down, the hormone production will ramp up again.

So what if you work shifts, or in an environment where the sun rises every 90 minutes (only strictly applicable if you work on the International Space Station!)

This new bulb is shaped like a regular incandescent bulb, but is much smarter: you program your desired sleep schedule in the downloaded app, which syncs with the bulb and when it’s time to get your brain and body in sync to get up the bulb will emit more light in the blue spectrum, which shuts down melatonin production, helping you to feel more awake. If you need to go to sleep at an odd time the app is also geared up for that by switching down the blue spectrum in the emitted light, allowing melatonin levels to switch on and you to drift off.

Seeing as how we mentioned the ISS, sleep problems are rampant and most astronauts take sleeping pills but still can’t sleep through the night. So use one of these bulbs and you could be getting the opportunity to go space age in your home and to use space-age technology before even the astronauts do!

Looking for the perfect Smart Gift?

smart light controlThis year has seen a whole plethora of home gadgetry which can be controlled from your smart phone, including heating, sound, lighting and many more. At the exepensive end of the spectrum are bespoke designed systems with unique control panels, but increasingly more available are a new breed of user-installable, smartphone-controlled home tech products.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your very own geek, then a WiFi-connected lighting kit has great novelty appeal. After all, it’s a color-changing, LED light bulb package you can program from a smartphone. What’s not to like? But seriously, beyond its remote on/off and scheduling functions you’re geek will love to get into those extended features. Do us mere mortals even know what geofencing and IFTTT support are?

So we’ve established that these features won’t appeal universally, but they will have their niche fans. What house party DJ or Loft apartment Lothario wouldn’t love an automated, multihued mood-setter?

And what social media addict couldn’t fail to be drawn in by the ability to set the lights to blink with every tweet and retweet?
Add to this that the manufacturers have left the door open for future apps, then even if you don’t appreciate the advanced features now, someone might one day write an app for it that perfectly fills some until now unrealised need.

If what you’re after is a basic remote controlled lighting system, then this choice of gadget probably isn’t for you, but if you want to inject some fun personality into your home lighting scheme then these systems, which are mostly easy to use could be the perfect solution. Making use of a plug in hub, which connects directly to your router seems to be the best way for the control panel system, which allows connectivity between your WiFi connected smartphone and the LED bulbs. Whilst getting rid of a hub (or bridge) would be preferable, these systems are significantly cheaper and if you really find it unsightly you could always buy a longer Ethernet cable and hide it away somewhere.

So once you’re connected to the hub and you’ve installed a few bulbs, you simply download and install an iOS or Android app and within seconds the control panel will have you all connected. Create your own mood with a lighting “recipe”, choosing from either pre-set shades of white or dipping into a spectrum of over 16 million colours; you’re sure to find something to suit every taste and mood and once you do pick a colour set, the app lets you assign specific behaviours easily enough.
All in all, if you’re looking for a great gift for your geek, this could be it!

Smart Heating – what is it and should you have it?

Image:Lora Bates www.freeimages.com

Image:Lora Bates

2014 has been billed as the year of the smart thermostat, but firstly what exactly is a smart thermostat and secondly and perhaps more importantly, should you get one?

At present, only a relatively small number of households in the UK have a room thermostat and fewer still use them regularly to properly control their home’s temperature.

However, recent years have seen a huge surge in what is known as “smart heating” or “smart thermostat technology” Why is this we hear you cry? Well there are a number of reasons which we’ve taken a look at below.

Firstly, energy prices in recent years have gone through the roof, with increases of almost 170%. Having more flexibility to better manage and control our heating expenses is therefore a very important reason to consider a smart heating system, especially when you bear in mind that around 60% of the average households energy consumption goes on central heating.

A second important reason is the rise in the popularity of smart devices, such as phones, tablets and desktops. These devices and their affordability has made home automation technology much more practical and economic. This technology allows you to go on holiday and use your tablet to turn off your heating from anywhere in the world if you forgot before you left!

So instead of a traditional room thermostat which just lets you change the temperature in your home using a dial or control panel, a smart thermostat gives you full control over your entire home’s heating based on time of day, weather conditions and how you use your home. Some of them even learn and adapt to your individual households behaviour!

In addition to giving you insight into your energy consumption (which in itself could be quite scary!) smart thermostats should help make your life a bit more comfortable. For example, say you head out to work one morning and the temperature falls throughout the day. You can leave the heating off until just before you get in, so that you don’t waste any energy heating an empty room, but still come back to a warm home and hopefully significant energy savings. Control panel builders  such as Yorkshire based www.dualtec.co.uk have some great advice.

So, as fuel costs rise and supplies run dry the ability to heat our homes in an energy efficient way is likely to be a key part of every home going forward. It will stop being a “nice to have” and become an essential part of every home’s basic economics.

But not all smart home heating systems are made equal, and which one will work best for you is another question altogether and difficult to quantify based on so many variables.

Most of the systems – Hive, Nest, Netatmo, Honeywell and Tado – simply put a smart thermostat and control panel into the most-used room in the house, and moderate the temperature of the whole house to match that room. Whilst in smaller houses this is probably a cost-effective way of attaining the desired results. You can always switch off the radiators you don’t need at all. For larger properties you could give consideration to systems such as the Honeywell Evohome and Heat Genius both of which offer something more. They have the ability to allow you to zone your house and then offer smart heating in each zone, so your guest bedroom is only heated when required, your master bedroom is warm just in the morning and at bed time, and the kitchen is hot at tea time. Obviously these require more sophisticated control panels and whilst undoubtedly offer better economic solutions, they are a lot more expensive.

The right smart-heating system for you will be dictated by your home, your use of that home and your requirement to save money.